Thoughts on Philippians 1:21

by semi-retired pastor, Jeremy Stopford

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

(First preached January 5, 2014—First Baptist, Earlville, NY)

As you may know, in all the years I have pastored, I have begun each year with a new “memory verse” or, better, “this year’s verse”. While the Bible encourages us to memorize Scripture [Psalm 119:11 – (Do you know it?) “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee.”], we are calling this “this year’s verse”. I am hoping you will do more than just memorize or learn this verse. I am hoping you will LIVE this verse! Prayer

Our memory verse for 2014 divides nicely into two parts. I want to take the second part – “and to die is gain” – first. This is the HOPE of the passage. Our Savior and Scripture invite us to trust the Lord Jesus as our Lord and Savior. IF we have that trust, then the Bible says we also have a HOPE. The hope says I belong to Him, and that I will also spend eternity with Him! “To die is gain” isn’t a morbid thought; rather it is a HOPE of eternity – knowing that I can LIVE for God today because I have HOPE for tomorrow!

The first part gives us the HEART of the passage – “for to me to live is Christ.” What is it that you are living for? Earthly goals? Family? Or Christ? Earthly goals and family ARE important, but they are no match for having an eternal purpose – living for Christ!

The Apostle Paul was in a Roman prison, daily chained to four Roman guards (one to each foot, one to each hand). What do you think he thought when they had their “changing of the guard” – perhaps as much as once every 4 hours? That means that 6 times a day of twenty four hours he would have four new guards – twenty four guards per day. Do you think he thought, “Oh no, here we go again!”? Or do you think he prayed, “Lord Jesus, prepare hearts for the gospel!”?

What do you think he talked about with them? “Hey, how about them Dolphins!” Or, “How about the weather, huh? Sure is COLD!” Or do you think he talked about the Lord Jesus and His salvation at the cross? The book of Philippians lets us in on that, for throughout the book Paul mentions about the number of guards and “members of Caesar’s household” who had come to know Jesus as Savior – WHILE Paul was a prisoner. Because for Paul, “for to me, to live is Christ”!

This verse is, in essence, Paul’s legacy. It is what he LIVED in that dash between his new birth as a Christian and his date of death. What – or better WHO – he lived was CHRIST!

I read a wonderful devotional this morning, written by Oswald Chambers. He made the observation that when we first come to Christ, when we first follow Him, this is the “external”. It is nothing mysterious. We are simply trusting that what God’s word says is true – that “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Mr. Chambers then went on to say that God then calls us to a second “follow” – and he calls this the “internal”. This is a regular sacrifice. This is a regular yielding, a surrender to the Lord Jesus’ Lordship in our lives. Mr. Chambers would agree with Paul, wouldn’t he, that “for to me to live is Christ” – a sacrifice, an internal surrender to the eternal!

I encourage you to memorize this verse this year. It is an EASY verse to memorize. It is an HARD verse to live. You cannot tell me the verse today – not until next Sunday. And only then, you can tell me the verse IF you agree: “Pastor, this is my surrender. This is my sacrifice.”

Our 2014 memory verse, Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Close in prayer