“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Phil. 1:21
Maxie Durham said about this verse, “Isn’t that the highest, clearest point to which our faith can take us? When we arrive at that juncture of our spiritual pilgrimage, we will then be able to live joyful, self-giving abandon welcoming every bit of life, and without fear of death.”
This is one of the most popular verses in the Bible and one we should pursue to live out daily. This verse introduces us to Paul’s dilemma. He is trying to decide between his desire to live and his desire to die. He totally understands this decision is not up to him, that God is sovereign and He is the one that will write “The End” in Paul’s story. Still, he is pulled from both sides. One side wants to stay and continue the work the Lord has given him, and be able say “to live is Christ.” The other side is pulling to choose to die and enjoy being in the presence of the Lord for ever, and be able to say “to die is gain.”
When I read this verse, I am reminded of how much we Christians verbalize our desire to go to heaven. It is part of who we are, Why would we not desire to be in heaven and enjoy the blessings that come with it? But, I also noticed this desire is stronger when things are not going well, when I am really sick, when I am stressed out or I find myself in a very difficult situation. It is kind of like the young boy in Sunday School who listened intently while the teacher spoke about the beauties of heaven. She concluded by saying, “Raise your hand if you want to go to heaven.” Every hand shot up immediately, except one. “Why don’t you want to go to heaven, Johnny?” “Well,” he replied, “Mom just baked an apple pie for dinner.”
For this young boy, it’s apple pie that put heaven on hold. What is it for you? Is it the desire for riches, a promotion, finding a wife or husband, or maybe that trip to Hawaii?
I desire to arrive at the place in my life where I would feel like Paul. For Paul, the two options were not really a concern. If he died or he lived, he was good with both. His preoccupation was that whatever path his life took, he would honor the Lord. We read this in Phil. 1:20, “…as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”
Maybe our conversations should express a desire to “Live like we know where we are going and who we are living for.” (RS)
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Gal. 2:20
I met Ben Singh at the New York International airport food court on my way to New Delhi, India, on a mission vision trip. I was looking for a place to sit to eat my dinner and the only place available was at Ben’s table. Shortly after asking Ben if I could sit with him, we were engaged in a rather enlightening conversation.
Ben was returning to New Delhi after spending some time with his son in NYC. He shared with me that recently he lost his wife and was rather depressed and sad about the loss. Ben is a teacher of Hinduism at a university in New Delhi, which I believe made him feel even more depressed. You see, he practiced and believed in the laws of Hinduism and this knowledge augmented how he was feeling.
He shared with me his belief in reincarnation and the desire to see his wife in the next life. But, according to Ben the odds of him seeing his wife again were extremely low. The reason the odds were low was due to the fact that Ben would have to reincarnate in the same place his wife reincarnated when she died, but he said, “Even if this would happen, it would not be of any benefit because there was a possibility I could reincarnate in a plant, a tree, or any inanimate object and I would never be able to speak to her.” I could not blame him for feeling so hopeless and depressed.
During the time we shared dinner, I was able to tell him about the hope of the Gospel and the blessing of knowing that some day I would see my loved ones again, but he chose to keep hurting and hoping for something that was unattainable. It made no sense.
Hinduism makes no sense. Hinduism is a process of going through a series of reincarnations until one obtains what is referred to as “liberation.” Liberation is obtained by adding merits in each life cycle to obtain a better birth in the next life. When a Hindu is finally able to go through all his reincarnation cycles, he attains the liberation stage called “nirvana.”
Unfortunately, if they fail to follow the Code of Manu (a law book that tells each Hindu what to do at certain stages in his life), they may lose some merits and cause them to reincarnate as a dog, a hog, or some insect in his next life.
I am so glad my liberation or, better yet, my salvation is not based on me being good in this life, but on Jesus being good enough to redeem me by His death on the cross.
John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
The Gospel relieves us of the stress of being good enough. It relieves us of the uncertainty of the future life. But it also gives us a purpose to live for today. Part of that purpose is to take the Gospel into the world. To places like India so we can tell the Hindus that true “liberation is not about reincarnation, it is about incarnation.”
John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
1 “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah 2 that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!” Psalm 67:1-3
Psalm 67 is a missionary psalm, considered one of the foundational scriptures for the biblical basis of Missions. Alexander Maclaren wrote, “This psalm is truly a missionary psalm, in it’s clear anticipation of the universal spread of the knowledge of God, in it’s firm grasp of the thought that the Church has its blessings in order to the evangelization of the world, and in its intensity of longing that from all the ends of the earth a shout of praise may go up to the God who has sent some rays of His light into them all, and committed to a historical people the task of carrying a brighter illumination to every land.”
Psalm 67 is closely tied to Numbers 6:24-26, 24 “The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”
In Num. 6:24-26 God is giving a blessing to Israel, but, in Psalm 67, we learn what was God’s purpose for blessing Israel. God blesses Israel so that all the nations of the earth will come to know Him. “Thy saving power” is often translated in commentaries as a clause; for example, “so that the people of all the nations may be saved by you.”
Psalm 67 reminds us of the blessing continuum found in scriptures: God blesses Abraham so Israel would be blessed; Israel was blessed so we may be blessed; we are blessed so the nations may be blessed. Someone said that, “God’s blessings to us is meant to be a thoroughfare not a dead end street.” Our blessing comes with a responsibility to bless others!
A key word of this verse is “nations.” Many times, when we read the word “nations,” we think in political terms, but, in Psalm 67, it is referring to people groups. A “people group” is an ethnolinguistic group with a common self-identity that is shared by the various members. There are two parts to that word: ethno and linguistic. Language is a primary and dominant identifying factor of a people group, but there are other factors that determine or are associated with ethnicity.
There is a category of People Group, called the Unreached People Group (UPG). An Unreached People Group is defined as, “A people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group.”
Praying for UPGs is at the top of Idlewild On Mission’s priorities. That is why we have created the Pray For The World Center, located inside the Idlewild Mission Cafe. We have posted 500 names of Unreached People Groups for you to select a post-it card and pray for them.
Pick up a free Prayer Journal in the Cafe and join the 1-30 Challenge: Pray for 1 UPG every 30 Days for 1 year. Why is this important to us? Because it is important to God!
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:14