For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!Phil 1:21-22
The Christian view of death is given in just four words in this passage:
with Christ, far better. That sums it up. But before we look closer at that, it's important that we see what this man's view of life is, because these are not the words of a man who is sighing after heaven but resigned to living on earth. This is not the utterance of someone who is fed up with living and couldn't take life any longer so now the only hope is that heaven is close at hand. For Paul, to live is Christ, and that is exciting! Living, he says, means fruitful labor, in which I can take the greatest delight. The prospect of continuing to live is not an unwelcome prospect here, in fact he says
I hardly know which to choose, both prospects are so enticing and inviting. The Christian is not so neurotically desirous of death that he no longer wants to live. We sometimes give the wrong impression. We sing these wonderful songs about the glory up there but sometimes, unfortunately, Christians leave the impression that this is really all they're living for is what comes at the end.
The Christian does not live with some unutterable longing to escape, to evade life, to run from it. No! Paul is not at all saying that! He says,
to live is Christ — I love it! And evidently the Spirit of God tips the scale here in favor of life, so he goes on to say,
convinced of this I know that I shall remain, and continue with you all — because you need me and I will have the joy of coming to you again. But facing the possibility of death does not mean he is tired of life, but that death can only mean a more wonderful and deeper companionship with Christ. That is what makes life worth living. He says,
to die is gain, and you can only say that if you are prepared to say,
to live is Christ!
What do you think is really living? What kind of circumstance do you have to have before you can say
Oh, now I'm really living? What do you substitute for
Christ in these words of Paul?
To me to live is money? Then to die is to lose it all, isn't it?
To me to live is fame? To die is a name in the obituary in the paper and never have it there again.
To me to live is pleasure? To die is to go out into an unknown.
To me to live is health? To die is to lose my health. You see the only thing that makes sense in life is to say with the Apostle,
for me to live is Christ, because then you can say
to die is gain. The truth about the Christian faith is that heaven begins down here.
Father, thank you that you have given me a purpose for living. Teach me to be able to genuinely say,For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.
Do we live out our Christian expectations as escapists? Are we rather choosing to be the planted seed that dies in order to experience abundant life? Are we experiencing the Joy of union with the Living Christ, whether we live with Him on earth or in heaven?