For me, living is Christ and dying is gain.
This is true for all who are following Jesus Christ. Paul has a grasp that most of us do not, I assume. In his suffering and imprisonment, the harshness of this life and the restfulness of death in Christ must have been made very clear.
He can calmly say that living is Christ and for him it means suffering, imprisonment, misunderstanding and constant vigilance related to those who would do him harm. This is living for Christ in Paul’s case. This is His abundant life.
To live is Christ; yet, he can clearly see the gain in dying since he would then be with Christ. To be out of the body is to be WITH Christ.
We are more easily misled, it seems, because of our wealth and comfort.
To live is Christ but in a different, softer fashion than is referenced by Paul. We are strong, wealthy, well liked, cared for, peaceable and loving. This is what ‘to live is Christ’ means to us. Life is good because Jesus has made it so.
Maybe this is why it is so easy to get distracted with worldly things and deceive ourselves into believing that this life is Heaven.
It is easy to get distracted when we walk in the pursuit of pleasure almost everyday. This sounds austere and old fashioned but pleasure must be monitored and measured. It does not lead to hopefulness or life – just the opposite in fact. Maybe this is why we are humbled as we age. We see our strong, sleek bodies degrade and weaken. We begin to see the fleeting nature of earthly stuff and the emptiness of this world’s pleasures. It sounds like ‘church talk’ but the truth of it presses upon us as we age and decay. From this perspective we more easily see the gain in dying. We begin to see that we really aren’t ‘all that’. If we are willing to see it, I guess I should add. Pursuing pleasure distorts our vision. Our aging, failing flesh brings Truth into focus. It’s godly irony.
To live IS Christ. To die IS gain. Living IS Christ. Dying IS gain. Both are the blessing of a believer in whatever circumstance he finds himself. Thanks be to God.