I think it is human nature to want to live, and to even fight to live. We do not want to be left by our loved ones and we do not want to leave our loved ones. Life is a sort of adventure, isn’t it? And we do not want to miss anything.
As we continue in Philippians 1 today, we know that Paul is for some reason contemplating his own death. There are definitely people who want him dead, no doubt. They want him silenced permanently.
In the last devotional text, he said “…Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”
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.
Seeing Death Differently
So how is it we get from fighting death with white knuckles to the place where Paul is at this point in his life? I think that it all comes down to how well we know the One we plan on spending eternity with, once this life is over. Paul’s life took him through many trials, hardships, and joys. But, growing in his knowledge of God and continuing to grow in that knowledge and relationship is what made him prefer dying to living.
Let’s look at Verse 21:
“For to me to live is Christ…”
Paul is saying that for him to continue living on earth is for the purpose of Christ.
“…and to die is gain.”
Because for him to go be with Jesus in heaven will be his ultimate reward, fulfillment, and happiness.
Note about Suicide – Please know that this is not nor will it ever be a qualification for suicide. Suicide is never, ever God’s will. Please email me if you want to discuss this at all. firstname.lastname@example.org
Now on to Verse 22:
“If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.”
So if his earthly life continues on, then he will continue to serve Christ fully.
“…Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.”
Not that Paul had or would have a choice as to whether he live or die. He was leaving the timing of his death to God. But, contemplating being in heaven with Christ, his “Very Great Reward” was the absolute best thing he could think of. How he got there – as in how his earthly life came to an end – seemed of little consequence to him at this time.
To Die Is Gain
So how close are you to being able to say that to die and go be with Jesus is gain over living out life here on earth?
It is a really tough question.
I can honestly say that I have so many things about this life that I love – watching my mom and dad’s love for each other and for God grow even deeper and stronger; watching with great pride as my nieces and nephews grow up and succeed and their parents standing by so proudly too, watching my granddaughter discover the world through a two-year-old’s eyes; watching my sons and their wives grow and blossom into the people God has created them to be; becoming more and more comfortable and deep in love with my husband of 33 years as we just do life together and watching him playing with our granddaughter; watching the people that I love be people who love the Lord.
The more I know the Lord, the more I am comfortable with going to be with Him, but for now, I am thoroughly enjoying the life He is giving me. May all our attitudes glorify Him and be in accordance with His will.
Just This Week
This week, I was again faced with a situation that made me say, “Lord, if I live… okay, and if I do not… okay.” I had dealt with this question years ago during my the journey through breast cancer. I do not have a terminal disease or anything now, but anytime I get a mammogram or something else like that pops up, the question of how long my life will be, always goes through my mind.
Not Paul’s Attitude
Make no mistake, this was not Paul’s attitude. I have not made it to that point. I was just surrendered to whatever outcome the Lord had in mind. That is not the same, is it?
“To live is Christ (Him, his sole purpose), and to die is gain.”
No, it is just not the same.
May we all delight in the Lord’s will above whatever we desire and may we truly know that as Paul says so clearly: The very best thing is to be in the very presence of the Lord – but in His time and on His terms. For now, let’s live this adventure for His glory!
Lord, thank You for Your Word. Please help us to be submitted to Your will moment by moment every day of our lives from here forward. Help us, Lord, to know You better and better so that we truly do look forward to the day we see You face to face in heaven. Help us to walk closely with You and have fruitful labor as we await that day. In Jesus’s beautiful, glorious name, I pray. Amen.