22nd September 2023

What do we live and die for?

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Philippians 1:21 (NIVUK)

What matters to you most? What is it that shapes your priorities? What is it that motivates you? In other words, what is it that you live for? Is it, your bank balance, your career path, a certain relationship, partying, and having a good time? Or is it Jesus Christ? 

One thing is sure, if we are living for anything other than Christ, then dying wouldn’t be gain, but loss, because death would take away whatever it is we are living for. On the other hand, living for Christ means death isn’t the end of our relationship with him, rather we have the glorious delight of being in the awesome presence of the exalted Jesus himself. It is only gain. 

As Jim Elliot, an American missionary killed by the Auca Indians in 1956, wrote in his diary, ‘He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.’ 1 Then, quoting from Luke 16:9, he referred to when wealth fails people, we will be received into eternal habitations. 

For Paul, in the context of Philippians 1, ‘to live is Christ’, meant that to keep on living on earth was to continue ministry: Christ-centred ministry, Christ-empowered ministry, with Christ’s presence in his ministry, and to serve the living Christ, not for his own benefit or promotion, but for the wellbeing of others (Philippians 1:24-25). And to die? Well, the ministry comes to an end, but even so, for Paul, there is only gain – being with Christ forever.

What can you possibly do with Christians like that? How are you going to shut them up? Kill them? No, you have just done them a favour. Christ means too much for them. They will go on sharing the good news about Jesus no matter what the consequences. For Jim Elliot, it meant his death, but for him, to die with Christ meant he would also live with him.

How our ministry of evangelism would flourish if we had the attitude of living for Christ and death is gain. No one would be able to shut us up because we would know that Christ was our priority above everything else, and not even death can ‘separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (Romans 8:39).

In a very real sense, we will be living our Christian lives either in Philippians 2:21: ‘For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ’, or in Philippians 1:21, ‘For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain’. The question is which one will it be? 

This prayer is composed of the last words Jim Elliot wrote in his diary as he waited for the Auca Indians to come:

O Jesus, Master and Centre and End of all, how long before that glory is yours which has so long awaited you? Now there is no thought of you among men; then there shall be thought for nothing else. Now other men are praised; then none shall care for any other’s merits. Hasten, hasten, Glory of Heaven, take your crown, subdue your kingdom, enthrall your creatures. Amen. 2

Study by Barry Robinson

 1 Jim Elliot’s Journal Entry with “He is No Fool…” Quote | Anchored in Christ (kevinhalloran.net)
 2  Elisabeth Elliot, Through Gates of Splendour, 1957, p. 256.

About the writer:
Barry Robinson is a minister in Grace Communion International and Regional Pastor for Southern England, the Midlands, and Wales

Local congregation:
Grace Communion West Hampstead
Sidings Community Centre
150 Brassey Road
West Hampstead

Meeting time:
Sunday 12.30 pm

Local congregational contact:
Gordon Brown

Word of Life contact: