For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)
I have been pondering this verse lately, rolling around in my mind what it might mean, and what the application might be for those of us who suffer with ongoing physical pain or disability. From our perspective, the second half of this is kind of a no-brainer. Of course, we would gain much if we died. While our loved ones might grieve, we would gain relief from our pain, a return to a fully functional, perfect body, and eternal fellowship with the Lord. What greater gain could there be?
But the first half of the verse is the puzzler. To live is Christ? There are several other verses that speak of Christ being our life. Colossians 3:3-4 says,
For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
This says that Christ is our life. What does it mean that Christ is our life? Well, it means that He is ruler of our life, and our sustainer. Ideally, it means that He is at the center of our hearts, and that our thoughts, beliefs, and desires are under His command. Our sin nature, our fleshly desires, and our inability to overcome these things are no longer in control of our hearts. Christ is.
Or how about Galatians 2:20:
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
This one sheds a little more light on the subject. We live this new life by the faith that He supplies to us, because of His loving sacrifice. Christ has chosen this broken body to dwell in. Because He lives in me, my heart is transformed and new, so I can resist the temptation to complain or dwell on my pain. Clearly, having Christ in me gives me a choice as to how I respond: I can respond according to my old nature, or according to Christ. Not only do I have a choice, but I have the ability to make the right one (1Corinthians 10:13; 2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
Ok, so my life is Christ, and I live it by the faith He supplies. So what? How does this help me with my pain? Well, Colossians 1:27 wraps up the principle here:
To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Christ in me is the hope of glory! When I choose to obey the Spirit rather than the flesh, I present the hope of glory to a watching world. When I choose to obey Christ, my hope is built up, and my heart is encouraged, because I know that I’m not capable of doing so in my flesh. This is confirmation for me that He is living in me, working in me, and preparing me for that glorious day when I will meet Him face to face! As I respond rightly to my pain or suffering, I am reassured of the hope that I have, and others who are watching are encouraged, too!
To live is Christ, my dear sisters. Please share in the comments how you are living differently because Christ is in you, and because you are living by faith in Him. Let’s encourage one another!