For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.
Paul really knew what life as a Christian meant as well as the death of a Christian. God is love, and those who are His children and follow Him have His love in their hearts because of the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. The entire point to living is to be the best blessing and gift to others that is possible, to use what God has given to tell others what God has done and live so that others will be attracted to Him.
Then as Paul says, dying is a gift from God to be desired. The next thing that the dying Christian knows when falling to sleep in death is waking up and being with God, Jesus and all the inhabitants of that better place where no pain or sadness touches them. They live together forever as one happy, loving family building one pleasant and heart-warming memory upon another and praising God all the while.
God had made His promises to Adam and Eve that One would come to conquer death and restore the garden to humans once again. Eve could have been happy to live each day of her life drawing the hearts of her children and grandchildren to God and the hope of His promises. We do not know how she lived her life other than giving birth to many children in hopes of the promised Son.
We do not know if she could look to death as a gift and a better state than life in the fallen world. She may have wished to die and not see any more of the suffering her children suffered because of her sin and their own choices. Still, she could have held to the hope of God’s promises in the face of death. Then, the prospect of dying would not be something to dread.
Certainly after Jesus rose from the dead, Mary was full of hope and enjoyed thinking over His life and the prophecies in the scriptures concerning Him. She may have been much help in John’s household, working with that family and spreading the Good News and the story of Jesus. She must have had so many wonderful stories to share about her experiences as Jesus’ mother.
Death may have been a welcomed sweetness to her at the end of her life. She would look forward to being with Jesus and the heavenly family. While she was not a perfect person, she will always be remembered and honoured for living faithfully for Jesus as she did. She will probably go through the ages to come telling her experiences and enjoying being in the presence of King Jesus.
Dear heavenly Father,
I take heart from these words of Paul, and I see what my only purpose as a Christian living my life day to day is. Living means sharing what You mean to me and what You have done for me. Please forgive me for not sharing You more freely and daily.
Yes, I have such hope of being with Jesus forever after I die. I look forward to falling asleep in death and having my next experience to be in Your presence forever! While I must live life to share You, I do long for that time when I will forever be with my Lord in that better place. This perspective of life and death is so blessed. Thank You so much for giving me something so wonderful to live and to die for because of Jesus!
A Further Personal Note
The issues of living for Christ and dying in Christ have been significant in my own life. I gave my life to Jesus as a very young child, but I often shrank from the more negative realities of living life in our world and facing struggles since I have had health challenges from babyhood.
When I was a teen, living life in pain and with frequent illness as I saw I must was discouraging. I saw that any other difficulty in life was made even more challenging because of my physical pain and sickness. When I thought about these matters, I wished I would die young.
Death still looks awfully good sometimes, although I am not suicidal. I have much pain and sickness, but my suffering is usually not serious enough for other people besides my doctor to recognize. I must struggle through the pain to work every day and earn my way in this world as others do. Acceptance of the pain has been a miracle of healing in my heart and mind that God gives and I must daily choose. I am asking God to help me not to complain because He gives me so much.
Meanwhile through the years, I have seen that living life with Jesus always has its daily rewards. Life is sweet and I choose life with Jesus! He constantly suffers much more than I can imagine as He feels every pain and stress of this world and the people He has created because of His great love. Yet, He looks to the final result and the happy times ahead when no one will ever be in pain again. I love to share each day with Him and understand just a little of what His pain must be like as He labors to attract people to His great heart of love and His wonderful plan for their lives.
“Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne?But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:15&16 New Living Translation – NLT).
“There were many priests under the old system, for death prevented them from remaining in office. But because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever. Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf” (Hebrews 7:23-25 New Living Translation – NLT).
On the other side of things, my aunt has just lost her battle with cancer. She had felt almost all along that she would outlive this bout with the disease, and it would go into remission just like it had about 15 years ago. She felt that God wanted her to live to take care of her husband, my uncle. He is older than she is.
As time went on, she had chances to consider Paul’s words to the Philippians regarding living and dying in Christ. Her body did not respond to any treatment. She took heart in the promise that to be “absent from the body” is to be “present with the Lord.” She died knowing the next thing she knew she would see Jesus. Those of us who love her are sad to miss her now, but we are also glad that she is not suffering and that we will see her again.
We do no know the why to many things in life. Still, we can take heart because God is still in charge and He is Love. He will make everything right in the end.
“’Listen to me, descendants of Jacob,
all you who remain in Israel.
I have cared for you since you were born.
Yes, I carried you before you were born.
4 I will be your God throughout your lifetime—
until your hair is white with age.
I made you, and I will care for you.
I will carry you along and save you’” (Isaiah 46:3 & 4 NLT) .