We can only marvel at the attitude of Paul as we observe his mindset in the midst of difficult situations. This chapter reveals that he wasn’t certain what the outcome of his trial in Rome would be. Christianity may go on to be identified as an illegal religion and Paul may suffer the death of a martyr. Yet even that uncertainty didn’t affect his outlook. Paul summarises his outlook in one clear and precise statement:
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”. (Phil 1:21)
In other words, if I’m living, I’m going to be living for Jesus. But if I die, then win for me. He goes on to mention the fact that to ‘depart’ and be with Christ is ‘Far better’ (v23).
He would know! He once told of a heavenly vision he experienced and expressed that it was inexpressible. (2 Corinthians 12). And as Christians we all have this wonderful hope. “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
In John 14, Jesus said that He is going to prepare a place for His followers… and He has been doing that for a long time… Paul was honestly looking forward to ‘departing’. That word in Greek is used to describe a ship setting sail, and that fits for the believer. The main voyage is ahead, where we put off our earthly body, this perishing tent and get our heavenly body upgrade.
It gives us reason to rejoice doesn’t it?
Yet let’s not forget the other side of this equation. It was the living for Christ that Paul saw was necessary for his current purpose. You may think that it is reasonable for someone like Paul to have this mindset, but for me, I’ve got other things I need to concern my life with, maybe God can have Sunday mornings, but the rest, sorry too busy, too broke, too much else going on.
Paul actually reasoned that this mindset was necessary for anyone who would identify themselves to be a believer in Jesus.
In fact in Colossians, we see a good example of this:
“Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” (Col 3:22-24, NKJV)
Notice the attitude the servant was to have. Those words ‘as to the Lord’ describe the mindset of living for Christ.
Think about what this is saying, even in the secular workplace, our attitude is to be that of living for Christ by the way we work. Many people Paul wrote to had secular jobs, and yet they could ‘serve the Lord Christ’ in that environment… wow!
And so this statement “To live is Christ” is not just a personal motto he held for himself, it was a standard that Paul would pass on to any believer in any walk of life at any stage of life.
So the question, and probably the most important question you could ask yourself right now is:
For to me to live is ______? (Fill in the blank.)
What are your true ambitions in life right now?
Next week we will look at the ‘mind of Christ’ and that will help us in working out how to ‘live for Christ’.