“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.”
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!
There is this saying, probably there are several versions of it, and most likely that you have heard it already. It goes something like this. All people will die, but not all will have lived.
That’s our reality. We all will die. But have you lived? Do you live now? This is not a question ‘are you alive’, but ‘do you actually live your life’? And we better ask and answer this question while we are still here, in this world.
What are the things that all people, that we all are looking for? What are these important, invisible things that we all long for, thirst for, strive for? Joy for one. When we can enjoy and appreciate our lives.
I am not talking about what people today call ‘fun’, which often is emptying yourself and for a while forgetting about your life. I am talking about such a joy, when you can reflect on your life, on what you do and how you live with satisfaction and gratitude, for it is purposeful, meaningful life.
Peace is another. Not peace in a sense that there are no troubles in our lives. They are and they always will be. As long, as we live in this broken world, populated by broken people.
No, I am talking about peace as about our inner state even in the middle of this life’s troubles and tribulation. Despite this life’s troubles, knowing that you, your present, and your future are in good hands. Very good hands.
Hope? Not a hope to get the next thing, or to do the next thing expecting that it will bring some sort of fulfilment and joy. No, I am talking about the ultimate hope to be reunited with your Maker, to be with the most amazing being and to finally see Him face-to-face.
We work so hard to get these invisible things. We look for them in many places and often expect to find them where they can’t be found. Therefore, there are so many people who are alive, are frantically active, who strive for something, hope for something, but too often never get it. For they look in wrong places.
This is a wonderful text for funeral, which we heard today. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me.”
Can you hear joy and peace and hope in these words? For me to live is Christ, to die is gain. I would love to be with my God, with Jesus, but if am not yet, and that’s fine too, then this life means fruitful labour for me.
People who don’t know Jesus Christ often have very strange ideas about what it means to be a Christian. Sometimes it is misrepresented as sort of weak comfort for those who are not lucky enough, or successful enough in this life.
‘Your life is miserable, so go and comfort yourself with these stories about afterlife’. And sometimes it is misrepresented as sort of indifference towards this life. ‘This life is not important, who cares, what matters is what comes after’.
But, these are sad caricatures of what knowing Jesus means and does to us. Knowing God, knowing Jesus Christ is what changes everything. I’m not talking about knowing about God, or about Jesus, or knowing that there must be something higher. Everyone knows that, this is not what I’m talking.
I’m talking about knowing God personally. As He comes to you, to each of you and invites you, and talks to you, and blesses you. If you know Jesus, if you know who He was, who He is, what He has done for you, what He does for you right now, what He has prepared for you and desires to give to you, – it changes everything.
And it changes everything right now. It changes your life right now. It gives you what everyone longs for in their hearts. It gives you true joy, true peace, true hope. If fills your life with meaning and appreciation.
Then you can experience what it means, not only to be alive, but to live. Then you can say ‘for me to live is Christ’, for He lives and walks with me, filling me with His joy, and peace and hope.
Then you can say that you would prefer to be with Jesus in His Kingdom, but even if you are here, your life in fruitful and joyful labor, serving all the people whom God has placed in your life.
Being a Christians is about living now, and also knowing what expects you when your time here is over. It is about knowing where to find true joy, peace and hope. It is about living your live in full and not simply being alive.
Gordon lived. There were troubles in his life. There were hardships in his life. But he knew where to look for the ultimate joy and peace and hope. Probably you all knew him better that I did and have many good memories.
I have one too. That was one of the last times when I say Gordon. He came to be in Jesus presence, in God’s house, among God’s chosen people, among his brothers and sisters in Christ. He couldn’t move much, and when I came to greet him after the service, he smiled and said this one thing: “Pastor, I am still here.”
He knew where to look for joy, and peace and hope. He knew that whenever we turn to God the Father, whenever we turn to Jesus, He always says to you: “My child, I am still here with you, caring for you, and waiting for you to come home.” Gordon has gone home. We are still here.
I pray that all of you could have true joy, true peace, true hope, and that you would know where to find them and when your days are over could say with gratitude: “I have lived. Thanks be to God!” Amen.