March 3, 2024 | Doug Sauder
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“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”—Philippians 1:21 (NIV)
What an interesting dichotomy of thoughts the apostle Paul presents in Philippians 1! First, we’re told that Paul is in prison, but he’s joyful about it because his chains have served to advance the gospel. Then, in verses 18–26, Paul breaks down his thought process concerning his own life. He says that all of this has worked out for his deliverance, giving him “sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.”
Translation? Paul knew his deliverance would either come in freedom from prison to continue to do the work God had for him or in freedom from this fallen world into the presence of Christ forever! In light of this, Paul makes one of the most powerful statements ever recorded: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Jesus Christ is our life. He’s everything good, beautiful, and wonderful. In Him, we find our identity, belonging, and purpose. Our chief end and divine design is to know Jesus, enjoy relationship with Him, and make Him known. Apart from Christ, life cannot exist and is not worth anything. To live in this world is to live fully in Christ and for Christ.
Paul didn’t desire to advance himself, live his best life, or seize the day. He desired to be with Jesus, grow in Jesus, know Jesus as intimately as possible, and glorify Jesus. And if it was God’s will for Paul to best glorify Jesus by laying down his life, then Paul would be well pleased by the opportunity. Because for the Christian, death is not a defeat, but a graduation to glory! It’s of infinite and ultimate gain (kerdos: profit, advantage, a winning trade). How so? Because then we will have true, eternal union with Christ without our sinful human nature standing in the way. We’ll be free from distractions, sin, perils, pain, decay, and death. Christ will be right in front of us, to behold with our eyes and to worship at His feet. As 2 Corinthians 5:8 (NKJV) says, “To be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”
Paul’s experience in prison—seeing how his chains had been used by Jesus to advance the gospel, embolden believers, and grow the kingdom in a way he hadn’t previously considered—had cemented for him the understanding that Christ would be exalted whether by his life or death, giving him the “sufficient courage” to face possible death without hesitation, reservation, or regret.
Friends, I pray that Paul’s statement would be on every single Christian’s heart and mind as they wake up and as they go to sleep! In the morning, may we pray, “Thank You for this new day, Lord. May everything I do today be for Your glory. And through it, I pray I grow deeper into a loving and close relationship with You.” And in the evening, may we pray, “Lord, I pray for Your will. If I’m granted a new day tomorrow, may it be to Your glory. If You choose to call me home tonight, I will enter eternity with joy to be in Your presence!”
Pause: As you consider the rest of your life, what do you feel like God would want to accomplish through you? What would you like to do in the name of Jesus with the time you have left?
Practice: Begin the simple practice of praying something similar to what’s stated above in the morning and evening. Pray this with gratitude and humility, surrendered to His will and out of loving devotion.
Pray: Father, thank You for every day You give me to live in Christ. Thank You for calling me into Your marvelous light and receiving me into Your family. I pray that today and every day I may love You with all my heart, mind, and strength. I pray that each day, I may seek to know, enjoy, and exalt You more and more. I pray that You would be glorified by my life. And I pray that when You call me home, I may have the same courage and clear vision to understand how much better it is to be with You than anything I could possibly have or accomplish here. I know that every day I go on living is a day You have ordained for me to walk in beautiful relationship with You and accomplish the good works You have prepared for me. Thank You, wonderful Lord. Amen.
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.