Good morning, I would like to share a little about a verse that has been on my heart the past few days and has challenged me, Philippians 1:21
21"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." 22 And if to live in the flesh, this for me is fruitful work, but I don’t know which I prefer. 23 I am torn between the two, having the desire to depart and to be with Christ, for this is very much better, 24 or to remain in the flesh, which is more necessary for your sake.
The apostle Paul was in prison in Rome Paul faces the possibility–even probability–of death, and the fact that he may never see the Philippian church again.
What do you think he would prefer? To die, and be in the presence of the Lord Jesus, or to have more time on earth to minister to the Philippians? Paul is impressed with their progress in the faith, but he clearly feels there is more work that needs to be done among them. Paul feels the pastoral pull to be the one to supply that need, and to finish the work he has begun.
Is this something you’ve thought about? Do you resist the idea of death because there is so much left you want to do, people you want to minister to, lives you want to impact with the gospel?
Paul goes on in the following verses that he would like to see the Philippian church again. But I think he answers himself in verse 6, “Being convinced of this very thing, that the One who began a good work in you will finish it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Paul didn’t have to be concerned about finishing the work begun in the lives of the Philippian believers. Indeed, the work he did was, in fact, a work that God did through him, so it was God’s work to begin with. And the work that God began, He will complete it – with or without Paul. And the same goes for us. We should never let ourselves be tied to this world and the things of this world, thinking somehow God needs us to be here to finish the work He has started through us.
It is a privilege to be used by God in whatever He does. But God is not obliged to use us, and His plans will not crumble without us. God starts the work, and He will complete it. This gives us the freedom to live for Him without fear of the future.
So, “to live is Christ and to die is gain” are two ways of Paul’s magnifying Christ with his body.
To live is Christ. To live is to magnify Christ. To live is to show that our Lord Jesus Christ is truly magnificent.
Although his passion was to preach Christ crucified and to bring as many lost souls into a saving knowledge of his Lord and Saviour, Paul also knew that to be absent from the body was to be present with the Lord.
Paul was a man who knew that nothing in heaven or earth could separate him from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus. He knew that his prison bars would not prevent the gospel from being spread abroad. For me to live in Christ and to die is gain was Paul's firm purpose and his fixed delight.
Paul's motivation in life was to elevate the Lord Jesus. Even though he was in prison, with the sentence of death hanging over him. "For me to live is Christ, was his non-negotiable future, and yet he knew that death was the gateway into the bodily presence of Christ. Even a Roman gallows could not prevent him from entering into heaven, and so he was able to conclude, "and to die is gain".
What freedom the believer has to be able to say that whether I live or die, Christ is mine, and whether in heaven or on earth, Christ is my portion and I am content. Living for Christ, whether in heaven-above or in the earth-beneath are both filled with great advantages - when love for our Saviour and serving Him is our sole ambition and our passionate aim. The challenge is whether we are available and want to serve Him.
The unbeliever holds onto the things of this deteriorating world, and death is often seen as an enemy to avoid at all costs. Their future hope is tied up with the things of this world and death is seen as the spoiler of life, but for the believer the sting of death is removed, and life becomes an opportunity to serve our Lord Jesus - while death is the occasion to be translated into His presence and be with Him forever. I can’t wait, can you?
The sole aim of every Christian should be to glorify the Lord, and to serve Him fully. A life with a passion for Christ gives rise to a life of victory, where the power of faith and the sufficiency of His grace overcomes the difficulties of life and the sting of death. When we can say with Paul, "for me to live is Christ and to die is gain," we discover that a life lived for God becomes a life that is willing to die for Him - and that death is nothing more than the glorious entrance into His marvelous presence.
The Lord Jesus is most magnified in us when we are more satisfied in Him than in what we lose in death and what we have in life.
So my fellow believer, the key to magnifying Christ in life and in death is to find Him more precious, more valuable, more satisfying, more joyful, more boast worthy than everything we lose in death — “to die is gain” — and everything we have in life — “to live is Christ.
Paul's had a passionate love for His Saviour. He wanted to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ in every area of life. He wanted the beauty and magnificence of His wonderful Saviour to overshadow everything else. He rejoiced when the gospel of Christ was proclaimed and wanted to demonstrate that suffering for Christ in this life, would bring his Saviour great praise and glory.
He wanted the good work God has started in the lives of those who believe, to be completed in the day of Christ, for their eternal benefit and God's greater glory.
So my brothers and sisters, may we like Paul make it our spiritual ambition, our earnest expectation, and eager hope to elevate our Lord Jesus in the heart and mind of others. We cannot keep Him to ourselves. We cannot hide His light and not profess Him as our Lord. Paul prayed that he would have boldness to preach the gospel of God, according to the might of His great power, and Paul longed that the Lord Jesus would be glorified in his body - in thought, word, and deed - whether by the life he lived or the death that he died.
May we also be like Paul and ask the Lord to give us boldness to serve Him and tell others about Him each opportunity we have in His strength.
Let us pray.
Our Father in heaven, now we thank You for the Lord Jesus Christ, thank You for Your gospel. It is Your remedy for man’s sin, and we thank You that You sent our Lord Jesus, thank You Lord Jesus that You came. We praise You for dying in our place on the cross, and we praise and thank You that as You were lifted up to die upon that cross, You took our sins and You who knew no sin bore our sins in Your body upon that tree. Thank You Lord that You became our scapegoat and took our sins far, far away, and through Your death reconciled us to the Father and there is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. What a Saviour.
Father I pray that You will help us to set our feet upon this narrow path even more solidly, that we like Paul, would live for our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the midst of the struggles of this world I pray that You would not allow us to be distracted, to be turned to the left nor to the right, but that we would follow Christ every step of the way, and that it would truly be said of us that “for me to live is Christ.” Father, make that true of each one of us each day for we pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Much love in Christ to you from Maurice and Margaret