I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one.
-- John 17:15
Even our desire to be with the Lord is usually not out of a desire for Him; but out of a selfish desire to escape the sorrow, pain, hardship, disappointment, misery of life on this earth. Have you ever thought about that? We are such a self-centered lot. Perhaps we need to really think about this. Paul said, "For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith..." That is a selfless desire. Note: He says "more needful for YOU". He is not considering what would benefit him; but, what would benefit others for Christ's sake. Oh, let us have that spirit within us through God's grace and for His glory.
"In God's own time every believer will experience the sweet and blessed occasion of going home to be with Jesus. In a few more years the Lord's soldiers, who are presently fighting "the good fight of the faith,"1 will have finished the battle and will have entered into the joy of their Lord. But although Christ prays that His people may eventually be with Him where He is, He does not ask that they may be taken at once away from this world to heaven. He wishes them to stay here. Yet how often is the weary pilgrim heard to pray, "Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest."
But Christ does not pray like that; He leaves us in His Father's hands until, like shocks of fully ripe corn, we shall each be gathered into our Master's garner. Jesus does not plead for our instant removal by death, because our earthly journey is needful for others even when daunting for us. He asks that we may be kept from evil, but He never asks for us to be admitted to the inheritance in glory until it is time. Christians often want to die when they have any trouble. Ask them why, and they tell you, "Because we would rather be with the Lord."
I wonder whether it is not so much that they long to be with the Lord as it is because they want to be free of their troubles; otherwise they would feel the same desire to die at other times when not under the pressure of trial. They want to go home not so much for the Savior's company as to be at rest. Now it is quite right to desire to depart if we can do it in the same spirit that Paul did--because to be with Christ is far better; but the wish to escape from trouble is a selfish one. Rather let your longing be to glorify God by your life down here as long as He pleases, even though you live in the midst of toil and conflict and suffering. Leave Him to say when it is enough."