The Bible tells of three missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul. He traveled extensively to share the gospel, the good news that Messiah had come and eternal life was available to all who believed upon Jesus Christ for salvation. Paul worked hard and planted churches as he traveled. He developed a heart for many people from a number of locations. Paul’s heart was always where he was, but it also always someplace else. This is why Paul wrote so many letters. In fact, a good portion of our New Testament is comprised of some of those letters in which Paul wrote to encourage Christians he hoped to see again.
Paul faced a new division of heart when he was under house arrest in Rome. Facing possible execution in Rome, Paul’s heart was now divided between the temporal and eternal. He included the following in a letter he wrote to the Philippian church.
Philippians 1:22-26 – If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
Paul knew he could be murdered for his faith. He was no stranger to martyrdom, and yet he was not afraid to die. Physical death would only transfer him to eternity with Jesus Christ. Paul was ready, even actively longing, to go to Jesus in eternal glory. Yet his heart was divided, because he also cared deeply for his Christian friends and their churches. So, he pressed on to serve others.
Let us take a lesson from Paul. Each of us will experience our own share of difficulties along the road of life. There will even be times when the tribulations of this temporary life become overwhelming. May our confidence in Jesus allow us to honor God in those days. It may not seem like it at the time, but these are light and momentary afflictions in light of the eternal bliss in store for those who know Jesus. May our faith in Christ and the security of our heavenly home allow us to continue to serve others while we are still on this earth.
Furthermore, let us practice being in the moment. Wherever you are, there you are. We all experience divided hearts. Praise God for modern conveniences that allow us to communicate with loved ones across the globe, but let us also be fully present where we are. You don’t have to leave home to be a missionary. Ministry is often the person in front of you, and the time is now.