I usually start the day by running to the closest Starbucks to my house on the way to my first meeting. A while back, they happened to be advertising the Nelson Mandela movie on their bulletin board, and it had a quote from Mandela that caught my eye.
“... it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Immediately I thought of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians. He was writing from prison. He was there because his faith was very public through his actions and his words.
Likewise, Mandela had a noble idea that his people should have justice and equality. It was a cause that captured his imagination and drove him to be willing to sacrifice his life if necessary.
Everyone lives for something or someone. If we as Christians don’t live for Jesus and the message of His redeeming love, we will live for something else. Why? Because we were made to live for something that has meaning and purpose and leads to the conviction that our lives matter.
Paul tells us what he lived for in Philippians.
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” –Philippians 1:21
Mandela thought social justice was what he would give his life to and maybe even sacrifice for in death. The Apostle Paul believed that life today and eternity was built around Jesus alone. Paul knew that even if he died—as we all do—his death would be “gain” for him because he would be face-to-face with Jesus.
Ideas—no matter how high or noble—come and go. Truth and lasting achievement can only be found in an eternal purpose attached to the eternal God.
Unless Jesus is the center of this life and the reason for our existence, we will never see death as gain.
Why was Paul so convinced that whatever he had on this Earth was nothing compared to the other side of death? Let me answer that with a story.
A friend of mine whom I worked with behind the Iron Curtain was a man from Romania who had been imprisoned for his faith and boldness. One time while in prison, the guards put a pistol to his head and told him that he would die if he didn’t reject Jesus as Lord.
But my friend responded as Paul did. He said, “For you, death is the end of everything. For me, death is the beginning of true life.” And he lived to tell his story.
May we work hard to make Jesus the only true love of our soul. So when our Father calls us home, we will truly know the joy of the life to come because the life we had was lived for Christ.
John's travels for ministry behind the Iron Curtain led him to found East-West Ministries International in 1993. John and his wife, Susie, live in Dallas, Texas and have a grown daughter and two grandchildren.