23 But I don’t know what I prefer. I’m torn between the two because I want to leave this life and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 However, it’s more important for me to stay in this world for your sake. 25 I’m sure of this: I will stay alive and remain with all of you to help your progress and the joy of your faith, 26 and to increase your pride in Christ Jesus through my presence when I visit you again.
Hearing Paul’s words and knowing that he was both afflicted and imprisoned, I sense the pain in his struggle. With all that Paul lived through – illness, imprisonment, being shipwrecked and increasing church unrest – we might understand how more than once, Paul thought his earthly life was over. Dying to be with Christ in heaven might have sounded better, because pain can be exhausting. As human beings, we all want to live. But when pain comes, life can be so hard that perhaps heaven feels like relief!
Pain of every kind can take us to our knees, and in Paul’s case it clearly had. Surely Paul prayed and expected to “leave this life and be with Christ.” Yet, despite his thoughts and challenges, Paul knew he remained on earth for an important reason. It must not have been easy. Yet Paul stayed alive, living joyfully for Christ’s mission in the world.
Paul knew he must help others to keep “pride in Christ Jesus.” His mission was to increase others’ faith, thereby growing Christ’s Church. That was Paul’s mission, but what is ours in the name of Jesus Christ? Are you willing to keep that mission, even when pain brings you to your knees? What mission calls you through any and all hardships to joyful living for Jesus Christ?
By Barbara Carlson
For Pondering & Prayer
Unlike Paul, we do not have to have penned half of the New Testament or even preached God’s Word to find our way through our earthly mission. But like most of us, Paul may not have known when his earthly life would end, but he surely knew that he must joyfully live it for Christ. Despite any challenge, what mission joyfully calls you to be Jesus’ hands and feet in the world? What mission are you willing to keep, even when pain brings you to your knees?
Prayer: Lord, Jesus Christ, pain can bring us to our knees. Thank you for your constant presence even in pain and grief. Thank you for being with us through all hardships. Help us to sense you. In all that we do, let us live and find joy in your heavenly mission here on earth. Amen.