Dwight Moody was traveling by boat on one of the Great Lakes when a really bad storm developed. The passengers cowered in fear starting an impromptu prayer meeting for deliverance, which Moody didn’t join. When asked why not he said, “I have a sister in Chicago and one in heaven and I don’t care which I see tonight.” (Patrick Doherty, sermoncentral.com)
How do you like that? What an attitude of contentment Moody had. I believe the reason Moody didn’t fear death was because he was prepared to die. He was prepared to die because he had trusted Christ as Savior and was living his life for Him.
We’ll be looking at Philippians 1:21 where Paul says,
For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
How many of us could say with Paul today, For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain?
If you were asked to complete this statement, “For me to live is ______________, and to die is _______________,” how would you complete it? Would you be able to with Paul For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain?
Or would you say something like,
“for to me to live is for me to be entertained, to die is to miss out on the fun.”
“for to me to live is all of the things I want, to die is to lose it all.”
“for to me to live is for me to be in the best of health, to die is to lose my life, what now?”
We read a verse like, For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain, and nod our heads in agreement that we believe these words but the question is, are we really living our lives in such a way that we can honestly say with Paul, For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain? Can we identify with Paul? I think we often can’t.
Let’s look closer at what Paul meant when he said, to live, is Christ and to die, is gain.
To Live Is Christ
Let’s start by asking ourselves a few questions.
What is it that excites you? What stirs your heart with passion? What do you devote your time and energy to? How do you spend your time and money? What topic do you enjoy reading about the most?
Is Christ your life like He was Paul’s? Can you echo Paul’s words and truly say, “For to me, to live is Christ”? Orwould you have to say something like,
“For to me, to live is money.”
Perhaps you’d say,
“For to me, to live is pleasure.”
Maybe some would say,
“For to me, to live is education.”
Others might say,
“For to me, to live is my career.”
Some might say,
“For to me, to live is just to make it through another day.”
Maybe you’d say, “For to me, to live is my family.” Maybe it’s your hobby. Maybe it’s your reputation.
Just what is it that drives you? What is it that consumes most of your time and energy? On what do you spend a lot of money? What do you talk about the most? How would others who know you well characterize you? What drives you? What motivates you? What gives your life meaning?
Paul had a single clear focus. His passion was Christ. He was consumed with Christ. He lived for Christ. He could say honestly, For to me to live is Christ. If Paul were alive today he could sing with sincerity these words from the familiar hymn,
Jesus is all the world to me, my life, my joy, my all.
I’ve had to ask myself during our study in Philippians, is that true in my life?
Is that true in your life? If to live is Christ is true in our lives then we can sing with sincerity, Jesus is all the world to me, my life, my joy, my all. Some of us may not be able to truthfully say, For to me to live is Christ, like Paul could.
There may be someone here who has never trusted Christ as Savior this morning. You can’t say, For me to live is Christ because you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. You have never trusted Him. You can trust Him today. Romans 10:13 tells us that,
whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.
But maybe you have trusted Christ as Savior but you’d have to admit that you couldn’t honestly say with Paul, For to me to live is Christ. Other things, even maybe some good and worthwhile things have taken the place that Christ alone should have in your life.
I remember when my wife and I were first dating, I was in the Marine Corps at the time. Most of our communication was done through letter writing. I looked forward to the letters I received from her. I’d eagerly open them and read them and re-read them. Now if I had let them pile up and accumulate and never opened them, you’d wonder about my devotion to her.
Yet, isn’t that what we do with Christ? We have God’s Word—the Bible—God’s love letter to us but how much do we treasure it? Does your Bible sit around collecting dust on the shelf between your weekly trip to church? Do we let a day slip by without opening our Bible while we have time to read newspapers and magazines and novels or surf the internet? Would the amount of time we spend reading God’s Word reflect the words, For to me to live is Christ?
