One of my favorite Bible verses is Philippians 1:20: “According to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” I love this challenge to be bold and exalt Christ with my life. But the next twelve words in verse 21 come as a challenge to all of us: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Take a few seconds and complete this sentence: For me, to live is _________ and to die is ________.
Maybe this is a challenging assignment for you. Yet what you write in those two blanks tells a lot about you—your perspective, your hopes, and your dreams. For the apostle Paul, those spaces were easy to fill in. Unfortunately, in today’s world, the sentence would probably read more like the following examples:
- For to me, to live is fun, fun, fun and to die is like a bummer, ya know?
- For to me, to live is money and to die is the Great Promotion.
- For to me, to live is youth and to die is, well, never going to happen.
- For to me, to live is popularity and to die is being released from the pressure.
- For to me, to live is boring and to die is probably not much different.
Christ was the singular passion in Paul’s life. The apostle Paul was focused on one thing…it was something exceedingly worthwhile and the consequences exceeded this life. Paul knew that his life was not his own, so he didn’t treat it that way. He gave up popularity, wealth, and power to dedicate it to Christ. In his mind, it was a win-win situation. A longer stay on earth meant more time to advance the Kingdom of God. A shorter stay meant less time to wait to receive his heavenly reward and be in the presence of his Savior. When this verse was written, Paul was in chains and facing his death—all because he served Jesus. During all these hardships, his basic attitude was: “It’s all good!” At face value, that seems crazy. Yet when you step back and examine his view of life, it makes sense. He was much more concerned about the spread of the gospel than his own personal happiness. When you let go of your own claims and rights on life and give it all to Christ, you suddenly become very free indeed.
Questions to ask yourself
- Can I honestly say that ‘To live is Christ and to die is gain’?
- What is one change I need to make in my spiritual life to be more like Paul?
- Am I more concerned about the spread of the gospel than I am about my personal happiness?
Continuing in Philippians 1, Paul wrote, “But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me” (verse 22). Well, if you are reading this that means that you are still on this earth. God has decided that He is not done with you yet and you have work to do. Please pray that God will help your labor to be fruitful in this life. I pray that all of us will be able to say, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).