Philippians 1:21 is a very well known passage amongst believers, but what does it mean and how can we apply it to our lives? To understand it we must read the surrounding passages from verses 19 to 26. Philippians 1:19-26 is a passage that shows Paul’s confidence in the purpose of his life and living life to the fullest potential according to the will of God. As we read and understand this passage, take time to reflect if you are living the Christian life with the same confidence and in alignment with the will of God. Amen!
The Apostle Paul is writing from prison and is awaiting his trial. During his imprisonment, Paul’s confidence is in the will of God through the Philippian church’s prayers and the help of the Holy Spirit. You see, there is great power in prayer. We need to pray for others, and in times of need, request others to uphold us in prayers. Even the best of evangelists and mightiest men of God, such as the Apostle Paul, needed it. So do we! Philippians 1:19 says “for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,”
For the Apostle Paul, whatever the outcome of his imprisonment, his aim was that Christ would be honoured whether by life or death. Philippians 1:20 says “as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” You see, Paul was not relying on his own courage, but entirely on the actions of the Holy Spirit who according to the will of God would turn all things for the glory of God. Romans 8:28 says “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Likewise, is it your aim to honour Christ and glorify Him, regardless of the result? Whether by life or death, are you willing to give it all for Christ? Or, on the other hand, are you only seeking Christ to fulfil your specific or self-seeking selfish needs. You need to instead seek the will of God and do all that honours Him. When you truly love God then you know that death is gain and living is also gain. Both are useful states for one seeking to honour God. When you think from a fleshly perspective, death is a great loss because it means a loss of the earthly comforts and loss of hope for what you want to do on this earth. For the Christian, living is gain, because it is fulfilling the call of the Christian. It is not going to be an easy life, but a life filled with Christ, and a life for Christ, through every struggle and pain, to be an ambassador for the living God!. It is a life of patient endurance looking beyond ourselves. Likewise, dying is gain because it is the deliverance from all weakness, misery, evils of this life, pain, suffering, and instead dwell in the presence of the Almighty God who is perfectly good and holy. So the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 1:21 “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
So, it is not a question about living in this world or being with Christ in heaven. Of course, it is better to be with Christ and enjoying Him, but it is also gain to live in this word for the Christian if God still has work for us to do here. This might mean suffering and pain in this world, but to remain is for the good of others. Usually, when we want to stay in this world, it is for our own good and desires. But the difference with the Christian is it should be for others. That is why Philippians 1:22-23 says “If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.” There is a great harvest if Paul stays in this world. This far outweighs his own personal gain on the other side with the Lord Jesus Christ. It might mean personal pain and suffering, but fruitful labour as a servant of Christ. Amen!
So, in conclusion, examine your heart’s intentions in all you do. Is your hearts cry the same as Philippians 1:21 “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” To live for Christ means it could come with toil, pain, anxiety and suffering for the furtherance of the gospel and living a life for others and for the glory of God. This is a great gain for the kingdom of God. On the other hand, do you view death as gain? That is to be in the presence of God, free from all pain and all the evils of this world to be in the wonderful presence of our creator God and Savior Jesus Christ. If you cannot identify with these, you may want to check what is the true intention of your heart and if you need to make Christ your treasure.
Let us close with Galatians 2:20 saying “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”