Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
From the viewpoint of the world, this verse is absolutely absurd. Paul was not in the least suicidal, but he was saying that death would be a plus for him. In fact, in verse 23 he says it would be “better by far!” That’s what comes from genuine assurance of salvation. As Nate Saint, a missionary who was later killed by those to whom he had gone to share the Gospel, said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” This is exactly what Jesus was talking about when He said, “Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” (Luke 17:33) Actually, He said that sort of thing several times. We are to enjoy and be grateful for this life, but at the same time know that what is coming is far better. Just yesterday I saw an Internet meme on Facebook that was two twins talking with each other in the womb about the idea of “life after birth,” as an analogy for life after death. It was very much to the point and, in my view, extremely accurate. The thing is, the death of a believer is not a tragedy, from that person’s standpoint anyway. Those who are left behind grieve, and that is natural, but the loss is temporary, and for the person himself, it is translation into glory. My wife has experienced dying and coming back to physical life, and just the little bit of heaven she got to taste has her eager to go back! We need to live fully while we’re here, committed to and serving God so that when we leave, whether at 9 or 99, we will receive the reward of a “good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)
This has been a growing conviction for me, particularly since my father “graduated” at 64 (which was before my wife’s near-death experience). When my mother died of cancer a few years later, I wept for her suffering, but rejoiced when she was freed from it. I can’t say that I am looking forward in the least to the idea of my wife going before I do, but I know that it would be much easier for her if she does. Just last week a long-time friend of mine passed away because of cancer, and yesterday my wife and I were talking with his widow to assure her of our love and prayers for her. As I told her, we could be confident her husband was having a great time with his Lord Jesus. When I said that, she smiled, and it was beautiful. My reason for being here in Omura is to increase the number of people who have that assurance, and I must never give up, however long the road. Like Paul, I know that my continued life here is for the benefit of others, even though I get blessed in the process. I am to seek God’s will moment by moment, and rejoice to do it, for His glory.
Father, two of our friends died that day, and only one of them knew Jesus. The other one had heard the Gospel but wanted to add Jesus to his “god shelf,” and rejected the idea of “no other gods.” That was tragic indeed. I pray that You would pour out Your Spirit of revelation and repentance, so that the people of Omura may indeed forsake all other gods and cling to Jesus Christ alone, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!