Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Sep 29 2013 - Philippians 1:1-26 – For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain

Paul had been put in prison for preaching the good news about Jesus. He is shortly to face trial and does not know whether it will result in his release or his execution. And, strange as it may seem to us, neither does he know which outcome to prefer. For his own part he would be glad to die. He speaks of it being a release – a release from his labours and from all of the trials that have accompanied them (remember the list in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29). But more than that, to die would be to be brought immediately into the presence of the Lord. There is nothing he longs for more; nothing could be better than that.

But, on the other hand, Paul knows that if he is spared and released, that would mean that he could continue to minister the gospel and bring blessing to many others – just as he is even now, while in prison, telling his captors about Christ. He longs also to be able to return to Philippi and to share fellowship once more with the Christians there; to bless them and to be blessed by them.

So Paul is in two minds and does not know whether to prefer life or death. But this he does know, "For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). While he lives, he is determined to live for Christ, seeking that Christ will be exalted in him (1:20). His life is centred in Christ, and Christ lives in him. When he does come to die, that will not be the loss of his life but the gaining of life in all its fullness, for he will be with Christ.

In the meantime, his imprisonment gives him an ideal opportunity to devote himself to prayer for the Christians at Philippi. His prayer is not fuelled by worry but is filled with joy, for Paul knows that it is God who has begun a work in these folk and he will finish what he has started (1:3-6). So Paul prays that they may grow in knowledge and understanding, and that they might be “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God” (1:9-11).

In the goodness of God, we are not facing trial for our lives. Nevertheless, the spirit that dominated the apostle Paul, that shaped his life and gave him hope in the face of death, should dominate our lives also. We should be able to express this same determination and confidence, "For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." We can have absolute confidence regarding the future and of our prospects in the face of death. We know that God does not abandon a work half done. We can "be confident of this, that he who began a good work in [us] will carry it on to completion in the day of Christ Jesus" (1:6). Having this assurance, we can live with confidence, devoting ourselves to the service of him who loved us and gave himself for us by giving ourselves to the service of others.

And when we can do little else, we can still pray: pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ that they may continue to grow strong in him; pray for those who do not yet know Christ that they be drawn to him; pray for those who are enemies of the gospel that, in God’s strange providence, they too might be used of God for the strengthening and propagation of his kingdom.

Father God, help us by your Spirit to live for Christ today even as we shall live with him for all eternity. As you have loved us, may our love abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that we may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of your holy name.

Peter Misselbrook