For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)
The Bible study group was studying Philippians, and on this particular day we were discussing verse 1:21. We were asked if we would fill in the blank in “For to me, to live is ____________” the same way Paul did. Hmmm, I had to do some soul-searching. Could I honestly say that for me, to live is Christ? At that moment, the best answer I could muster was “maybe”.
Though I turned my life over to God nearly 20 years ago, my Christian walk has been characterized by a series of surrenders to the Lord and a relationship that continues to deepen and grow stronger with each passing day. Still, when the rubber meets the road, am I all in?
Scripture details several accounts of people who were “all in” whatever the cost. A particularly striking example of a life completely devoted to Jesus exists in Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha. While Jesus was reclining at a dinner given in His honor, Mary poured a jar of very expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet. The amount of fragrant ointment Mary used was equivalent to a year’s wages (John 12:1-11). Mary clearly demonstrated that offering what she had to honor the Lord meant more to her than financial security. How does my attitude toward my King compare to Mary’s? Would I be willing to give my entire annual salary to the Lord without any financial plan B?
When Jesus called his first four disciples – Simon called Peter, Peter’s brother Andrew, James son of Zebedee and his brother John – they not only followed Jesus, but they did so “at once” and “immediately”:
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-22; emphasis mine)
Matthew, gospel writer and disciple, also completely abandoned his previous lifestyle and gave his life to Jesus with no way of turning back if it didn’t work out. Prior to following Jesus, Matthew earned his living as a tax collector. The Romans had appointed him, and for this reason as well as because the tax-collectors were notorious for overcharging the people and keeping the profits, Matthew was neither a respected nor an accepted member of society. He probably didn’t consider himself worthy to be one of the Lord’s right hand men, yet when Jesus saw Matthew “sitting at the tax collector’s booth” he told Matthew to follow him. What was Matthew’s immediate response? He readily abandoned his lucrative career, got up and followed Jesus:
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. (Matthew 9:9b)
It sounds so simple! Jesus says “follow me”, and regular people like Matthew and the disciples Peter, Andrew, James and John drop whatever they’re doing and give up everything at once to serve with Him. Would I do the same?
For me personally, I don’t believe the lesson here is that Jesus wants me to give up all that I have and all that I’m doing in my life, though that may be the case for some and it may be the case for me at some point. The important truth I take from these accounts is that there is nothing in my life that should hold more value to me than following Jesus – not my job, my possessions, not anything. As my faith in God grows and deepens, and as I nurture my relationship with the Lord, the more I feel better able to honestly agree with Paul: “For to me, to live IS Christ” (Philippians 1:21). I’m all in! But I need to exercise vigilance to ensure that nothing else creeps up to try and take the place that’s reserved only for God.
The accounts of Jesus’ followers leaving everything to devote their lives to Him convicts and challenges me. Some people are comfortable with risk, but I tend to value security and routine. Being a Valiant Warrior, however, means giving up worldly security. Recall the Apostle Paul’s words:
No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. (2 Timothy 2:4)
What about you, Warrior? Are you prepared to follow your Heavenly Commander-in-Chief no matter the cost? Are you all in?
Matthew West’s song “The Motions” says it all. Enjoy!