Summary: There is comfort in the hope given to a Christian that living for Christ is life indeed.
What an occasion! We are here to celebrate the life of our very dear friend A.. What a lovely person she was! My contact with her was far to limited, but the lasting impression left on me was of a very special person, who loved the Lord, and served Him so faithfully. I suppose that the time when I had most contact with A. was at the A o G General Conference. Some years ago I was invited to take on the awesome responsibility of heading up the Stewarding Team, and invited J. to help me, and A. was asked if she would do an important job. It was to work as part of the support team, ensuring that there were refreshments available for the Team. Some people would not have seen this as an opportunity for serving the Lord, but A. did. It wasn’t long before she had put her stamp on it! She was willing to serve those who served. What a gracious lady. Everyone loved her, as with the others on the support team, she ensured that she was there to serve. I am truly convinced that this apparently simple act of service helped towards making the Conference a success! I could say much more, but there have been tributes from others, suffice it to say that it is Heaven’s gain.
As I was waiting on the Lord for a ‘Word’ to share with you on this occasion of mixed feelings, I was really impressed in my spirit to consider these wonderful words.
Philippians 1:21 – 23
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far. [NIV]
For to me, living is for Christ, and dying is even better. 22 Yet if I live, that means fruitful service for Christ. I really don’t know which is better. 23 . . . . Sometimes I want to live, and sometimes I long to go and be with Christ. That would be far better for me. [NLT]
When I began to meditate on these words, I thought they were so fitting for this occasion. While A. lived, she lived for the Lord. Now it is certainly better for her. She is with the Lord she loved so much, receiving the ‘well done’ from the Saviour.
As far as James is concerned we pray that “to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour” for him.
For me to live is Christ - Yet if I live, that means fruitful service for Christ. When we look at what has been accomplished in this brief time in Tanzania, we must agree that it has been fruitful service. Could we pause and consider our own fruitfulness? We will realise that some fruit bearing is more apparent than others, but we should all seek to be fruitful, and we can only be fruitful if the life of Christ is flowing through us. Writing to the Galatian Christians Paul says “that life which I now am living in the flesh I am living by faith, the faith of the Son of God, who in love for me, gave himself up for me”. Here is the secret to being able to say “For me to live is Christ”. As we look back to the life Anneli lived, it must be apparent that she lived it by, “the faith of the Son of God”. For her to live was Christ.
My text goes on to say “to die is gain” or “dying is even better”.
How can this be? Paul was so convinced of this fact that he says to the Corinthian Christians “as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. That is why we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. So our aim is to please him always, whether we are here in this body or away from this body”.
To understand what this means, we need to grasp the great truth that knowing Christ is really wonderful. Sometimes we confuse knowing about Christ with knowing Him! I know something about Her Majesty the Queen, but I do not know her. A. Knew Christ! She knows Him even better now! “to die is gain”. In the company of the angelic host, and the saints who have gone on before, she now sees Christ in His glory, and is able to worship Him as she longed to do while with us on earth.