Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. (Phi 1:18-26)
For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
I read these words to Randy a while back, when he had just gotten back from the doctor with some more bad news. Randy knew this. He lived this. Now he lives this with Christ to whom he has departed.
Randy, he was a man you were blessed to know, whether you knew him as a friend, a coworker, a boss, or a patron. If he knew you he cared for you. For him, to live is Christ. He knew how to rest in his death, and live in his resurrection as a baptized child of God with a love for life.
That was the difference in Randy. I think everyone who knew him could recognize in him a love for life, from the way he approached family and work, to the way he went to play with fine shotguns, finish a day with a tumbler of scotch, or sit down to a game of black jack. What was it he told you Teddy? “Marry me and your life will be an adventure.”? He followed through, didn’t he? He didn’t seem to know a dull moment. He had a love for life that blossomed naturally from his love of Christ in whose death he rested and in whose life he lived and still lives.
He rested in Christ’s death. He was buried into it in baptism. Buried into Christ’s death. All his sins left there to rot with the sins of the world in the tomb of Christ that could not keep Christ himself. So Randy was raised with Christ to walk in the newness of life, to live in the resurrection to the glory of God. Oh, we won’t make it out to be that Randy lived some perfect life free from sin. There is only one man who has ever managed to do that, and that life Christ lived for you, as a sacrifice for you that your sins would be covered by his blood before our Father in heaven, your soul washed, your conscience cleansed when he was crucified, died and buried. Christ did that for you. For you who are here today. He did that for you every bit as much as he did that for Randy whom he sanctified in the waters of baptism that his life would be a holy one. It was that kind of love that Randy knew from his Lord and savior. Greater love hath no man than that he lay down his life for his friends. Jesus laid down his life for you, for Randy, that we would have life. It is the gospel itself. Might be why Randy’s favorite hymn was “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”
It made a difference for Randy, having such a friend. Not only could he rest in such a friend’s death, knowing that his life had been purchased and redeemed by the life of such a friend, but it also meant he could live with a love that issued from a clean heart and a good conscience reveling in the joy of salvation. It was this life that made him tick. It was this love he shared with those he knew, as he showed this love for them. For him to live was Christ and to die was gain. He lived his days in Christ. He loved this life as a gift from God, and so he loved your life as a gift from God, lives redeemed by the blood of Christ. And if there is one thing I know about Randy it is he’d be disappointed if I didn’t at this time tell you, his dear friends that you too can know this love of Christ. It’s why he spent so much time going to church, so much of his wealth keeping the doors of a small little congregation open. These things he did so that you too would know the love of Christ, the joy of salvation, life lived with a good conscience, love that issues from a purified heart. That you too can know this win win situation of being a Christian where to live is Christ and to die is gain. This game is better than that first game of black jack I played, when Randy handed me a hundred and said, hey keep what you win, and if you lose we’ll call it even. So I bet big and I won big. It’s the life Randy lived in Christ, he knew he couldn’t lose. Christ had already paid his debts. He could bet big and enjoy his Scotch, play the hand and know, the life he lived is Christ, and to die is gain.
Think he had a good life here? It’s nothing compared to the life he lives even now with Christ in heaven, residing in that mansion the Lord Jesus Christ prepared for him in his Father’s house. The same house in which Christ prepares a mansion for you.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.