The tent

Philippians 1:20-24
20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 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! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 
Last year the kids set up the tent in the backyard.  They hounded us to spend one night in the tent.  The five of us zipped ourselves in along with one nervous dog.  An hour into our sleepover one little boy stormed back into the house.  He was mad because it wasn’t “fun enough”.  His temper-tantrum was my salvation.  I made my best disgruntled face and volunteered to “check on him” in the house.  Then I fell fast asleep in my lovely bed.  I had a great night.  I was where I belonged.   
The apostle Paul was a tent-maker by trade.  He says he “desires to depart” this world to be with Christ.  Some scholars say Paul might have been thinking of his life as a tent-maker when he used the word “depart.”   A tent is not a permanent structure.  I wonder if we might be wise to think of our lives on earth as a tent.  We’re just camping here. 

Yes, we should honor God while we’re here and enjoy the trip, but it’s a temporary situation.  In 2 Corinthians 5:1, the apostle writes:  “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” 
In this passage, he reminds us that something far better awaits those who have faith in Christ.  Too often we think of this world as the end-all-be-all.  It’s everything.  It’s all we know.  In their song “Where I belong,” the band Switchfoot says it this way: 
Storms on the wasteland
Dark clouds on the plains again
We were born into the fight
But I'm not sentimental
This skin and bones is a rental
And no one makes it out alive
Until I die I'll sing these songs
On the shores of Babylon
Still looking for a home
In a world where I belong
Where the weak are finally strong
Where the righteous right the wrongs
Still looking for a home
In a world where I belong

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  What on earth is Paul talking about when he says “to die is gain?” 
He means that he will gain the most important thing to him in the world.  He will gain Christ.  When Paul dies, he will be with Christ.  He writes in verse 23:  “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.”
This is good news for believers.  If you’ve ever wondered what happens when someone in Christ dies, Paul makes it clear.  They’ll be with Christ.  Isn’t that reassuring?
And, Paul says, being with Christ is far better.  Far better than what?  Than this world right here.  There are a lot of things I love about this world.  I love my family; my dogs; my cat; my work; learning new things; remembering old things; sitting on the beach with a book next to my mom while the kids build sand forts; riding the waves; chocolate; ice cream; sunrises and sunsets; funny stories; heartfelt stories; good television; laughing.  I love to laugh. 
But there are so many things that I don’t like in this world.  I don’t like sickness or meanness; cruelty; injustice or inequality; taking the dogs out in freezing rain; little dog with big seizures; struggling to the point of tears to learn something new; remembering an old wound; a beach day that ends in a sunburn; kids fighting and stomping on the sand-fort that an older brother labored over; celiac disease that prevents me from eating Mint Oreo; real-life stories that are heartbreaking and desperate; television that is base and unedifying; crying and sadness.  I don’t like to be sad. 
And here's the amazing news for those who put their trust in Jesus Christ:  This life is not the forever life.  The forever life is far better. 

Patricia Batten