For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. — Philippians 1:21
Joe was known to me from previous admissions to the hospital. He had a progressive life threatening illness: Pulmonary Cystic Fibrosis. Often our discussions ended with Joe talking about his childhood faith. He would say, “When I get stronger, I am going back to church to get saved.” I would gently remind him that he didn’t have to wait to go back to church to get saved but could pray and be saved while he was still in the hospital.
One night he had called for the on-duty priest and chaplains three times during my eight-hour shift. He was extremely short of breath and his anxiety level was high. Finally, he requested that a counselor be called in to talk with him.
As I walked in the room, I said, “Joe, you can talk to all the counselors in the world but that won’t save you. What you need to do is ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins, and then ask Him into your heart.” I asked him if he believed that Jesus would save him. He said “yes;” then suddenly he sat up and swung his feet over the side of the bed. He was excited and said, “I’ve got it! Jesus just saved me!”
Joe’s parents were at his bedside with tears flowing down their cheeks. I quietly left the room. Thirty minutes later the nurse called me to tell me that Joe had passed away. She said, “The last thirty minutes of his life Joe was the most peaceful I have ever seen him.”
What joy it brought to my heart to hear Joe had claimed salvation! Death had brought Joe gain, because he stepped into the presence of his Savior. In those last moments of his life, salvation made all the difference. He found the joy that comes from knowing Christ personally, and Heaven was his final destination.
Like Paul, believers can have contentment, serenity, and peace, no matter what happens. When our peace is made with God, we can say with him, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
While Paul was visiting Jerusalem, some Jews had him arrested for preaching the Gospel. Soldiers escorted him to Rome, where he was placed under house arrest while awaiting trial. At that time, the Roman authorities did not consider “proclaiming the Good News” to be a serious charge, thus the house arrest rather than a jail confinement.
Paul did not complain about his circumstances but rejoiced because his imprisonment helped him to win the souls of people in Rome. When he wrote from prison to the Philippians, his theme to them was predominantly of joy, which derived from his relationship with Christ.
Paul’s faith was unconquerable! He was certain of his deliverance because the Philippians prayed and because of the presence of God’s Spirit with him. Even if he was executed, his mission would be completed and Christ would be magnified! Paul’s surrender to the purpose of God was complete — life or death did not make a difference in his attitude.
Paul, though a prisoner, was exultantly happy, and he called upon his readers to always rejoice in Christ. Paul also appealed for steadfastness among them. For Paul, true joy was present despite the circumstances he found himself in. Christian joy is independent of outward conditions. It is possible to experience joy even in the midst of adverse circumstances, such as suffering and persecution.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. Joy in the furtherance of the Gospel
B. Paul’s attitude toward afflictions (1:12-26)
1. Afflictions promote the Gospel (1:12-18)
a. Provides new opportunities for ministry (1:12-13)
b. Causes the weak to witness (1:14)
c. Causes many to preach (1:15-18)
2. Afflictions promote the exaltation of Christ (1:19-26)
a. His resolution (1:19-21)
b. His resignation (1:22-26)
(1) The desire (1:22-23)
(2) The decision (1:24-26)
C. Paul’s exhortations to the afflicted (1:27-30)
1. To steadfastness (1:27)
2. To courage (1:28-30)
Nothing can steal our joy if we possess the mindset, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.” This letter reveals the timeless message that true joy is to be found only in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and in the assurance that God is able to turn adverse circumstances to good for His glory. Joy ultimately arises from the fellowship with the risen glorified Christ.