March 3, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Philippians 1:21-26
For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me, yet I cannot say which I will choose. 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, by my presence again with you, your boast might abound in Christ Jesus because of me.
We often forget how frail and fragmented everything is. Inside the tension and fragmentation we do not only find doom, but rather we find Christ himself and his bidding us to follow—never asking us to atone but instead teaching us that he has atoned for all of it. Christ is really all in all, isn’t He?
Paul violently pursued and supported the persecution of Christians (Acts 7:58, 8:3; Philippians 3:6.) By the time his letter to the Philippians was penned he had had at least a few decades to think about it. It takes strength to contemplate the complexities of life and maintain the good life and focus. None of his epistles to a city begin “Paul, persecutor, murderer, etc.” (It gives me great hope that perhaps we will begin to call doubting Thomas just “Thomas” or “apostle Thomas.” Or at least we will remember the rest of the apostles ran at one point also.)
There are decades from the time when cloaks were around Paul’s feet when our brother Steven was stoned until the letter to the Philippians, but it is clear that Paul hasn’t forgotten about them. Tension is the core of the human experience. The effects of Genesis 3 reach far into the fabric of life in experience and our thinking. We often forget how frail and fragmented everything is. Inside the tension and fragmentation we do not only find doom, but rather we find Christ himself and his bidding us to follow—and not asking us to atone but instead teaching us that he has atoned for all of it. Christ is really all in all, isn’t He?
The careful mixture of experience, time, and grace have made things clear for our brother Paul. Paul was in prison, expecting a Roman death. And his conclusion modeled for us what the living and active Scriptures insist to us over and over again:
- Moses says only life comes from God (Deuteronomy 30:11)
- David says he’s never seen God let go of his own (Psalm 37:25)
- Isaiah says weariness is relative (Isaiah 40:31)
- Anna speaks of even Jerusalem’s renewal (Luke 2:38)
And Paul gave the cliff notes version of what he has found to be true in the Scriptures. It literally states in the original language: to live Christ and death gain. We will need to supply the verb actions in life that will move toward better understanding. There will be brokenness but there is something more there. Those who have walked with God come to understand what makes the tension more than tolerable. Christ makes life and nothing can get in the way of that. It is better to keep pressing forward than looking back (Philippians 3:14-15.)
What does it mean to you for Paul to say “For to me to live is Christ?”
Look through the Scriptures. Survey the women and men you read about and their experiences in life. Look at the conclusions they make at the end of their lives. What does that tell you about what your view of life will be as you continue walking with God? What adjustments or approaches should you make in your perspective and actions?
Thank you, God, that you are the author and completer of our faith. And thank you for the rich mercy that to live is indeed in Christ. Make our lives complete in your Son and full of active resolve to live accordingly. Until we reach the point of seeing your son face to face, give us resolve to live, trusting that everything is really in His control. Amen.
Banner image by Arek Adeoye on Unsplash.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project’s online commentary. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The One Who Began a Good Work Among You Will Bring it to Completion (Philippians 1:1–26).
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DeLano J. Sheffield is the Business Resource Specialist for Goodwill of MoKan where he connects to people on the fringes, training them to reach their full potential through learning and the power of work; he also is on the frontlines of the advances of the fourth industrial revolution and coaches leaders on diversity, inclusion, and accessibility. He began his career as an architectural engineer then went on to attend seminary. In every part of his life he finds ways to infuse theology into vocation, and strengthen practical connections of faith and daily activity. DeLano lives in Kansas City, Missouri.