For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21
Recently I was talking to a friend about her husband’s health situation – how things were going at home and what they were expecting to do next. Her husband has been diagnosed with relatively aggressive and incurable cancer. Nevertheless, he continues to participate in various forms of treatment in order to improve and maximize his length and quality of life. Do you know what his wife said to me? “I know he does it for us – for me and the girls. He hates being sick. If it were strictly up to him, he wouldn’t want to go through this.”
Shortly after this conversation I found myself in Philippians, where the Lord provided even greater clarity and insight into the words of my dear friend.
Do you know what Paul says? He says that he would prefer to die and be with Christ – where joy is not tainted with struggling, when he reaches his ultimate goal. Why does he continue to live? For the Church (the body of believers): to produce fruitful labor, for the advancement of the gospel, to encourage and inspire joy in faith and abundant rejoicing in Jesus.
If it were up to Paul, and about Paul alone, he would choose to be with Christ; instead he sees his life as necessary to make much of Christ and influence the Church. As I read about Paul and his life, thousands of years ago, I couldn’t help but think of Daryl and Carla Largis and their present-day situation.
Do you know what Daryl and Carla want to do with whatever time Daryl has left on this earth? Continue to spread the message and love of Christ.
Daryl continues to teach – by Christ’s strength alone. He continues to expand the gospel presence throughout the world. Carla continues to support and encourage him in these things – to keep him moving when otherwise he may not. She remains faithful in prayer and hope, and does not give way to fear.
Daryl and Carla seek opportunities to serve young families locally as well as love and encourage refugees abroad. They open up their home, their hearts, and their hands. When given the choice between being served and serving, they will always choose the latter. Anyone who has had even a glimpse into the Largis family has seen this first-hand. For to them, to live is Christ.
Our mission and life purpose has not changed a bit. The only thing that is a bit different now is how that looks; how that plays out.
If you were to ask Daryl or Carla what has changed since Daryl’s diagnosis I am confident that their answer would go something like this: “Our mission and life purpose has not changed a bit. The only thing that is a bit different now is how that looks; how that plays out. And you know what? We trust that God is doing exactly what He wants and accomplishing what He desires, though it may not be what we had planned or would choose.”
I think Paul would say something quite similar if you were to ask him what changed once he was chained, beaten, imprisoned. In fact Paul says in Philippians, “… so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” And his life proved as much.
I do not mention all of these things simply to give honor to two incredible men (and one woman!) but to challenge myself and all of us. Each of these men has given up their personal desire to be with the Lord they love in order to fulfill their earthly responsibilities and calling.
What is life to you? Is each day, each moment, another opportunity to share and further the gospel and love of Jesus Christ – more ministry, more time to teach and serve others? Are we living to build up the body of believers, to encourage them in their faith, to inspire rejoicing – more time for fruitful labor?
What is death to you? Is it the fulfillment of the ultimate goal of meeting and dwelling with Christ for eternity? Is it gain?
I hope and pray that you will be encouraged, challenged, and inspired by this verse and the example set by those who have gone before us and are among us today; that Philippians 1:21 will become a key verse – a creed of sorts – for life and death. I pray that we will give selflessly, no matter our circumstances, that we might bear more fruit and that others might progress and taste greater joy in faith.
I pray that like Paul and Daryl, we will continue to press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.