With Christ – Far Better – Philippians 1:21-23

Published March 24, 2014 by

21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For[c] I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.

 On Sunday Chris continued with his wonderful study of Philippians. As he taught us, Chris asked a soul-searching question, “To live is ____?” – (We where to fill in the blank). I know that this question challenged me. As I think about that today, the question Chris asked actually leads to the other question, “To die is ____?” (What came to mind for you?)

A Believer’s view of death can be given in these four words in this passage: “with Christ, far better.” That pretty much sums it up. But before we look closer at that, it is necessary that we investigate further Paul’s view of life. We should look closer because these verses are not the words of a man who is tired of living. He is not just holding on and groaning for heaven having resigned himself to enduring life on earth. This is not the declaration of someone who is finally fed up with living and barely able take life any longer. Paul is not proclaiming that the only hope for him is that heaven is close at hand. No! For Paul, this is an exciting proclamation; “to live is Christ”! Living, he says, means fruitful labor, in which he takes the greatest happiness. The prospect of continuing to live is not an unwelcome possibility here. Rather, he says “I hardly know which to choose”, both prospects are so enticing and inviting. The right-minded Christian is not so neurotically desirous of death that he no longer wants to live (John MacArthur). I think that we sometimes give the wrong impression. We sing these wonderful songs about the glory up yonder in the sweet by and by.  Sometimes, unfortunately, Christians leave the impression that what comes at the end is really all they are living for.

The Christian does not live with an extreme longing to escape life, to evade life or to run from it. Paul is not at all saying that! He is saying, “to live is Christ” — I love that! And evidently the Spirit of God tips the scale in favor of life, so Paul goes on to say, “convinced of this I know that I shall remain, and continue with you all” — because you need me and I will have the joy of coming to you again. For Paul, facing the possibility of death does not mean he is tired of life but that death can only mean a more wonderful and deeper companionship with Christ (Adrian Warnock). That is what makes life worth living. He says, “to die is gain”, and you can only say that if you are prepared to say, “to live is Christ”!

What do you think is really living? What kind of circumstance do you have to have before you can say “Oh, now I’m really living”? What do you substitute for “Christ” in these words of Paul? “To me to live is money”? Then to die is to lose it all, isn’t it? “To me to live is fame”? To die is a name in the obituary in the paper and never have it there again. “To me to live is pleasure”? To die is to go out into an unknown. “To me to live is health”? To die is to lose my health. You see the only thing that makes sense in life is to say with the Paul, “for me to live is Christ,” because then you can say “to die is gain.” The truth about the Christian faith is that heaven begins here and now.

Do we live out our Christian expectations as escapists? Or are we the planted seed that dies in order to experience abundant life? Are we experiencing the joy of union with the Living Christ, whether we live with Him on earth or in heaven?

Prayer:

Father, I thank you that you have given me a purpose for living. Teach me to be able to genuinely say, “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.”

 

Deeper In God’s Word

Tom Renew

Resources:

John MacArthur – Paul’s Desire to Depart

Adrian Warnock – Facing Difficulties and Sorrows

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