Heading Home: Walking with Jesus to the Cross — Day Thirty-Eight

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Philippians 1:21-30

For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. 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 for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.

Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well— since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

 So these are the lines that stand out to me on this reading:

“For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.”

And:

“For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well . . . “

And both of those lines are sometimes difficult for me to read. I know, I know. That first one is a verse we all memorized, back in the day. And I love the sentiment behind it. But I gotta be honest here, friends. It is sometimes really, REALLY hard for me to believe that ‘dying is gain.’ I know I should. And on my best days, I think I do. But you know what? I love my life, even when it’s difficult. I’ve had a rich set of experiences over these years, made some deep relationships. I adore my family, even when they make me crazy, and I think this planet is the most amazing thing ever.

So, I must admit that it is often difficult for me to grasp Paul’s meaning here. And then I read that second line, about the ‘privilege’ of suffering and I begin to catch a tiny glimpse of why the first line was written after all. We have no idea what it means to suffer because of our faith. NONE. Despite the political rhetoric that might try to tell us that Christians are persecuted in this country, there is simply no comparison to what the early Christians, or even what many Christians in other places experience today. We all suffer, yes, we do. But we don’t necessarily suffer in the way Paul did. Apparently, the Philippians were beginning to get a taste of that kind of struggle. And Paul tells them that it is a privilege. Wow. I have a lot to learn, don’t I?

Ah, Lord God. I am grateful for the life I live here in the US of A in the 21st century. I am grateful for the ways in which my faith is not only encouraged, but appreciated in this day and age. Maybe I’ve missed some really valuable lessons because I’ve never been imprisoned, beaten, tortured, or otherwise mistreated because of Jesus. Nevertheless, I am grateful for the live you’ve given me and ask your forgiveness for my lack of faith and for any short supply of empathy I carry for those who truly do pay a price for following after you. Remind me to pray for those who struggle in this way.

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Comments

  1. I’m not doing a very good job at all of keeping up with all the prolific words of this season, but I know that there’s a reason why I managed to pop in today. Thanks for putting this on the table — the paradox of loving life and embracing death.
    Praying for you in this season of waiting and wondering with your mum.

  2. Margie Bicknell says:

    Years ago, during a bible study at my house in Pasadena, we got on the discussion about the race set before each of us, death and everlasting life. I remember saying that I didn’t fear death. Youth….what did I know? Yes, we, Christians, all win the race as our goal is running into the arms of Christ, but youth doesn’t understand the race. At the point in my race, I have children I cherish and want to see flourish. A man by my side I want to grow old with, friends I enjoy, and a new granddaughter on the way. Living in Christ pushes me to listen and grow into His will for my life, but dying to life…laying it down to take up His Cross, even here where persecution isn’t heinous, scares me. I want to be there for my family, there is still so much to see and do……
    Yes, Diana, how to look “dying is gain” in the face and knowing what I would be leaving behind, even trusting in Christ, is still so hard to look into.
    Shalom

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