For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain… Philippians 1:21
It’s hard to read a letter like Philippians and not envision the passionate pleadings of Paul to anyone who will listen. Everything that happens in life—all the pain and agony, all the joys and happiness, all the loss and gain, all the good and bad—everything is for a purpose. It all has a rhyme and reason. Sometimes we are able to see it clearly, other times we catch but a glimpse from the periphery, and still there are times where we don’t see it all.
Yet it is there, that one singular reason, that one great hope beyond hope: we are nothing and he is everything. Through it all, Jesus is my life.
God told Ananias to go find Paul and restore his sight, because this is a man who is a chosen instrument to carry the name of God before nations and kings, and this is a man, God says, who will be shown “how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” And suffer, Paul did.
He was dragged from a city, pelted with stones, and left to die. He was lowered from a wall in a basket to escape those who wanted to take his life. He was inflicted with a thorn, a messenger from Satan, perhaps an issue with his health. He was imprisoned. He was beaten. He was shipwrecked. Even once when he was cold and sought to make the fire warmer, a snake bit his hand. Finally, he was martyred at the command of Nero. His life was poured out like a drink offering.
And here was a man who before all of this was circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness, under the law blameless. Yet all of that was rubbish…and why? Because Jesus is his life.
Truly, though his body is dead, Paul has now gone on to that which is better—to be with Christ. Though as long as he remained, he served the church, the people of God.
And his words still echo on. Yes to die is gain, but to live is Christ. This should be the cry of our hearts as we live each day. One moment our family brings us happiness, the next stress…but I press on. One moment our jobs are secure, the next we’re laid off…Christ Jesus has made me his own. One moment our health is great, the next the doctor has bad news…straining forward for what’s ahead. One moment we’re surrounded by friends, the next we are left alone…I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call.
Every moment. Every day. No matter what. Jesus is my life.