Living for Christ versus longing for death

Well, today marks my 200th post on this blog. Granted, not all of them are devotionals. But it’s still pretty cool, I think. I had no idea it was getting so big.

Today’s verse is Philippians 1:21.

21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.

You’ve got to love Paul. The guy had a way with words. When he wrote this, he was in prison. And if you expand the section of verses where this specific verse came from, you can see just what kind of a perspective he had on life.

Philippians 1:20-24

 20 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. 21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. 23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.

What would life be like if all Christians had this attitude? What would my life be like if I had this attitude? Can you imagine how incredible it would be?

And it’s not about being unafraid of dying. That’s part of it. But I still think that there will be some trepidation in death no matter how much faith you have. It’s not as though anyone can prepare you for what it will be like, after all. The only person who ever came back from the dead chose not to tell us what death will be like en media res. But some people use this verse to hammer home the concept that Christians shouldn’t be afraid of death, and that is very true. That is definitely one way to look at it. But if you look at this section, it’s talking more about life than death. And actually, it’s not even referring to death in the context of death as we normally think about it because for a Christian there’s no such thing as death; there’s just relocation.

While we live on earth, we live for Christ. When we leave earth and go to heaven, we live with Christ and have more life than we can imagine on earth. But while we’re on earth, we can accomplish things for Christ. There’s the difference. That’s the point I guess I want to focus on this morning.

As long as we’re alive, that means God has something for us to do. If we wake up in the morning, that means God wants us to live–and to live for Him. His will isn’t a static thing; it’s dynamic and fluid. While the basic tenants of His will stay the same from day to day, the way it manifests in your life might look different. For example, God’s will for my life yesterday was to go to work and work as hard as I could at my job while reaching out to the people around me and telling as many people as I could about Him, either verbally or nonverbally. Today, His will for me is going to look very much the same. Friday, it’s going to change, because I am leaving at Noon for a brief few days in Colorado with my awesome parents so His will for me will probably include being a courteous driver and being patient while my mom turns down the volume on my music in the car (j/k).

When we wake up in the morning, it’s not an accident. God always has something for us to do. Sometimes we know about it ahead of time. Most of the time, God just expects us to roll with the punches and think on our feet, which requires some knowledge of Scripture and a keen ear for listening to the Holy Spirit.

And while God’s will includes being prepared for death, it doesn’t include longing for it. It doesn’t focus on it. If we just sit around waiting to die or waiting for God to come back, why are we even here? What’s the point of our earthly existence if we’re just going to sit on our blessed assurance and wait for the end?

Paul had it figured out. While he wanted to go home and be with Christ, he knew that staying down here a bit longer would be more beneficial to the people God had sent him to. He recognized that God had a purpose for his life, and he wholeheartedly embraced it.

God gave us life — and those of us who believe in Christ, we have new life! So why don’t we live for Him? Instead of living a life that doesn’t fear death, how about we live a life that’s not afraid of living?

Our life (and death) isn’t about us

The verse for today is Romans 14:8.

8 If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

I think sometimes Christians get the idea that if we live to see another day, that just means we have permission to live however we want to live. It’s easy to think that because our vision is so narrow. Oftentimes we can only see our own life or the lives of the people close to us.

But according to Romans 14:8, if we get the opportunity to live another day, that means our purpose for that day is to honor God.

Once we decided to follow Christ, that means our lives are no longer our own. We don’t belong to ourselves. Granted, we didn’t belong to ourselves to begin with, as God is the Creator of all. But if you proclaim to be a Christian, that means you have given your life Christ. And that means, you live for Him.

So where do we get off thinking that we get to live for ourselves?

As Christians, our lives need to be about following Christ. My life needs to be about doing what Christ did, saying what Christ said, loving how Christ did. That’s what Christian means. We follow Christ.  We live for Christ.

But so many Christians never get there. They decide to believe that Christ died for them, which is great. That’s awesome, really. But they never take it any further than that. They believe that Christ died for them, but they never get to the point where they understand that He lived for us too. Christ didn’t just die to save us from our sins. He lived for us to give us an example of how to honor God with our lives.

Being a Christian isn’t just about fire insurance. It’s about living a life that brings honor and glory to God with our words, actions and thoughts. Is it easy? No. But as a Christian, it’s what we’re supposed to do.

Once we decide to follow Christ, we need to follow Him. Otherwise, we shouldn’t say we are Christ followers. What’s the point? If you’re not going to follow Christ, why call yourself a Christian? Does that make sense to anyone because it confuses the heck out of me.

But once we get the living for Christ thing down, there’s a flip side we have to consider. Because of course, if we live for Christ, you have to know we also need to be ready to die for Him too.

American Christians don’t really grasp this concept. So a couple of kids get picked on because they wore a Jesus t-shirt to school. Maybe some teenagers have a hard time about holding a Bible study on their campus. We think we’re persecuted? American Christians haven’t got a clue.

More people are killed for their faith in Christ today than in the days of Rome. In China. In the Middle East. In Indonesia. Killed just because they have chosen to believe in Christ. Christians have acid thrown on them. They are stripped away from their families and imprisoned or exiled. They are executed.

But those people understand that if they live, they live to honor God. And if they die, they die to honor God.

So how does this apply to us in America where we are free to believe whatever we want?

Well, you don’t have to be martyred to die for God. I’m thinking right now of one of the dearest people I ever had the privilege to know. If there are any readers of this blog who aren’t from Kansas, I don’t know if you’ll know of Judge Paul Clark. But he was a pretty big deal around here.

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t quit calling him Judge Clark even after he retired. He is the coolest person I have ever had the honor to know. And he loved God with all his heart. He lived for God every day. He is the kindest person I think I’ve ever met. He always made me smile because even though he couldn’t keep a rhythm to save his life, he still clapped at all the songs during the worship service.

Judge Clark died last Friday. He’d been ill for a long time, and so many of us had been praying that God would heal him. But God chose to bring him home. And I’m so thankful. Because Judge Clark is finally able to get that new body he’d been wanting for so long.

But if you want an example of how to die for God in America, you should look at Judge Clark. He never lost faith. He never got angry. And he used the time he had left to encourage others, to bless other people, and to keep telling people about what Christ had done for him.

You see, Christians get so caught up in living their lives that they think it’s all about them. Well, life isn’t about us. Our lives don’t belong to us. Our lives belong to Christ. So our lives should be about Christ, just like our deaths should be. And whether that means quitting your job and being a missionary . . . or leaving everything you know and love to go to school far away . . . or maybe it means plugging away at a job you don’t necessarily love but believe it’s where God wants you . . . whatever it is and wherever you are in life, your life belongs to God.

Whether you live or die, you belong to God. So whether you’re at the beginning of it or the end, make it about Him, and you won’t regret it.