During my morning devotional time I have been studying from the book of Philippians, with a focus on joy. More specifically, what is it about Paul, a man in prison, who could write a book on joy. Prison was not the only tribulation Paul faced, consider this:
24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— (2 Corinthians 11:24-27 NKJV)
I touched on Paul’s joy in my last post. This week I wish to share with you one more nugget of truth.
For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21 NKJV)
As I read this passage of scripture, I must ponder how I would word this sentence as it applies to me. “For me to live is______ and to die is ______.” Fill in the blanks. I do not know about you, but the second part, I could say. That is, “to die is gain.” This I know as a believer in Christ Jesus, I have a future in heaven well beyond my wildest immigration. I desire to live for whatever time God has appointed for me. However, I sure do look forward to what awaits me once I step into eternity.
Now for the first part, could I truly say, “For me to live is Christ?” Yea, I could say it, but how honest would I be with myself? Would this be more accurate? “To live is me?”
Yes, I love Jesus. I love serving and going to church. I enjoy me relationship with the Lord. I love other believers. However, in this fallen sinful state, I want myself to come first. Just think for a moment of the troubles we face which are the results of selfishness.
Paul was a different breed. In spite of all his hardships, Paul lived a successful and fulfilling life in the Lord. A life overflowing with joy. After Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, he lived for Christ. Here in lies another nugget of truth. Paul lived an unselfish life. He was a man who could say, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” “Paul’s life was not his own, but for the glory of Christ. He dedicated his life to living in the will of God and advancing the gospel. He was willing to go through what ever for the benefit of others. He rejoiced in the gospel going forth. With this attitude, how could he be anything but joyful?