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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I Am HARD PRESSED

Stuart Robertson tells the story of a little girl, asked to tell the story of Enoch.  She said, "Enoch used to go on long walks with God.  One day they walked farther than usual, and God said: 'Enoch, you are tired.  Come into my house and stay and rest" (Hallock 105).  What a beautiful and accurate way to speak of death, when speaking of the death of the righteous!  So many cannot bear the thought of the subject, much less would they desire it.  But, for the Christian a desire to be in heaven is (or should be) ever present.
There is a remarkable statement made by Paul in writing from jail to the Philippian Christians.  He writes, "For I am hard pressed between the two (live on in the flesh or die, cf. 1:21-22, NP), having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.  Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you" (1:22-23).
 
Paul was telling this church of his willingness to die.  Yet, isn't that first phrase in verse 22 intriguing?  "Hard pressed" comes from one Greek word, used in a variety of ways in the New Testament.  It was the word used to describe the Jews' stopping their ears at Stephen's preaching in Acts 8:57, the word to describe the pressing crowds in Luke 8:45, and of those who kept Jesus imprisoned in Luke 22:63.  It is also used to describe an emotional state (Acts 18:5; 2 Cor. 5:14), and that is how Paul is using it here.  He was "pulled from two directions, having conflicting thoughts" (NIGTC, Friberg 367).

As much as the weary, beaten, persecuted, betrayed, anguished, mistreated, and frazzled Paul longed for the beauty, freedom, joy, and fellowship of being in heaven with Christ, he amazingly says that he is "hard pressed."  It was a difficult decision!  That is truly amazing.  What is so hard for a beleaguered soldier to lay down the heavy armor of God in order to receive the grandest of prizes?  He had such a desire to be of service to his fellow Christians.  He wanted to do whatever he could to encourage them, help them, and lead them to a right relationship with Christ, even to the point of being conflicted about whether or not to go on to be with Him.  I want to live that way and face death that way, longing to be with the Lord but still seeing it as a difficult choice.  Not difficult in that I don't want to leave this world, its temporary and elusive comforts, or some temporal pleasure, but difficult in that I want to help people here get up there!
 
--Neal Pollard

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