Running, I was running
To get everything.
Hurry, please hurry,
I need to achieve
One more thing.
I wrote these lines of a poem over 10 years ago. A few years before that, I had lost my mother to cancer, only shortly after becoming a Christian. Death took on a whole new meaning for me: it became painfully real. I was angry, scared, and confused. I started running after things like money, achievements, and a good family, to drown out the pain and grief.
In the meantime, I did everything Christians were supposed to do: go to church, tithe, pray, sing a few songs, read the Bible. These are all good things and necessary for my walk with God, but I was missing out on the heart of a relationship with Him. Christianity was simply something I added on to my security blanket, a guarantee to reach the peak of happiness—eternal life. For to me, to live was to be happy, and to die was a tragedy.
What I didn’t understand was that being in a relationship with God meant being all about Jesus. This includes making His heart and His mission—making disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19)—my own. This is how the Apostle Paul lived.
Paul’s letter to the Philippians contains so much of his eager expectation and hope: that Christ is magnified in him whether he lives or dies (Philippians 1:20). Paul’s view of life contrasted strongly with mine—for to him, to live is Christ and to die is gain (v. 21).
Paul’s life was all about Christ. When he wrote this beautiful declaration of allegiance to Christ, he was in prison guarded by Roman soldiers. These are not empty words of devotion, but a statement borne out of confidence. Paul is ready to embrace whatever circumstances that living a life for Christ would bring on—even death.
And death is not an unwelcome visitor for Paul, for it means going home to be with Christ, which to him is far better than living (v. 23)—a gain by all accounts for someone whose reason for existence is Christ. Yet even in thinking about whether he should live or die, Paul chooses what benefits others more than what benefits himself (vv. 24-25). He points others to still more rejoicing in Christ (v. 26).
Paul’s choice is a beautiful example of self-denial for others and for the cause of Christ. His is the kind of choice that so easily gets sidelined when we focus on our own happiness and gain. Paul held everything loosely, except Christ. He welcomed anything that came for the sake of Christ.
Paul’s example has changed my own goals and purpose in life. Instead of seeking after the things of the world, it is now my desire to know Jesus more and to point others to Him—even if it means getting out of my comfort zone and sharing the gospel with those around me.
I pray for all believers around the world, myself included, to have the same kind of vision that Paul had—a desire to live our lives for Christ above all, and an attitude that does not fear death because it means we will “be with Christ” (v. 23). Let’s continually evaluate what we’re living for, realign our priorities with His, and make choices that will point others to Christ.
I pray that like Paul, knowing Christ, pursuing Him, and living for Him will be all that matters to us.
—By Kezia Lewis, Philippines
Questions for reflection
- Reflect on what Paul wrote in Philippians 1:19-26 and ask God to show you what’s within your heart. What do you live for? What would you die for?
- In what ways is your outlook on life and death similar to or different from Paul’s?
- How can Paul’s example encourage you to live your life differently today?