I often think of the line from the original version of Old Man River as sung by the Black Opera singer, Paul Robeson: “I get weary, sick of trying. I’m tired of living, but scared of dying.” As a Christian I’m not really afraid 20 fear of deathof death, but the “process of dying” is a bit frightening. Don’t you think? We have a hope which transcends the grave, yet getting to the other side of that Jordan (illustration of death) is a scary thing for me. I don’t know how it will happen and the pain I’d have to go through to get there. I’m sure there will be pain. Our souls are intricately attached to our bodies and separation of the two cannot be painless. Just breaking a bond can be extremely painful. I’m afraid of the pain that will be associated with the act of dying. Yet, I’m not really afraid of death. The Christian has no real reason to be afraid of death itself.

When Paul writes his thoughts on death in Philippians 1:21-22, he’s not talking about the act of dying. I’m fairly certain Paul was also concerned about the process, but he certainly wasn’t afraid what would happen or where he would go after the process was fulfilled. He didn’t know what his immediate future held. In prison in Rome he realized the possibility of execution at any time. Paul wasn’t sure what to expect. He had gone through some very painful episodes in his life and he found himself struggling with what he really wanted. He said in Philippians 1:21, “For me to live is Christ, but to die is gain.” Then he adds in verse 22, “But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell.” There were more seeds to plant. Nero Caesar would eventually end Paul’s life by beheading according to Church History but not during this imprisonment. It would happen in a later imprisonment. Some of the fruit Paul was destined to reap were those that came from the seeds of his letters to Timothy and Titus.

Paul had a great outlook on both potential futures. If this was the end of his life, that would be just fine. He knows what his future held beyond the grave and he was at peace with it. However, if it wasn’t his time to die, he would be happy to go on with his ministry of planting the seeds of the Gospel all over the world and watch the fruit grow. If he lives, he’s living for Christ and the message. If he dies, he’s going to be with Christ in glory so either option resulted in “Christ” in one way or another. If he lives, he wins; if he dies, he wins! The thing that strikes me from Paul’s discussion is that his time of death, as is true with us, is not in our hands. It’s God’s to decide. Ecclesiastes said, “there is time to be born, and there is a time to die.” We’ve all had a birth date! We will all have a “death date.” But that’s God’s decision. If it’s His will for us to live on, let’s plant seeds!

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