Short Verse, Huge Impact (Philippians 1:21)
[For] to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. —Philippians 1:21
This is a short verse and easy to memorize. It can roll off my tongue without much effort and too often I say it without thinking about the deeper meaning and implications behind it.
Paul wrote this letter from prison to encourage the believers in Philippi. It is meant as an encouragement to us as well, to live out our days faithful to Christ in all we do and not let circumstances discourage us or take our focus off Christ. That is God’s plan for impacting the world with the gospel—it must be lived out daily in our lives.
It's not hard to understand that “to die is gain” because we will be with Jesus in sweet fellowship away from the worries and cares of this life on earth. There are so many great commentaries and sermons that expound on that wonderful truth. But what does “to live is Christ” mean? How does that look in our day-to-day world?
Matthew Henry said in his commentary on this passage:
The glory of Christ ought to be the end of our life, the grace of Christ the principle of our life, and the word of Christ the rule of it. The Christian life is derived from Christ, and directed to him. He is the principle, rule, and end of it… Some read the whole expression thus: To me, living and dying, Christ is gain; that is, “I desire no more, neither while I live nor when I die, but to win Christ and be found in him.” It might be thought, if death were gain to him, he would be weary of life, and impatient for death. No, says he, If I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor (Philippians 1:22), that is, Christ is. He reckoned his labor well bestowed, if he could be instrumental to advance the honor and interest of the kingdom of Christ in the world…It is worthwhile for a good Christian…to live in the world as long as he can glorify God and do good to his church.
"To live is Christ" means living in light of His glory, in obedience to His Word, and in union with Him. That means we must know His Word and what brings Him glory. We must be experiencing His grace and gospel on a daily basis. But how do we do that?
Do I look for evidences of His grace each day? Do I see how God is working in my life and in the lives of those I pray for? Or do I just exist—going through each day as drudgery or without a thought of Christ except when I read the Word or attend church.
God is at work all around us. Cultivating a grateful attitude helps me to see this more. Thanking God that I safely merged onto the freeway helps me to keep my focus on Him. Noticing the small changes in my granddaughter’s heart, moving her from selfishness to generosity, reminds me of the grace of God in our lives and His faithful answering of prayers. Reminding myself that God is in control of everything when I’m facing seemingly impossible tasks can set my heart to trusting Him despite the circumstances.
I have a lot to learn from Paul’s example, and the other wonderful examples God has given us. May each of us recognize our life is Christ, fully confident that not only will dying be gain but also that living in and for Him is gain, too!
What difficult circumstance are you currently facing that would benefit from reminding yourself that God is in control?
What reminders can you put in place to help keep your focus on Christ? (For example, a prayer journal, devotionals or God-centered blogs, reminder notes or memory verse cards in strategic places, asking a friend to help you be accountable)
Think through the last couple of days. What have you forgotten to thank God for? Do so now.