For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
My grandfather (a.k.a. “Peepaw”) was fond of telling the well-known joke of the preacher standing up in church on Sunday morning saying, “Everybody who wants to go to heaven, please stand up.” All stood with the exception of one older man on the back row. The preacher asked, “Sir, don’t you want to go to heaven?” He responded, “Yes, I want to go to heaven, just not on the first load.”
Was it Loretta Lynn or B.B. King who first said, “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die”?
Not Paul. On this he is clear: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Paul is ready to take the first bus. He does not have a death wish; he has a profound vision of eternal life, which has clearly already begun for him but which will go to one thousand times when his body expires. And let’s be clear: Paul is not all about going to heaven when he dies. As we will see, his ultimate hope is for the resurrection of the body and the new creation, which far from somewhere up there, is decidedly down here.
The big point for Paul is Jesus only, Jesus ever. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” What I find most interesting is Paul’s motivation for continuing in his present bodily existence. I think most peoples’ primary motivation for staying alive—beyond their fear of death—is to enjoy life, to take more and better family vacations, to play more golf, and maybe win the lottery. Not Paul. Paul’s interest in staying alive is to help other people. He wants to stay alive for the sake of the gospel of Jesus flourishing in the lives of people.
If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. . . . Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith.
So I’m asking myself these questions today: Do I really believe “to live is Christ”? Do I really believe “to die is gain”? If so, why do I want to remain alive in the body?
Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who is the way and the truth and the life. Search my heart, O Lord, and help me answer the question, Is Christ my life, or is he just my help, or is he something less to me? Give me clarity on this. I want Christ to be my all in all. Save me from the ease of self-deception on this point. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
- Do you really believe “to live is Christ”?
- Do I really believe “to die is gain”?
- If so, why do I want to remain alive in the body?
For the Awakening,