Greg Spires – Teaching Pastor
Nearly 3,000 people work on the North Slope, Alaska, in the oil industry. None of those 3,000 workers live on the North Slope. There are two kinds of “hitches” for North Slope oil workers: one week or two-week hitches. One-week, workers are on a week and then off a week. A two-week hitch means the worker will be on two weeks and off two weeks. Oil companies fly workers in from Anchorage on two 737’s dedicated to flying workers back and forth.
Other than working (which is what the workers do 12-16 hours a day), there isn’t much to do on the Slope. Most camps have a lounge with a Television. Some of the camps are equipped with a gym for the workers to exercise. Everyone knows life on the slope is about work, and then getting home when the hitch is up.
When the Apostle Paul considered his life, he had a “North Slope” perspective. Since he was in prison he knew that soon he would either be released or would be executed. Most people would look at the prospect of execution with significant fear and dread. Paul’s view was a little different. He knew that if he was executed, it meant his “hitch was up.” If he wasn’t executed, then that meant he was still on duty, with work yet to be done.
Listen to how the Bible records Paul’s thoughts in Philippians 1:21-24, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 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.”
Paul considered that if he were to survive, that meant more opportunity to work for Christ. Notice he wasn’t concerned about checking items off his list of things he wanted to do before he died. If he lived, He could serve Jesus more. However, if he was executed, it simply meant his work was done, his hitch was over. Death for Paul was a call to return home, the place he really wanted to be. That is why he says “…to die is gain.” He wasn’t despairing over this life. He knew his life at home with Christ was better, and the life of the flesh is only temporary.
Thankfully, most of us can read Paul’s words from the comfort of our homes. We don’t find ourselves in prison facing the prospect of execution. However, we need to be reminded of why we are still here. It is not merely to pursue the amusements this world offers us. If we are in Christ, and we are still alive, that means our hitch isn’t up yet. The questions we need to ask is, “what does fruitful labor for Christ look like in my life?”
Fruitful labor might look different for each of us, depending on how God has made us. However, some things pertain to all of us. It is fruitful labor to spend time in prayer for one another. It is fruitful labor to identify how we should be serving the body of Christ. It is fruitful labor to share the hope of Jesus with others. It if fruitful labor to dedicate ourselves to knowing Jesus through His word.
I look forward to being with you this Sunday as we celebrate the work of God in Jesus Christ together! This Sunday, we will be seeking God through His Word in Philippians 1:19-26.
See you Sunday,