‘This blog series is based on one idea from the sermon each week. This week’s blog is written by DI Murchison. It’s based on the sermon ‘Joy in Life and Death’ which you can download here: https://soundcloud.com/livinghopeinverness/joy-in-life-and-death’
The question last Sunday’s sermon asked us was “What’s the point of our faith?” A question we often overcomplicate and in doing so, fail to understand the simple answer found in the Bible.
Paul’s answer to this question in Philippians 1 comes in two parts – a joy in this life, and a joy in the life to come, perfectly summed up in Paul’s well known statement “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)
Our faith is, at its core, a relationship. A relationship begun on earth and perfected in the new earth. An imprisoned Paul, bound in crude rusted chains and unsure of what the future holds for him, begins to question the purpose of his existence in such a hostile environment. In this statement, Paul exemplifies the hope of the Christian faith. A hope which urges Paul to live the remainder of his life in service to the Lord, for the sake of other Christians who still need to be encouraged and guided, all the while joyfully awaiting the day he will finally be with, and like, Christ.
The second part of his statement raises the concept which, perhaps, most distinguishes Christians from our culture – a joyful anticipation of death. Now, this is not a suicidal or depressed mindfulness which wants the current situation to end, rather it is an expectation, beyond any doubt, that after death will come a life of sinlessness (a world not influenced by death, suffering or pain), and this is what Paul looks forward to – “to die is gain.” The life to come is described in Isaiah 65:17-25.
As Christians do we look forward to life after death? Do we believe that all things will be made new? Is this a source of joy for us in our faith?
The first part of Paul’s statement deals with the present and our purpose of living in the here and now. The reality was pressed upon Paul while in jail – what is my purpose for existence? For many Christians, there is a danger in looking forward to the life to come as they can forget about the life they are presently living. To this, Paul explains his bold statement that “to live is Christ” explaining that our purpose is to become more like Christ, and in doing so, bring glory to God. New life has already begun in us. So although Paul is torn between enduring this life or departing to enjoy fullness of life, the need of his brothers and sisters to progress in their faith gave him the direction he needed to live on.
Do we see the time we have on earth, like Paul, as the time of opportunity to become like Christ and encourage the Church? Do we see working for the kingdom of God as a joyous opportunity or an inconvenience to our lives?
Therefore, as one unpacks Paul’s weighty statement we see two encouragements for our lives:
1 – Our present lives on earth allow us to bear fruit and work for the Kingdom of God.
2 – We can rest in the exhilaratingly steadfast promise of God, that through death we will live the life which was first intended for man, and enjoy an eternity of peace and sinlessness upon the new earth.
It’s those encouragements which fill an imprisoned man with an unquenchable hope.