For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Philippians 1 v.21
Can you echo Paul’s words from the bottom of your heart this morning? It’s a very revealing and challenging question is it not? Paul spells out what this means in the next few verses.
If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.
For Paul, life meant ‘fruitful labour’ while death was something he looked forward to as it meant being with Christ in glory. But such was his commitment to his Saviour that he had no choice but to leave the decision in his hands. What he wanted above all was that Christ should be glorified in his life and in his death.
Leaving that decision in God’s hands he knew that his departure to glory would neither be too soon not too late but at just the right time and in just the right way.
Just over nine months ago my sister, on the verge of celebrating with her husband and family her 50th Wedding Anniversary dropped dead without any warning. Her husband walked into their kitchen and found her on the floor and in spite of the efforts of Paramedics nothing could bring her back. She and her husband loved the Lord and had served him faithfully for 50 years and more and it would be true to say of her ‘to live was Christ and to die was gain.’ Yes it left deep sadness for husband, children, grandchildren and hundreds (literally) of friends whose lives she touched. Not all those friends were believers but they would not be able to say that they had not heard of a Saviour or seen him in Anne.
If her family had had the choice they would not have wanted her to go but as believers they trusted (with deep sadness) God’s timing. They would have said ‘we want her to remain in the body’ but it was not their decision but that of a loving heavenly father.
For many to take such a position seems far too difficult but because of a life lived embracing Paul’s position husband and family rejoice in their sadness and stand in the same place.
How can this be? You may know the experience for yourself for that is where you stand rejoicing as you remember that your name is written in heaven.
The gain in death is to be freed from sin and the pain of living in a broken world and to be with Christ. Remaining may be hard in many ways but is necessary till our God given life’s work is done. Then comes the gain. The challenge is to put Christ first!