“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.” (Philippians 1:21-26)
The Book of James warns and teaches us about conflicting desires. But not all conflicting desires are wrong. There are times when we may have to choose between two good things or two different people. A young man may decide which Christian woman to marry, having many choices. A believer can choose between many careers, serving God vocationally, as well as serving him in other ways. There have probably been times when you had to choose between two beneficial projects, career plans, purchases, or ministries. How did you make your decision?
Paul’s struggle, described in Philippians informs us in this matter. The apostle writes that he had two opposing desires: to die (physically) to be with Christ or pushing on in this life to serve God’s people. He chose the more challenging desire that took more faith—to live for the sake of the church, although he felt poured out and used up (2 Timothy 4:6). Often the decision between two good things might be to do that which is harder and requires more faith. Jesus always did what took more faith. He died an atoning, sacrificial death for us, that was excruciatingly painful, requiring the utmost confidence in his Father. Christians are to follow and imitate him. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:3-8).
We do not have the choice Paul described in Philippians, as only God determines whether we live or die. Paul is presenting us with a theological challenge. Confronted with Jesus’s fantastic sacrifice, I must question my motives and desires for living—do I live for Christ or myself? Given the choice of how to spend my time and energy (and perhaps my money), will I do that which is more challenging and takes more faith, or will I shrink back into comfort? What will you choose today?