When your focus is Christ, life is a gift, but so is death.
Read / Listen
Read Philippians 1:19-25
Listen to passage & devotional:
Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 42
Q. Since Christ has died for us,
why do we still have to die?
A. Our death does not pay
the debt of our sins.
Rather, it puts an end to our sinning
and is our entrance into eternal life.
Paul’s words for the Philippians express how Christ is his reason for being. For as long as Paul is breathing, he will live in service to Christ’s message, values, and mission. The words that tend to raise eyebrows are what follows: “to die is gain”. To die is to lose one’s life, so how can that be to gain?
The gain to which Paul is speaking is not the loss of life, but what comes after this life: to be with Christ. Paul is wrestling with these two realities. On one hand, Paul desires to be with Christ, yet he recognizes what is left to be done on earth. Remaining in the flesh, in his physical body, Paul can continue his ministry, sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ so that more might hear and believe.
Although his desire was to be with Christ, Paul recognized what still lay before him. Paul believed that his work was not complete, that his remaining in the flesh was necessary for the sake of the church in Philippi.
However, Paul was not in control of his fate. Paul was writing during his time of imprisonment for Christ. While he expected to be released, this outcome was not a certainty. Regardless of what Paul’s individual fate may be, his desire was to see Christ honored. Being convinced that God had more for him to do in the Philippian church, Paul believed he would be freed. However, if the outcome of the trial turned out to be unfavorable, Paul was not in fear of death. For while there was more to do in his body, Paul was confident that even if his life was taken from him, he would not be worse off, since dying meant to be with Christ.
One of the most common fears is the fear of death. Arguably even more prevalent is the fear of a loved one dying. I have lost track of how many movie villains are the product of a misguided effort to thwart death. Perhaps this villain backstory is reused so often because it makes the “bad guy” relatable. The fear of death, or at least the desire to save others from it is understandable.
Yet I can’t help but be reminded of the words of a fellow minister, who stated that “sometimes death comes as a friend in the night." If you have ever seen a loved one suffer in the last days of life, these are words you understand well. As much as we cling to this life, there is something greater in store in the life to come. This life, marred by suffering and sin, cannot compare to the eternal life that awaits.
This life is precious, each breath a gift from God. Like Paul, find God’s purpose for your time on earth. And when the day comes where Jesus calls you home, fear not, because to die is gain for on that day you go to be with Christ.
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who in His perfect will determines how long we live and when to call us home;
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that you live in such a way that confirms the words that to live is Christ and to die is gain.
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED:
Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - Matthew 10