Summary: To live is Christ; to die is gain. This is the great creed of the Christian who wants to live a joyful life whether in this life or the next.
THE MEANING OF LIFE…AND DEATH
I emailed a friend recently who is an adventurer. I told him that I look back on his exploits with awe and sometimes I live vicariously through his ventures. He emailed back and said, “Don’t live through me… early in July I started tearing my dad’s old barn down (to try and salvage the lumber), and I fell off a ladder. I was about twelve feet up when I lost my balance (from pulling a wire out of the wall, the wire came way too quick), and as I was going over I saw that dad had an old plow parked right below my ladder.
In the flash of a second, I knew I’d be taking the dirt nap if I hit it. So with what remained of my fast depreciating balance, I side kicked off the barn in an attempt to clear the plow, which accelerated me well past twelve feet.
I missed most of the plow.
After getting up off the ground, I realized I was in trouble, and that if I didn’t keep working, I’d seize right up. So I worked my (tail) off for another four hours before my Mom figured I should be in the emergency room. In the end, nothing was broken. However, my ankles looked like tomatoes, I had a small but deep gash in my leg, my left shoulder was messed up bad, all the tendons in my right arm are stretched "from here to China" (that’s what my doctor said, and he’s from Taiwan), a bunch of ribs in my back had popped out, and I bit my tongue. That was the worst part - my tongue got seriously infected, and I couldn’t eat or talk for two weeks.”
To truly live is an adventure. Those who guard their lives and live safely will not see the adventure in life. They fear the unknown and avoid risks. Either you are a white water rafter or a calm water canoeist. Myself, I am probably more of a calm water canoeist – I don’t need a lot of risks, but I admire those who are adventurers.
What are you living for? How would you complete the phrase: To live is ________? To complete that sentence is to reveal your purpose for being.
Og Mandino wrote that all successful people have a clear purpose in life. They have a reason to get out of bed in the morning and a driving purpose that keeps them on track throughout the day. Without a clear purpose no one can be considered successful.
Paul’s creed for living was very clear: To live is Christ, to die is gain. This creed reveals Paul’s secret for facing trial with joy, for living life to the full. Let’s explore the meaning of this creed together in Philippians 1:18-26.
1. Making your life count
Funerals are very revealing when it comes to the personality and accomplishments of the dearly departed. What will they say about me? What will they say I did of note? How will they capture the essence of who I was in one hour? What kind of legacy will I leave behind?
How will your life count when the bell tolls? I have often thought that those who write books are best remembered. Augustine lived 1800 years ago and people still read his Confessions. Martin Luther continues to influence theology with his writings. But books can be critiqued and criticized and one’s reputation over the centuries can have its ups and downs. What really counts?
Paul’s concern in this regard was expressed in these verses: “Yes and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance” (18b-19).
What does Paul mean by “deliverance”? Does he expect that he will be acquitted of the charges against him? Will he be released from prison? Or does he mean that he will be saved through his death?
The word “deliverance” can mean “salvation” but it can also mean “vindication.” And the phrase “will turn out for my deliverance is a direct quote from the OT figure, Job. Paul deliberately quotes Job to draw a parallel between Job’s situation and his own. This is what Job says, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face. Indeed, this might turn out for my deliverance, for no godless man would dare come before him!” (Job 13:16).
Think of Job’s situation: Job was a righteous man, whose suffering was not due to sin but his piety. God was using Job to show Satan that the righteous worship him, not because of the blessings they receive but because of who God is. Job’s friends come along and accuse him of sinning and tell him that his suffering is the result of that sin. All he needs to do is confess. Only Job was not guilty of anything.