For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21 (ESV)
Paul’s longing to be with Christ was evident when he wrote to the Philippians that to be with Christ is far better than remaining on this earth (Philippians 1:23). He wrote to the Corinthian believers, So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:6-8 ESV) Though Paul knew that to be with Christ meant being away from the people he loved, his greater heart’s desire was to be in the presence of Jesus.
Consequently, the gain Paul is speaking of is the gain of being in the presence of Jesus upon physical death. It seems that if Paul’s primary aim in this world was to gain Christ he could expect the outcome of doing so to result in the gaining of Christ for eternity. He wrote, Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him . . . that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:8-11 ESV)
For most of us the thought of dying and leaving the people we love is one we just as soon not entertain. And our attachment to this world doesn’t end with our loved ones; we are just as attached to our possessions and positions. Most of us have no desire to die and be with the Lord; oh, maybe one day but not today or anytime soon. Possibly that reluctance reveals where our treasure lies.
The desire to preserve our lives will keep us from living for Christ to the fullest. It will keep us from taking risks for the cause of Christ and the spreading of his gospel. However, the sum of our lives should equal the glory of Christ whether we live or die. We should expend our lives, counting them as nothing, to know Christ and becoming like him. And if the time comes that we should be asked to give our lives for the cause of Christ we can know that we are losing nothing, but rather gaining an eternity with the one who gave us life.
We should note the words of Jesus: Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. (Luke 17:33 ESV) You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives. (Luke 21:17-19 ESV) And let us remember, For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. (Romans 14:8 ESV)
Is it your heart’s desire to leave this world and be in the presence of Jesus? Are you willing to risk your life for the cause of gospel of Christ?
Scriptures for meditation:
2 Corinthians 5:9
1 Thessalonians 4:17