Philippians 1:21-23 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am going to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two. I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.”
To die is gain. More and more people seem to agree with that statement. Terrorists routinely kill themselves along with their victims. Every few months some angry father or mother in a custody battle murders the children and then takes their own life. Death doesn’t seem to hold people in the fear it once did.
So long as they aren’t suffering intensely, life is going well, or there is the potential for it to get better, most people still prefer life. But for those coping with pain that can’t be relieved, or facing a future they fear, death seems to offer escape or relief.
A Christian has been given a unique take on life and death. Escape and relief are not what Paul means by “to die is gain.” Death doesn’t lead to nothing. It leads to something. It doesn’t just end something terrible. It begins something wonderful.
That may seem strange in light of the fact that God originally imposed death as part of the ultimate punishment for our sin. Its original purpose was not to give us something. It was to put us out of God’s presence forever.
Jesus changed all of that by dying instead of us. As our Savior, he was dying for us, in our place, when he gave up his life on the cross. His death served out the death penalty for our sins. It satisfied God’s justice and wiped our record completely clean–not only the felonies, but the misdemeanors and petty sins as well. As a result, God has nothing for which to be angry at us anymore, not even mildly irritated, and we have been reconciled.
Since death has been emptied of its original purpose, Jesus has invested it with a new one–it is the doorway to eternal life. His own resurrection from the dead assures us that death is not the end of life. It is the beginning of a new life. To die is gain. Death is not a bad choice when Jesus chooses it for me.
Author and motivational speaker Stephen Covey says that one of the secrets to success is to think “win-win.” It appears Paul thought of this long before. “To live is Christ, to die is gain.”