"So I am being continuously held together (or: caught; squeezed) from out of the two: constantly having the craving (holding the strong desire and impulse) into the [situation] to untie and loose back up again [as in loosing tent pins and ropes when striking camp, or loosing moorings to set sail], and to be (to exist being) together with Christ -for [that is] rather to a much higher rank (a more advantageous situation; a more profitable thing; [it is] much better)! Yet the [situation] to be staying (remaining-on) in the flesh [is] more necessary (indispensable; a more forced constraint) because of you folks." Philip. 1:23-24 Jonathan Mitchell Translation.
Even Paul dreamed of escaping. He could have had it not been for an over-riding sense of responsibility for others.
You can't blame him. Paul's life and ministry were hard, not glamorous. Working full time as a professional tent maker, his free time was spent preaching and teaching. Newly established churches got a crash course in Christianity 101, and Paul was off to his next assignment. At times his departure was premature, beyond his control, forcing him to leave the fledgling flock in the Lord's hands.
Paul's life was pockmarked with conflicts. He tangled with Peter, James and the
church over attempts to make Gentile believers more Jewish. He wrangled with
local, religious and governmental authorities. Sometimes things turned personal
like the dispute with Barnabas over John Mark.
In addition, his church plants caused him grief. Easily swayed by new teachings they formed cliques centered around pet teachers. Fellowship dinners at
out of control. When a church member there formed an incestuous relationship
with his father's wife, Paul had to write and remind the members that such
behavior was unacceptable. No wonder he looked for a way out.
How different Paul's mindset was from today's escapist mentality. He didn't focus on the unruly, chaotic world around him. People needed Jesus and Paul had what they were looking for. Even though he taught Christ's return was imminent, he never encouraged anyone to drop out, disengage and let the world fend for itself. He preached against such behavior.
Like us, Paul's hardships took their toll. His attempts to reach the far corners of the known world were filled with frustrations and disappointments. He tired of the constant opposition, especially when caused by friendly fire. His body bore the marks of repeated beatings. At a breaking point, he made a firm decision. Yes, being with Christ would be more enjoyable, but it was more profitable to remain here. The fate of people outweighed his desire to depart.
How about you? How would you describe the world's state today? What conflicts inside and outside of Christianity have you wanting to call it quits. Who could benefit if you, like Paul, chose to stay here? Are you ready/willing to escape an escapist mentality?