If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
- Philippians 1:22-26
If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
- 1 Corinthians 15:19
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
- John 11:25-26
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
- 1 Corinthians 15:55
For to me, to live is Christand to die is gain.
- Philippians 1:21
“ ‘For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain’ (Phil. 1:21). Hemmed in on all sides by the grace of God, being placed in Christ and having Christ living in him, Paul knows he is covered not just in life but in death as well. When God promises life to those who trust Him, He gives eternal life.
“Elsewhere Paul says, ‘If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied’ (1 Cor. 15:19). There is a greater day coming, a greater reward coming, a greater life coming, and the purpose of life while we are alive is to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel, which holds the promise of life everlasting.
“Jesus says, ‘Even if you die, you will live’ (John 11:25, author’s translation). For those united to Christ by faith, death has no sting and no victory (1 Cor. 15:55). In fact, to be present with the Lord is better than life! The great preacher Dwight Moody once quipped, ‘Some day you will read in the papers that D. L. Moody, of East Northﬁeld, is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now.’
“Death is a homecoming for the Christian. Paul sees it as gain because he sees it as the reward for offering himself as a living sacriﬁce on this side of the veil. So in prison, Paul is saying, ‘It would be better to go home.’ And in the comfort and opulence of Lydia’s house, he’s saying, ‘It would be better to go home.’ ”
- Matt Chandler, To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain
When I think of the word homecoming, a couple of things come to mind. One is the annual football game that each college schedules. They usually pick someone that is easy to defeat to encourage the alumnae to buy tickets to more games. My alma mater picked Kentucky, more of a basketball school than a football school, but this year, Kentucky was in the top ten when they showed up. My alma mater won the game, but barely.
I also think of the Gaither Homecoming gatherings. I have only attended one Christmas Homecoming live, but I love the videos and television shows (cutting out a lot of the program for it to fit in one hour with commercials).
But our ultimate homecoming is going home to be with Jesus. Thinking of Gaither, I have heard Mark Lowry joke about how Vestal and Howard (Goodman) and Jake (Hess) are all up in Heaven wondering where Bill Gaither is. Maybe he didn’t make it!
C. S. Lewis wrote about longing to cross over to the other side. He then back peddles in correcting what he thinks might be going through the reader’s mind. Lewis clarifies by saying that it is when he is the most happiest that he feels that way.
Yes, when we feel wonderfully happy, we want that moment to last forever, but that moment would be less happy than our worst moment with Jesus. We could never compare it.
But are we to sit on our laurels and wait our turn to be with Jesus?
Heavens no! If we focus on the death being gain, we lose out on the life being Christ. We must spend our time in this life getting used to being in God’s presence. We need to love one another and become more like Jesus. We must do God’s will on this earth. But we must always know that what awaits is so much better, that there are no words other than we are going home.
I often use a bagpipe version of some of the bagpipe standards, but the words of Goin’ Home reflect this lesson from Rev. Chandler and illustrate why the song is often played at the gravesite ceremony. This version sung, in a way only he seems to do, by David Phelps.
Lord, guide me. Help us to focus on You while we are still here on earth. Truly, when we are in Heaven, we will get no end of seeing, feeling, and being with You. In Thy Name I pray. Amen
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.