I was in St. Louis getting ready to speak at a conference when I received the news. A college teammate of mine went home to be with the Lord. The reason why this was bittersweet news was that our entire team had just been together for a special event at our alma mater a few weeks earlier. All of us knew that our teammate had been in the biggest battle of his life for the past several months. Even with the end of his life drawing near, Bill Bachmann was determined to be with his teammates one last time.
Bill was in the final stages of pancreatic cancer. His doctors had advised him not to make the long trip from Orlando, FL to Rochester, NY. However, Bill was not going to be deterred. With a mattress in the back of his large SUV and a friend at the wheel, he made the three-day journey to be with his lifelong friends.
Our teammate was quite weak so he couldn’t do an awful lot but I will never forget what he shared with us at a luncheon we had during our time on campus. Bill told us that he did not feel cheated by this dreadful disease. He told each of us that he had been blessed to do what he loved for almost 50 years – being a professional photographer. He was not merely another photographer but a world-class one at that. He was given the opportunity to travel to over 200 countries and capture the awesome majesty of God’s creation on every continent.
But the memory of this special moment was something Bill told us in a quiet yet confident tone. He shared with us that I am ready to meet Jesus. As I reflect back on our last time together, my mind went back to another man who also lived an amazing life and was facing the reality of death. This man was Paul and he wrote to his friends about how he faced the brevity of life in Philippians chapter 1. Most of us are very familiar with his words.
For to me to live is Christ, to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21 KJV)
With Bill’s simple statement, he was saying that to live is wonderful but to die and meet Jesus is even better. This was not the first time that I reflected on this powerful verse. I also took comfort in these words 16 years ago when one of Bill’s classmates, my sister, went home to be with the Lord. It seemed unfair for her life to “be cut so short”. However, she lived her life in a way that all of her family and friends knew she saw death as great gain because it meant she would be with Jesus.
I have studied this verse and the verses that follow it on many occasions over the past decade or so. I have discovered the reason why God allows some of us to continue on here on earth. In the next few verses following Paul’s courageous statement, you will find that he found himself in a dilemma. He wanted to stay alive but, at the same time, he wanted to be home with his Lord. Paul put it this way.
But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; (Philippians 1:22-23 NASB)
I must admit that I find myself in this perplexing situation with each passing year. When I look back on my life, I am so thankful for all that God has done in and through me. I have been, like Bill, very blessed. It has been exciting to have had the privilege to travel all across the country and around the world to share the message that God has given me concerning His plan for educating future generations. At the same time, when my body gets tired a little easier and I see all the pain and heartache that is ever-increasing in this sin-wrecked world, I long to be with Christ.
This is when I go back and read what Paul told his friends. It is the next couple of verses that reminds me why I am here and not with my Lord. It is also why you are here. Paul wrote in verses 24 and 25,
…yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake…I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith (NASB)
I am alive not for my sake but for the sake of others. My life doesn’t continue so that I can achieve or accumulate more things. It is not to find fame and/or fortune. It is to love God and serve others. I don’t know how long I have here on earth. However, I want to live each day for the sake of others. I pray that my life will be for others to find progress and joy in the faith. Now, that is a reason to live!
It is important that I look for and find the “others” that I am supposed to serve each and every day. I praise God that Bill didn’t stay home because he was weak, tired and in pain. I am thankful that he made the trip to Roberts Wesleyan College for my sake. Seeing him and hearing him say that he was ready to meet Jesus was for my progress and joy in the faith. For whose sake are you here for today? To live is Christ but live it as if it is far better to be with Him.