Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
This simple yet extraordinarily powerful statement of Paul is justly famous. I think a lot of people know it who have no idea where to find it in the Bible. It is shocking because it is so different from the attitude of the vast majority of people on the earth. We tend to be consumed by the here-and-now, but Paul already had his eyes fixed on heaven. It’s not at all that he ignored the world around him, as the verses that follow make clear, but he knew what was genuinely important and eternal. We might admire and applaud his attitude, but at the same time realize we aren’t there yet. Actually, even Paul’s emotions weren’t constant, as 2 Timothy, his last letter that we have from before his execution, makes clear. At the same time, as 2 Timothy also makes clear, the attitude expressed in this verse indeed continued and carried him through to the gates of heaven. The devil does all he can to distract us from such an attitude, both with pleasant things and unpleasant ones. When we have pleasant experiences we are to thank God for them, and when we have unpleasant experiences we are to submit them to God for Him to turn them around for good. (Romans 8:28) In either case, we need to keep our focus on God and know that He will never leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5) If we will do that, then we can live in peace, with the attitude Paul expresses here.
This is an attitude I’ve been growing in, particularly in recent years. That’s a good thing, since I’m now 73! That said, consistency in it is something for which I definitely need the help of God. My flesh isn’t very comfortable with it! It is in some ways more difficult to deal with it in relation to my wife, who has an overabundance of medical issues. I earnestly want God’s best for her, which is of course ultimately heaven, but at the same time I want her to stay here with me. That’s rather selfish of me, but I’m being honest here. I want her to be freed from her various pains, and I am rather in awe of all that she continues to do in spite of them. I want to be the support that she needs, and at the same time I know that she is not my ultimate reason for living; Jesus is. I’m not to focus on “to die is gain,” but rather on, “to live is Christ.” This past week has been remarkable in many ways, both in terms of difficulty and in seeing God work. He had another appointment for me yesterday, and it was awesome to see who He had questioning me about things of faith, and also who He had immediately next to us to overhear everything that was being said. I am to look forward to such appointments constantly, even though I seldom know when they are coming, because they are genuine demonstrations of “to live is Christ.” He’s got stuff for me to do, and that is glorious!
Father, thank You indeed for all that You are doing. Thank You for the improvement in Cathy’s situation. I do pray for clear guidance as to what we are to do each day, so that we will act in neither fear nor presumption, but rather follow Your schedule to do Your will for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!