By Wayne Camp

John 17:11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee.

"But these are in the world." Have you ever wondered why God leaves Christians in the world. Once one is saved it would be better for him personally if he could immediately go home to be with the Lord. Philippians 1:21-23 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. 23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better. In this passage Paul says two things that I particularly call to your attention. First, for him to live was Christ, as should be true with every child of God. "To die is gain." The world, and many Christians look at life on this earth as something to grasp after, something to hold on to at all costs. Paul was convinced that death, for the child of God, was gain.

Then Paul says he had "a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better." It is not just a little better; it is far better. The Greek in this verse says it is "very far better." It can’t get any better for a child of God than for him to depart this world and be forever with the Lord Jesus Christ.

But, God leaves his people in the world. Why would he do that when it would be so very far better for them to depart and be with him in heaven? Let me suggest some reasons.

First, in the passage under consideration, Paul points out that for the Philippian congregation it would be better if he stayed on this earth to teach and edify them in the most holy faith. "To abide in the flesh is more needful for you," he says. It would be for their "furtherance and joy of faith" and that their "rejoicing may be more abundant."

A second reason for Christians being left in the world is seen in the case of Job. He went through terrible sufferings, and they were tests of faith, not punishment for sin. But, they had another purpose. Job was left in the world and endured the suffering to show Satan and the world that God’s people will serve him regardless of what they must endure.

Third, God leaves his people in the world to be witnesses for him and to shine as lights in the midst of this wicked and perverse generation. Paul commended the church at Philippi for shining as lights in the midst of that wicked generation. God has always maintained himself a witness in this world. There came a time when Elijah thought he was the only one left but God informed him he had seven thousand men who had not bowed their knee to Baal. I suppose many of God’s faithful servants sometimes get the Elijah syndrome. They think no one else cares but them. And, like Elijah, we may get so despondent that we wish God would take us on home which would be very far better. But, God does leave his people in the world.

Fourth, he leaves us here to reveal in us his power to preserve and to cause us to persevere. He works in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure. He is able to do that when all the world would drag us down. He is able to do it when the hatred of the world rages against us. And while all this is going on and we are left in this world, we should always remember that when he is ready he will take us home to be with himself. When he does, we will see that Paul was right when he said this would be "very far better."

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Last updated on Friday, March 04, 2011


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