To Live is Christ, and to Die is Gain
The Bible doesn’t record Paul’s last words, but we would imagine them to be something akin to his words in Philippians 1:21, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Those are worthy words, and we hope our last words reflect something of that kind of faith. But that’s not a matter of memorizing and rehearsing the words, and it’s not a matter of waiting until the end to say something brilliant. Instead, it’s about the faith we live out today that sees us to that moment.
But Paul’s statement isn’t simply a perspective on death, is it? It’s also a perspective on life. In fact, it is first a perspective on life! “To live is Christ.” Long before our own mortality confronts us, we’re called to live each day with Jesus at the center. In Sunday’s sermon, I shortened Paul’s words in verse 23 to, “my desire is Christ.” That’s where we must begin if we’re going to find ourselves holding to the words, “to die is gain.”
What Does That Look Like for You Today?
Back in the Old Testament, Jeremiah asked the question, “If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in the safe land you are so trusting, what will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5). The prophet’s question is, “If you’re having trouble when times are easy, how are you going to handle the challenges that eventually come?” It’s an important question that addresses the commitment we live out everyday, not just the faith that eventually promises us a place in heaven.
To live is Christ
Is Jesus your desire today? As you display his love to others, you are proving that “to live is Christ.” In caring for the poor, sick, the hurting and the huddled important to you because you are encountering Jesus and caring for him (Matthew 25:40).
We don’t get to “to die is gain” without living out the first half. Let Jesus be your life today!
How Did It Go?
My theme for this series through Philippians is, “For Those We Hold in Our Hearts” (1:7). We’re always facing the temptation to read the Bible for ourselves rather than the body. Philippians seems especially susceptible to a self-centered reading. If we’re not careful this passage can become a very selfish promise of my own confidence at death rather than the confidence we should all share.
I brought the focus from self to the faith we share, and addressed it in as relevant terms as possible. Currently, that meant addressing the abuses that could come with the blessing of live-streamed worship. That’s a tough line to walk, of course, but I was glad for the opportunity to address it and I believe it was received well.