Weatherford Democrat

July 6, 2014

PASTOR POPHIN: Joy in heavenly thinking


Weatherford Democrat

WEATHERFORD — For six years, I had the honor and privilege of serving as chaplain for a hospice organization. Those years are ones that made an impression on my life that has changed me forever. I served a variety of people during that time. I served those of strong Christian faith, agnostics, atheist and those of other faiths. As far as those who had the same Christian perspective that I have, the group was a little over half.  

This life experience impacted my view of life here on earth, eternal life, and facing death. As a result I have come to the point of identifying very closely with Paul. I may not face the same persecution and trials as this great first missionary, but I have come to the same outlook. 

In Philippians 1:21, Paul writes, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” From a world perspective, we should all ask, “what does he mean by that?”  The shocking part of that statement is, “to die is gain.” 

As a hospice chaplain as well as one who visits the elderly and terminally ill all the time, I am most surprised by the view that even too many ministers and pastors have toward death. 

Two pastors stick out in my mind. One was a Pentecostal pastor who was mad at God because He prayed over and over for God to heal him and extend his life. It was apparent that God was not going to answer his prayer in this way. Finally, after listening to him complain against God, the Holy Spirit spoke through me and I told him, “God is gAoing to give you the healing that you so much desire, but that healing will not take place in this world.” I also told him that the healing would be the “ultimate healing” where sin and sickness would cease to exist and time would have no restraints.  What shocked me about his response is that he had never considered that Bible truth. 

The other is a Baptist pastor who is still living and still questioning God about why this is happening to him.

I contrast this type of thinking to Paul’s thinking when he wrote, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” That verse is not a command but a reflection of Paul’s view of his present as compared to his eternal life. As you read Philippians 1:22-25, his view becomes clear. “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. 

Look at the verbiage that Paul uses to reveal his thoughts between remaining and departing. He views departing for heaven as his desire but remaining here on earth as necessary. 

That’s opposite of how most of us view this struggle. Perhaps it’s time to get a new Heavenly perspective.

God bless you! Have a great week! Participate in church this weekend! Remember, no matter the circumstances, joy!

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Tommy Pophin is the pastor of Beulah Baptist Church in Millsap.