“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.” (Philippians 1:23-24)
Paul considered leaving this life to be far more desirable than staying here. This is only better, of course, if leaving here means one is sure of “being with Christ” (John 8:24b). As my husband often says, “Death is only gain, if one has lived for Christ” (Philippians 1:21). In any case, Paul reasons, though it might be better for him, it would not necessarily be better for those around him. In other words, we should never assume that departure plans, no matter how desirable, supersede present responsibilities.
We have heard much over the last few years about the necessity of disclosing a planned “exit strategy” for the present war being waged in Iraq. I must admit, though, that although I cannot claim any military expertise, this would seem to me to be a self-defeating proposal. In answer to this demand, President Bush and commanders on the field of battle sum up their exit strategy in one word: victory. Obviously, the danger here is in focusing so much attention on an escape route that the battle itself is jeopardized. And I see this same thought pattern mirrored in other areas of life.
For instance, many enter the bond of marriage with an eye on the most advantageous means of dissolution. Consequently, pre-nuptial vows are drawn up to ensure that a mate’s professed “undying love” doesn’t end up emptying somebody’s bank account! Others reason, why even bother with the restraints of marriage? It’s much easier to get out of a situation that only carries the restraint of “compatibility.”
In the same way, a job or endeavor can be taken on with the only thought being, “I’ll just give this “a lick and a promise” till I find something more worthy of my efforts.” I realize we all want to use our skills to the best advantage, but the goal of future betterment keeps us from doing our best work with the task at hand, we are mere opportunists.
Finally, I think it is possible to gaze at a future Kingdom blessing to the neglect of the present battle. Whatever one’s eschatological persuasion, the truth is, we are here as long as we are here; and we should actually be here as long as we are here. Whether defying evil till the Rapture of the saints, or claiming the Kingdom for Jesus Christ, one way or the other, the working principle is still the same: “Occupy till I come” (Luke 19:13). A Christian life that focuses only on leaving this world will not be much help to those who have to live in it right now. So says the Apostle.
As far as I am concerned, I took care of my “exit strategy” well over 50 years ago, when I accepted God’s offer of salvation through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, and I will let Him choose the particulars. In the meantime, I’m trying to stay focused on those here, who may still need me. And though it may be needful, as Paul says, to “abide in the flesh,” I have God’s promise that I can live and walk in the Spirit (Gal.5:25). Right now, that’s the only strategy I’m concerned with.