From prison the apostle Paul wrote the following words: "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." They are recorded for us in Paul's letter to the Philippians Chapter 1, verse 21.
To live is Christ. To die is gain. Paul is expressing the idea that as long as he is alive his comfort and hardships do not matter. His life is all about advancing the Kingdom of Christ, and to live is to serve Christ. However, if he should die he gains: he is free from the troubles of this world and is able to rejoice in the presence of his Savior.
Either way, alive or dead, Paul wins.
The same is true for us. If we are alive and serving Christ, we win. The cause of Christ benefits from our witness, our love, our serving and our expressions of ministry in the name of Jesus. And if and when the Lord takes us home, we gain a heavenly presence with the precious Lamb of God.
Now, I have seen this play out in a very real way during the past two and a half years. It was about that long ago that I learned that a very close friend of almost 50 years had Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS). When I first became aware of his affliction, I could only say, "I am sorry, I am sorry," to which he replied, "Oh no, I am blessed, so blessed."
And for the next 30 months, or so, I witnessed my roommate from college live in the manner that Paul wrote about.
Ron Boltz, because of the nature of ALS, was limited physically, but his life still reflected Christ. He proclaimed Christ in all he was able to do.
On one occasion he and his wife traveled from Lancaster County to our home in the Slate Run area. That Sunday, at the church that I serve in Cedar Run, he spoke from a wheel chair touching every soul in the congregation. There was hardly a dry eye.
He spoke about what is really important in life: serving God and seeing that family members and friends all come to a saving knowledge of Christ. He spoke of how God had blessed his life and that when faced with a disease that kills, he was blessed, content and ready for the inevitable.
You see, Ron could say, despite the fact that he was held captive by a crippling disease, as Paul said, held captive by a prison cell: "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."
Either way Paul won, Ron won, and so can we.
- Messinger is the pastor at Cedar Run Baptist Church in Cedar Run.