by Stan Smith
Last week I wrote about Paul's, "For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." I talked about the difficulty most of us have with "to die is gain". And it makes sense. I mean, in a purely animalistic manner, we have a survival instinct. We want to live. "To die is gain" makes little sense. On the other hand, I pointed out that, given the glory of God and the awe of His presence and the wonder of an eternity without sin or tears but simply wonderful perfection, "to die is gain" absolutely makes sense. I wondered, in that piece, how Christians did not see it.
The natural response (I know because I've heard it) is, "So, are you going to kill yourself?" or something like it. That is, "If that is such perfection, why would you possibly continue to live?" I would like to propose that, while Paul's "to die is gain" is really, really hard for us to grasp, I think his "to live is Christ" eludes us even more.
"Now, wait," I can almost hear some say, "that part is easy." I think not. I think that we tend to think slightly different on the topic and, in so doing, largely miss the point. The reason I think that is because when I suggested that "to die is gain", the response is "So, why would you possibly continue to live?" I think we're missing the point because, well, I don't think we often live that way. How? "To live is Christ." That's how.
I think that we often miss the point that we do not live for ourselves. It's not about us. It's not about our pleasure or our comfort or even our efforts or our work. It is Christ. To live is Christ. At least, for us. Thus, if "to die is gain", why would I want to continue to live? Because living is about Christ. Now, if my viewpoint is that dying is gain but living is entirely for Christ, then I would end up slightly conflicted, wouldn't I? Oh, not for the reason that other people are. They don't want to die. Some think that dying is a good thing because life is so tough. That's not the reason that dying is gain. No, I'd be conflicted because I'm looking at two positives -- "live for Christ" or "die to be with Christ". As it turns out, this is exactly what Paul says in the passage. "I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account" (Philippians 1:23-24). It's not about me.
To most people, dying is bad. To most Christians, we can mentally understand that dying is a good thing. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, and what could be better than that? But we still have this will to live, this survival instinct. So we balk at Paul's "to die is gain". I think, however, that in getting that piece stuck in our craws, we may entirely miss the other half of the equation. Living isn't glorious simply because we live. Living is glorious because we get to serve Christ. Christ produces life in me. He authors my faith, directs my spirit, disciplines me as needed, provides purpose and value. He is the "Bread of Life". Death is marvelous gain when we get to be eternally and perfectly in the presence of Christ. On the other hand, the other marvel is a life spent in the glorious service of Christ, spreading His Gospel, bringing Him glory, reflecting His character. This is what answers "If death is so good, why go on living?" It is what balances "to die is gain". For believers, to live is Christ. He is the central issue, the main point, the primary focus, the reason. And it is the only accurate idea of how we are to live as followers of Christ.
"Inspiration For You" from
Your Buried TreasureRead Article »
I'm married with four grown children and (currently) four grandchildren. My wife and I live in sunny Phoenix by choice. I hope to encourage people with my words and to share with others what God has shared with me.
For more writings you can see my blog at birdsoftheair.blogspot.com.
Receive the newest devotional each week in your inbox by joining the "'Winging It" subscription list. Enter your email address below, click "Go!" and we will send you a confirmation email. Follow the instructions in the email to confirm your addition to this list.