A Strait Betwixt Two: Heaven and Earth

Devotional from Philippians 1

 

Heaven must smell like vanilla, he thought.

Grandfather lay in his hospital bed thinking of family and friends.  He knew they would miss him if he left for Heaven; but, oh, how he wanted to go.

Grandfather missed his dear wife of sixty years. Every time he caught the scent of vanilla he thought of her placing it behind her ears.  He wondered why she always smelled so when she passed through a room until he caught her doing it one morning.  Heaven must smell like vanilla, he thought.

“Grandpa, are you awake?”  It was one of his grandchildren come to visit.

“Yes, Jeremy.  I’m awake.  Just lying here thinking about your grandmother.  I sure do miss her.”

“I know, Grandpa. It must be hard without her around after so many years.  But you’ve got us to keep you busy.  Your breakfast is cold.  Did you not know it was here?  Let me get you something hot from the cafeteria.”

“No, Jeremy. I knew it was here.  I just didn’t feel like eating.”

“But you’ve got to eat so you can keep up your energy.  Please, Grandpa.  You’ve got to eat.”

“I know, Son. But I’ve got other things on my mind.”

“Grandpa, we love you.  Please get better.   We need you.  Dad is going crazy trying to keep up the business. Sarah and Joe need you to help with their first garden.  And I, well, I need you too.”

“I know, Jeremy.  I know.”

“For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:

Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.

And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith;

That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.

Philippians 1:23-26

During a time of imprisonment in Rome, the apostle Paul revealed his desire to depart this earth and be with Jesus in Heaven.  His longing is often interpreted as his desire to no longer endure the sufferings that he bore.

However, I believe Paul had a deeper longing than merely escape.  His personal relationship with the Lord was only made stronger by the sufferings which he endured.

The Christ that Paul met on the road to Damascus had become his sole purpose for living.  Every breathing moment was lived intently to bring honor to Christ’s name.

For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  Philippians 1:21

Knowing that others needed the same grace, mercy, and forgiveness that he had received kept Paul busily sharing the gospel.  The thought that anyone would die without the knowledge of Christ was unacceptable.  The world must know Jesus Christ and His resurrection power.

Just like Grandfather in our story, Apostle Paul lay in his cell desiring to go to Heaven.  He knew his family and friends would miss him.  But, more importantly, there were many whom he had never met who needed to hear of Christ.

Paul thought of the Philippians who had ministered to him in his time of need although they were experiencing poverty.  Suddenly he realized that his bondage in Rome might be a discouragement to them.

Epaphroditus was in Rome.  Whether he was in the same cell with Paul or just visiting, I do not know.  But I do know Paul dictated an important letter for Epaphroditus to pen down.

That letter sent to the Philippians expressed that Paul’s current imprisonment was only a display of Paul’s bond to Christ.  His bondage served as an encouragement to the brethren to speak boldly of Christ.

But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel.

So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;

And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Philippians 1:12-14

Was it Paul’s time to leave for Heaven?  Not yet.

Paul realized his purpose on this earth was not yet met.  Heaven would come, but now was not the time.  Souls needed to hear the gospel.

Cell doors were not a deterrent to the gospel message.  Being behind cell doors gave Paul time to pen letters which we can read today.  These letters are now part of the New Testament that you and I can read for ourselves.

Don't let what you perceive to be cell doors hinder your missionary efforts. (Photo from Pexels.)
Don’t let what you perceive to be cell doors hinder your missionary efforts.  (Photo from Pexels.)

Grandfather knew that his family needed him.  It gave him comfort to know that one day he would be in Heaven and see his lovely wife again.

But today, well, today was not his day to go.  Today was his day to get better.

©2018 by Peggy Clark


Questions to Consider:

Are you torn between two paths that loom in front of you?

Which path seems to more fully support God’s direction for your life?

What Scriptures support your decision to take one path over the other?

Please respond with your thoughts or suggestions.