DEATH BE NOT PROUD – Philippians 1:21-23
DEATH BE NOT PROUD
Read and pray through Philippians, chapter 1, specifically, Philippians 1:21-23.
Reflection | Imprisoned in Rome, Paul awaits his trial before Caesar. The charge is insurrection against the Empire – a capital offense. Facing death has become for Paul, no longer a theoretical or philosophical question. As Paul remains confined to quarters, for all he knows, this correspondence to the Philippians could be the last letter that he would ever write.
And yet as Paul writes, he is not fearful or filled with anxiety. Paul, as he’s previously shared is a man at peace, a person who is rejoicing, because Jesus is risen – because the Spirit of the risen Christ lives in Him. It is out of this confidence that Paul makes one of the most powerful declarations found anywhere in the entire scriptures as to what genuine, authentic Christianity is, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (v. 21).
Paul is emphatic. Paul makes it personal. “For me” – regardless of how anyone or everyone else is living, Paul writes, “to live is Christ.” When Paul speaks of living here, he is talking about so much more than just having a pulse and doing whatever he wants to do. Being fully alive for Paul is living at the highest level, as God created and intended for him to live. And for Paul, one discovers that kind of meaning and purpose in one’s life by following Jesus.
Knowing and learning from Christ are the passion pursuit of Paul’s life. Being and becoming like Jesus in every moment or every day are the pattern and the goal of Paul’s life. And yet, Paul also maintains “to die is gain.” For Paul, death would not be a tragedy but a profit because it would bring him into the fullness of the presence of Jesus. More of Christ to Paul and more of Paul to Christ, these are not Paul’s losses but rather his death benefits.
Paul goes on to confess how he is wrestling between the two outcomes not as being either win or lose but rather good and better. While departing and experiencing the fullness of his life with Christ (v. 23) is the better option, Paul acknowledges “If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me” (v. 22) Paul is a man who is ready to die, and because of this, he is also ready to live, if need be.
Most of us want to live rather than die. Some might be willing to die once they lived a little. Once again, viewing it all through the perspective of Christ, Paul saw everything differently. Paul was willing to live but also eagerly anticipated when he would die. Not in some sadistic, suicidal way, but because death for Paul, meant for not an ending but a new, everlasting beginning in the new heavens and the new earth Jesus is preparing for us all.
It has been said that a person is not ready to live until they are first ready to die. On our own, this means if only when we resign ourselves to our inevitable end that we actually will be prepared to live for every moment. Due to the ongoing threat of COVID-19, we, like Paul, face death. And the death we face is not just the loss of life but the loss of work and jobs and the loss of movement and physical contact as well.
But like Paul, we can recognize there is something we have been given that can never be taken away from us – the promise of resurrection. The promise of resurrection means we don’t have to resign ourselves to death in order to live for the moment. Instead, living in Christ, we can face death whenever it comes, however it comes, not as a threat but as the means of our gain to a life everlasting. We can choose to view both our present and our future through the eyes of the One who has conquered death and in so doing, ensures that every end we perceive always can become a new beginning in Christ.
Consider & Discuss | Do you live in fear of death – of loss? Or are you living in Christ – living out of the freedom that comes with His promise of resurrection? How might you experience your life now differently if you trusted the outcome of your story to Jesus?
Prayer Focus | Lord, keep us from squandering our lives on this side of eternity by running in denial of death. Embolden us to face death fearlessly, as our gain, because of the assurance of the Resurrection, of coming into Your glory. With the time we are given, may we, through Your abiding presence in us, live for You, for Christ, in every moment of every day. Amen.