A happy dilemma – Barry Loeber

Being in a dilemma is not an ideal place to be in considering that one definition of this word is a ‘situation offering a choice between two equally undesirable alternatives’. But, in the case of the apostle Paul we read in Philippians 1 v 21 ‘for to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain’. Now, that dilemma is one that all Christians should find themselves in. Notice, I use the word ‘should’. Sadly, this is not always the case.


The apostle Paul is happily torn between two things. To either stay in this world or leave this world. Both are plausible and spiritual things. If he stays in the world then he will live for Christ, and all that entails. If he leaves the world, then he will be in the presence of Christ. We Christians should ‘always’ be in this position. This should be our constant dilemma. Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans ‘do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind’. Sadly, there are too many Christians who are in a sad dilemma. They are torn by the pull of the world and demands of the gospel. Due to the fact of the absence of the heart, Christian living is dictated by rules and regulations rather than the love of Christ. That being the case, thoughts of heaven and seeing Jesus become rare occurrences in the mind. How can we Christians ever allow that to happen? Surely, it is only when we take our eyes of Jesus, and forget our first love. When we are in that place of walking and fellowshipping with God, then the world and its attractions pale into insignificance. If we are true disciples of Jesus, then the latter of these two is the most desirable. Reaching heaven’s courts and forever resting in the presence of our God and Saviour should fill us with eager longing and expectation. Nevertheless, while we are in this world and journeying to that ‘far better country’, we should be delighting in that beauty of fellowship with our Saviour now.


The very fact that we are living in this sinful, fallen world does not necessitate that we should be filled with doom and gloom. To be in such a condition contradicts all that we are as Christians, and negates the indwelling work of God the Holy Spirit. ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy…’. Are we showing the joy of our salvation? Do all the tragic world events daunt our spirit or do we rise above this and allow the inner joy to reveal itself? It goes against the Spirit’s work of sanctification.  We are being conformed more and more into the image and likeness of our Saviour. Are we showing that? Is there a difference between us and our fellow man? It defies the fact that the Spirit is leading us into all truth. We have all of scripture and the precious promises that are contained therein. Why do we become so sad when things go wrong in our life? Why are we so easily crushed when the circumstances of life are seemingly against us? As Christians we cannot be a contradiction in terms. It just doesn’t make sense, and is certainly not biblical. I sense that not all Christians are eager to leave this world behind. Is ‘earth our lodge; and heaven our home’ as one has put it? Is it the case of some Christians interpreting the words of the apostle Paul as ‘for to me, to live is the world and to die is gain’? How terribly sad if that is the suspected case with so many in these days! The bible certainly does not promote ‘carnal Christianity’. In fact, it is the complete opposite of that. Spiritual Christianity should all be our goal. A carnal Christian is a complete travesty of the gospel. Worldliness and Christianity are a recipe for disaster. It lessens the power of the gospel. It detracts from the glory of God. It turns witnessing into a sham. It reduces the church into a mere social gathering. It turns the Christian into a bumbling, television characterisation. How sad is all this considering that men and women are lost in darkness and sin. They are in a world of confusion and bewilderment. They are on that slippery slope that moves further and further away from God. What the world needs are those who have something that is both life changing and life enhancing. It is us Christians who carry that message of hope. But, are we guilty of hiding our light due to our own similarity and likeness to our fellow peers?


This is not all about a command to live for Christ. Yes, that is certainly a part of it, but it is so much more. Notice that Paul writes, ‘for to me…’. For Paul, his passion was Christ. Christ was truly his ‘all in all’. The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, ‘What is the chief end of man?’ And the answer, ‘To glorify God and enjoy him forever’. Here is why Paul had such a happy dilemma. He enjoyed his God and Saviour, and all the benefits of ‘such a great salvation’. He longed to tell everyone about this incredible relationship. He has a burning desire for the multitudes all around him to come to repentance and faith. He longs to build up the body of Christ and encourage them in the things of God. He wants to see the Lord’s people come to full maturity in the faith. There was a real tug of war going on within Paul. Paul goes on to say that he is ‘hard-pressed between the two’. We are informed that the Greek word pictures a traveller on a narrow path, a rock wall on either side allowing him to go straight ahead. This is the dilemma we should all be desiring. I want to live for Christ, but I also want to be with him as soon as possible. What do I do? Well, Paul is convicted that his time on earth is not spent just yet. He is here for a season and that season is to continue until the Lord calls him home. And that is true for every single Christian. We are in this world for a season. We are here for a purpose. We are not here to partake of the worlds feasting. We should labour and live for our Lord now, and be preparing for feasting at that ‘marriage supper of the lamb’ in the hereafter.

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