Two weeks ago I had the privilege of spending some precious moments with a man in our congregation who was dying. His name was Chris and he has passed away since that conversation. However, there is something he said during our time that has continued to echo in my heart. He mentioned his favorite Bible verse,
For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Philippians 1.21 [NIV]
The first half of that verse I get, it’s the second part that messes with me. To die is gain, really? As I laid awake that night thinking about Chris’s words I wondered how is it possible to really believe that death is gain. Who really believes that? As I mused on Chris’s words and let them mess with me, I thought about who wrote those words and where he was when he wrote them. The Apostle Paul penned those words in a prison cell. Paul was thrown in prison for preaching the gospel. However, Paul suffered so well that God used his time in prison to advance the Jesus Movement into the outlying community where he was imprisoned!
And then I thought of Chris and I thought of his prison called cancer. And then I thought of his favorite verse, For me to live is Christ and to die is gain. He could have been bitter, angry, or abandoned his love for God. He chose none of those options. Chris understood that his suffering served to advance the gospel. Chris believed that God was using his life and sufferings to draw others to Jesus. Chris would tell you that cancer sucks, but if that’s how God wanted to use him, so be it.
In my final conversation with Chris he did not mention the kind of car he drove, his job title, or the size of his bank account, his house, the vacations he took, or any of his possessions. And, he never asked me to mention any of those at his funeral. He pleaded with me to tell the story. The story of how God reached out to us in spite of our rebellion. How God loves us so much that he redeemed us. Chris’s very last desire was that the real story of Jesus Christ, Heaven, and eternal relationship with God be communicated at his funeral. That was what mattered most in his life and in his last moments on earth. Chris was twenty-nine, married, and the father of a nine month old little girl. Chris loved life and his most prized possession was his relationship with Jesus. And, he wanted me to make sure that everyone knew that.