When we love someone and are devoted to them we’re going to take time to listen to what they have to say. If I ignore my child when he comes to tell me something he isn’t going to feel very loved. If I love him and want him to understand how much I love him, I’m going to listen attentively to what he has to say. Reading God’s Word is one way we show Christ how much we love Him and are devoted to Him.
And if we really love someone and care about them, we’re going to talk to them. If we’re constantly ignoring someone and never take the time to communicate our love for them, then how genuine is our love? If we say to live is Christ, it’s going to be reflected in the time we spend in prayer.
Our love, our devotion, our commitment to Christ is also going to be reflected by our obedience to Him. Jesus said in John 14:15…
If you love Me, keep My commandments.
If Christ is our life we’ll be living in obedience to Him. We’ll also be talking about Him to others. When we love someone else it’s natural for us to speak highly of them to others. If we love Jesus Christ and are devoted to Him, we’ll talk about Him. We’ll encourage other believers with how He’s working in our lives. Our conversations will lift Him up and exalt Him. We’ll let unbelievers know how good He is and how He loved us so much that He gave His life for us and for them. We’ll want to share with them the good news of our Savior and how they can know Him as well.
Paul could say, For to me to live is Christ because Christ was his passion. He had an intimacy with Christ and a devotion to Him that was clear and evident in Paul’s life. He wanted others to know his Savior like he did.
Have you ever been separated from a loved one? When you are away from those who are dear to you, you can hardly wait to see them again face to face. And if we have an intimate relationship with our Savior we’ll be able to say like Paul did, to die is gain.
To Die Is Gain
But sometimes I think we’re more like the little boy whose…
…pastor was speaking about heaven, about eternal bliss and the joys that are awaiting each person on "the other side." He paused for effect and asked, "How many of you here want to go to heaven?" All hands were raised except for an eight-year-old boy sitting in the front pew. The minister asked, "Don't you want to go to heaven, too, son?"
The boy replied, "Yes, but I thought you were making up a load to go right now."
Our lives are so wrapped up in other things instead of Christ, that we aren’t really that excited about heaven.
Erwin Lutzer said…
By all standards, death is the most dreaded event. Our society will pay any price to prolong life. Just one more month, or even another day. Perhaps our desire to postpone death reflects our dissatisfaction with God's ultimate purpose. Remember, his work isn't finished until we are glorified. Most of us would like to see God's work remain half finished. We're glad we are called and justified, but we're not too excited about being glorified.
Paul didn’t dread death. He was looking forward to being glorified—he was looking forward to being with Christ. He understood that to die is gain. He understood that to die meant to be with His Savior, the one He loved and adored and what a wonderful time that would be!
For those apart from the Lord, those who have never trusted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, death is not gain. For those who’ve not confessed their sin and accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior death is loss. It’s horrible, tragic, awful loss. It’s eternal separation from God and a horrible eternity in Hell, but for those like Paul who have trusted in Jesus Christ and received eternal life, death is gain!
Won’t it be wonderful not to have to struggle with sin? When death ushers us into the presence of our Savior we no longer have to worry about living in a sin filled world. Our deteriorating bodies—some of us know more about physical anguish and health problems than others—will be glorified. Ears that don’t hear or don’t hear very well, will work fine. Eyes that don’t see or see very well will see clearly. Legs that have difficulty moving us around will “leap for joy” as the familiar hymn puts it. We won’t suffer from the difficult physical struggles that plague us in this fallen world.
For the believer to die is gain. Can you say this morning with Paul, For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain? If you have never trusted Christ as Savior, we would love to share with you how you can know Him and have a personal relationship with Christ. You can receive eternal life. You need not fear death.
Maybe you have trusted Christ but couldn’t honestly say these words this morning. Other things are more important in your life than Christ. Why don’t you pray and ask for the Lord’s strength and wisdom to help you so that you can truly say with Paul, For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Kevin A. Pierpont
Higgins Lake Baptist Church