HOW IS DYING GAIN?
The stark reality is – we’re all going to die. But for many, it is a morbid thought that anyone would think of dying as gain. After all, didn’t God call death the last enemy (I Cor. 15:26) and implant within each of us a strong desire to live? So how could dying ever be seen as gain?
The Apostle Paul testified in Philippians 1:21, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” He later confessed, “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 …so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ will overflow on account of me.” (V:23-26)
The only thing that kept Paul’s spark for living was his singular, all-embracing passion of life – to magnify Christ in all things whether by life or by death.
Paul held things loosely. He realized he was made for another world. He really believed that the best was yet to come. John Piper states, “Death makes visible where our treasure is. The way we die reveals the worth of Christ in our hearts. Christ is magnified in my death when I am satisfied with him in my dying – when I experience death as gain.”
Every person I know who has died well, has lived well. They have sought to keep Jesus central in all they do. They have realized that life is a temporary gift from God. And that the God who gave them life is the God who will set the time to also take their life, for “…it is appointed unto all men once to die.” (Heb. 9:27) This reality cannot be avoided. From kings to paupers; from saints to criminals; from those who have everything to those who have nothing – death is an appointment we each must keep.
So how did Paul hold the realities of life and death in such healthy tension? The answer is revealed in his statement. “For me, to live is Christ.” For Paul, Christ was at the center and circumference of everything. He took joy in serving Christ, in following Christ, in meditating on Christ, in pleasing Christ, in obeying Christ, in proclaiming Christ, in suffering for Christ, in bringing glory to Christ. Christ was central to everything. For that reason, it was a natural next step for Paul to be able to say, “For me to die is gain.” For him, to be absent from the body was to be present with his Lord. The song In Christ Alone captures it this way: “No guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me. From life’s first cry to final breath – Jesus commands my destiny.” (Psalm 31:15)
“For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. That is why he is the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. (Hebrews 9:14-15) Death is like the fulfillment of a will. “The will goes into effect only after the person’s death. While the person is still alive, the will cannot be put into effect.” (Heb. 9:16-17)
John Baillie (1886-1960) offers us this morning prayer. “O You who alone know what lies before me this day, grant that every hour of it I may stay close to You. Let me be in the world, yet not of it. Let me use this world without abusing it. If I buy, let me be as though I possessed not. If I have nothing, let me be as though possessing all things. Let me today embark on no undertaking that is not in line with your will for my life, nor shrink from any sacrifice which your will may demand. Suggest, direct, control every movement of my mind; for my Lord Christ’s sake.” Amen
Be blessed my friend.
The Barnabas Group / Loads of Love