I’ve read Philippians 1:21 countless times, plastered on coffee mugs, scribbled on t-shirts, and scrolled on decorative notebooks and cards. And yet, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I truly began to understand the verse.
A close friend, mentor, and pillar in our church and community passed away unexpectedly. Even those with the strongest of faith couldn’t help but ask why? Why did God take someone so full of life, so on fire for Him, who lived and breathed the gospel message? For many, the sudden loss, myself included, was just too much to bear; we knew what the Scriptures said, fully believing she was in the presence of our Savior, yet, we still found it difficult to understand why the Lord would allow her passing.
To encourage others and help me better process her death, I began reading through my Bible, lingering on highlighted and underlined verses. That’s when I landed on Philippians 1:21; the familiar words immediately touched my heart. Curious about other translations, I read the NLT version, “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” Like many things in the Bible, this verse is a paradox, the words counter-cultural. How could dying be better than living?
These verses are a part of the letter Paul wrote to the church of Philippi. Paul was currently in prison, he knows that many are distressed by his current circumstance, but in a hope to put their minds at ease, he shares that his suffering is not in vain but for the advancement of the gospel! Paul was well acquainted with suffering; he’d been beaten numerous times, imprisoned on more than one occasion, and mocked, yet, all these things allowed him to proclaim the name of Christ further. Paul lived out his faith at all costs, even willing to give his life for the gospel if others would come to know Christ.
As believers, our responsibility is to bring glory and honor to the Lord. We can “count it all joy” (James 1:2-4) because we know that we have eternal hope (1 Peter 1:3-9) and will one day be in the presence of our Savior (1 Peter 5:10). Paul was willing to sacrifice all for the Lord and desired that both his life and death would bring glory and honor to God. Paul knew that his earthly death would mean he would finally be in the presence of His Savior. He could live without fear and encourage others because he knew no matter what happened to him, life or death, he would be with the Lord forever (Philippians 1:23).
While we are still on earth, Christians will always feel the tension between living in the present and spending eternity with their Savior. The Lord put eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:14), but He also desires that while we are still here, we continue to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20) and be a light in this dark world (Matthew 5:16).
It doesn’t take away the pain of losing a brother or sister in Christ; these verses aren’t meant to be a magic wand that takes away the sadness and hurt. But, we can find comfort, a peace in knowing that for those who are God’s children, even if they had a terrific life on earth, it pales in comparison with being in the presence of our Lord. Let us cling to the promises that one day, every tear will be wiped away, and we will be reunited with other believers and, above all, our Lord and Savior for all eternity (Revelation 21:4)!
Heavenly Father, please be with all those grieving the loss of someone they loved and cherished. We know that earthly death is a part of life, but it is still hard to process. Lord, we ask that you give us peace that passes all understanding, that we will be comforted and experience hope that only can be found in you. May we live as sacrifices for You, bringing You glory in both our life and death.
Lord, give us strength as we go about our daily tasks; when the grief is too much to bear, help us to move forward. As we mourn, we call on our friends and church family to offer support and prayers. We love you, Lord, and are so thankful that this is not our home, this world is not our final resting place, and once we live here, we are going to a better place, Heaven, for all eternity. We love you, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Laura Bailey is a Bible teacher who challenges and encourages women to dive deep in the Scriptures, shift from an earthly to an eternal mindset, and filter life through the lens of God’s Word. She is the author of Beyond the Noise, and loves any opportunity to speak and teach women of all ages. She is a wife and momma to three young girls. Connect with her on her website, www.LauraRBailey.com, Facebook and Instagram.
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