How would you complete this sentence? To live is…family, work, golf, fishing, travel, shopping, television…what is it for you? No one leaves that sentence blank; your answer is quite revealing.
The Apostle Paul had a very clear and powerful answer: For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)
This one verse reveals why Paul did what he did, why he said what he said and how he found the strength to endure incredible hardship. It reveals the driving force that kept him on track, even as he finds himself facing an uncertain future.
This is Paul’s personal mission statement and it is the very essence of what it means to be a Christian--one who understands -- life is in Christ. F.B Meyer once wrote…Christ is “the essence of our life, the model of our life, the aim of our life, the solace of our life and the reward of our life.” We live in Christ, for Christ, by Christ, through Christ, and live comes from Christ. He is the beginning, the middle and the end of life, the Alpha and Omega, the A and Z, and every letter in between.
Life is in Christ, and it’s going to get better; to die is gain.
None of us knows what tomorrow will bring, so we live in and for Christ today and trust our wise God for whatever plans He has in store of us tomorrow – whether in life or in death. In Christ, we need not fear death; death is the passageway from this life to life eternal. Paul knew death / the grave was not the end of his story. He knew that he would enter the presence of Christ at the moment of his death; and that would truly be “gain” for him.
How then should we face death as a Christian? In Christ, we face death, not with defiance, not in desperation, but with simple childlike trust. When the time comes to leave this world, we simply put our hand in the hand of God and let Him lead us home.
We sometimes walk like little children down that passageway, with hearts full of fear. If
we could only understand Jesus is waiting to welcome us home; that in Christ, death is truly gain; in Christ – the best is yet to come, it would change our whole perspective on death and dying.
Paul was ready / willing to die because he looked forward to life with Christ in heaven. For him death would be like a ship pulling up anchor and sailing out of the harbor toward a new destination. For the Christian death is nothing more than a change of address.
But, you can never say to die is gain unless you can also say for to me to live is Christ. If you cannot say to live is Christ -- how can you be sure that to die is gain?
It always comes back to Jesus. If you are afraid to die, perhaps it is because you don’t know Jesus. God desires for us to know, to be sure and to rest confidently in the hope that is ours in Christ. My friends at Valley, do you have this hope?