To Live is Christ...To Die Is Gain

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” - Philippians 1:21



Dear Friends, Continuing to read through Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we pick things up in the middle of verse 18, as it hinges on what he’s said before and we covered last week - “Yes, and I will continue to rejoice…” - Paul is referencing the fact that no matter the motives behind the the preaching of the gospel, if the good news of God’s love, shown in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, then he can celebrate. This is actually pretty foundational for Paul’s letter, because he’s able to take a look at his present circumstances, his imprisonment, and see that even though he was arrested because some people didn’t want his message of God’s radical love in Jesus to be shared… it’s partly due to his imprisonment that it is indeed getting shared, wider than they had imagined! He goes on to explain that the partnership between their (the Philippians) work and God’s (provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ) are working together to bring about his deliverance. It’s not just God working and everyone else sitting back on their recliners and watching. It’s not just the Philippians or Paul working and God standing aloof at a distance. It’s a partnership between both. Then Paul peels back the curtain just a bit, with a personal hope of his own, that he won’t “be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” Paul is talking about the real likelihood of his literal death. It very well could be that his message of God’s radical love, shown in Jesus Christ, is not only a stumbling block to the religious leaders who created his arrest, but to the Roman Empire, which lives by an entirely different ethos. It’s very possible that by maintaining his mission, the message of this good news (Jesus has conquered all, even death, by living in the Kingdom of God and resting in God’s love), is a threat to the Roman Empire’s “good news” that Rome has conquered the enemies of this world to bring peace. In the middle of this section, verse 21 includes the iconic line “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” It’s the most succinct description of what is a personal good - to be in the eternal presence of Jesus Christ (to die), and what is a corporate or community good - teaching and preaching the good news as a servant of Christ (to live). Paul recognizes what is good for him, but accepts, (just as Christ did, leaving eternal glory with the Father to wrap himself in flesh, be born, live and eventually die) - that to live for others is actually the goal. When put this way, as verses 23-24 spell out, Paul is convinced that he will remain, that he will stay to serve, stay to expand the sharing of the good news, stay to be used by God for the benefit of a watching world. What is most beautiful in this passage, and in verse 21 especially, is a message for each of us as we struggle through this journey of life, experiencing (more than we would like) both the threat of our own death and the grief over others. Like Paul, we can hold in tension the goodness of being eternally present with Jesus and the goodness of being physically present with our loved ones, living with a mission to love and serve Christ in the sliver of time we have been given. Both are good. And we live, eternally, in the tension between the personal good and the corporate and community good. Because as long as we are pouring ourselves out here, loving and serving on behalf of Christ… we’re actually in his presence, receiving the love, joy, peace and comfort in part, that we will one day experience in full. Welcoming You to Grow in Jesus, Pastor Don

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