Do you understand that verse? This used to confuse me because I just didn't fully understand what it meant "to live is Christ." I understood that to die is gain because dying meant that we would be with God forever, but to live is Christ? Our world has such a different view of life from what a follower of Christ has. In the world, we are taught that to live is everything and living the dream is to gain. But looking at the life of Jesus has helped me understand this verse more and more each year.
Jesus is God; He is the Word of God made human. Think on that for a moment. Jesus sacrificed His position in Heaven to come and be with us. He sacrificed this so we could have salvation. Not only did Jesus sacrifice while He was on the cross, but His entire life was a sacrifice for us. Jesus ultimately showed us true sacrifice on this earth and asked us to be willing to sacrifice our comfort as well. So, Paul was expressing that to die would be ultimate gain because he would be with Christ; however, to live here on earth and do what God wanted of him was to live a life that Christ modeled for us. Paul was expressing that to do the work of God was living out the life that Christ wanted of him. Paul wrote in Philippians 1:20-22 (NIV), "I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me..."
This is a challenging couple of verses, because it causes me to think about what God wants from me. Do I live in a sacrificial way that honors God, or do I think of myself first? Last week, I had the opportunity to go to the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit, where I heard Pranitha Timothy share what God has done in her life. She works with the International Justice Mission and has helped to free many people from modern day slavery. She has put herself in danger to gain freedom for others. At the Leadership Summit she shared her story of how she only cared about herself before Christ and no one would have imagined her risking her life for a slave. But now she lives a life that shines God's glory and she understands the message that "to live is Christ and to die is to gain."
I put a picture of Niagra Falls with this post because it reminds me of the total abandon God wants from us as we follow Him. In her book Hinds Feet On High Places, Hannah Hurnard writes of how the water joyfully drops over the falls in utter abandon to itself. Just like a waterfall's abandon to the cliff, we are to be willing to give of ourselves to God in whatever He wants from us.
Does your life reflect the truth that for a Christ follower means to sacrifice while we are here?