To me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
In yesterday’s verses we saw that Paul loved the gospel so much that he could put up with selfishly motivated preachers. Now Paul increases our awe at his Christ-saturated view of life by saying that even if he dies, it will somehow work out for God’s glory. It’s not that Paul wants to die, but he knows that if God grants him the courage to stay true to Christ, even his own death will bring glory to God.
Once again we are challenged. But this fits a larger New Testament pattern. After all, we proclaim that Jesus was glorified on the cross. But in the Roman world cross and glory were not words anyone would put together. A cross was an instrument of terror, a threat to scare people into paying their taxes and never say anything against Caesar, the Roman emperor. If you ended up on a cross, it was the shameful end of you. Period.
Yet Jesus’ death opened up the pathway to eternal life. He was somehow exalted on that spit of wood. Paul knew this. He wrote about it in all of his letters and preached it wherever he went. The kingdom of God is an upside-down reality and is the only way to flip a sinful world that is already upside-down.
To live is Christ, and to die is gain. It is that simple. It is that profound. The remarkable truth is that our only hope is Christ!
Whether we live or die, dear Lord, help us to remember that we are yours so that, in life as well as in death, we will bring you glory! In Jesus, Amen.
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