Part 2: To LIVE is Christ, to DIE is gain.
Paul is facing two alternatives and it’s a tough choice. But which alternative becomes reality isn’t really up to him; it’s up the God’s will. IF I really could choose between the alternatives, to live or die for Christ, then it would be a tough choice. The Philippian believers are praying for Paul to live, and Paul seems confident that he will be delivered from prison and have more years of fruitful labor. Paul is waiting to know whether it will be life or death. He also feels the anxiety of waiting. Waiting is the hard part!
What two alternatives are before you? You may desire one alternative over the other, but God’s alternative will prevail. You want God’s alternative to prevail because it will be what is good for you and glorifies God (Romans 8:28).
To LIVE is Christ.
Paul is referring to life in this world and maybe also eternal life with Christ. He gave three reasons for his hope to stay alive.
1) He is living to share the gospel with the Gentiles. 1:12-13: I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. The imperial guard may have included several hundred soldiers. They talked about Paul’s gospel in the barracks.
2) He is living for the “defense” of the gospel. 1:7: It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 1:15-16: Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.
3) He is living to encourage other believers. 1:22-26: If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me (me serving you). Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 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. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
What does it mean to live? Biological existence isn’t enough. Animals only need biological existence (with the exception of dogs!) People need meaning and purpose. In chaplaincy we learned to assess patients for four things: holy, hope, meaning, and support. What gives a person’s life meaning? Meaning and purpose is found in relationships and accomplishments (the people we know and the work we do). While serving as a chaplain I met an older cardiac patient who used a table saw to create wooden toys and puzzles for his grandchildren. That was his meaning and purpose. I met a woman with malignant brain cancer. She lost her ability to drive her Camaro and one of her relationships was painful. She cried as she thought about her estranged daughter. That is a hard loss of meaning and purpose, but she still had her most important relationship with God.
To live is Christ means our ultimate meaning and purpose is found in Christ. Our most important relationship is with Christ and our most important accomplishment is whatever we do to fulfill His commands – love one another and go and make disciples of all nations.
To be continued…