Life with a Capital "L"
L-I-F-E—life. A word so simple a child can spell it; a word so profound a philosopher cannot fully explain it. Life—that wonderful thing we so easily take for granted. Where did it come from? Where is it going? Does it have any meaning at all?
Does life have any meaning, or is everything we see just an accidental meeting of atoms? George Bernard Shaw once suggested that, if the other planets are inhabited, they must be using Earth as their insane asylum. And Shakespeare has Macbeth tell us that life is a “tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” The poet John Masefield said, “Life’s a long headache in a noisy street.”
Centuries ago, a prisoner in the city of Rome was writing a letter to some friends. His trial was about to come up, and he was confident that he would be released. But, if not—well, he had that under control, because this is what he wrote:
“In nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also. Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” That is the great Apostle Paul’s personal definition of life: “To live is Christ.”
By nature, man is spiritually dead, and the cause of this death is sin. You see, God is the source of all life, and sin cuts a man off from his relationship with God. To be cut off from God means death, spiritual death. A man may be alive physically and enjoy all the natural pleasure of life, and still be dead spiritually—in the inner man—and therefore be cut off from all the supernatural enjoyments God wants him to experience. Sad to say, many people today aren’t really living; they’re existing. They are satisfying the day by day demands of an animal existence and never taste or touch or hear or see anything higher or nobler or deeper. This explains why lives are so empty, and why many people turn to drink or dope or immorality to try to get some kicks out of life.
Paul didn’t need any of those religious things, nor does any person need them who really has yielded to Jesus Christ. “He that hath the Son hath life,” says the Apostle John, “and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” “And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, who Thou hast sent.”
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Let’s take that statement from the pen of the Apostle Paul and use it to test our own lives. What are you living for? What is the thing that really spells LIFE in your heart?
Many might say, “For to me, to live is money.” But go ahead—finish the statement: “For to me, to live is money—and to die is to lose it all.” Others will say, “For to me, to live is pleasure, and to die is—endless punishment apart from God.” Or “For to me, to live is fame, and to die is—to be forgotten.”
Now, let me make it crystal clear that there is nothing wrong with fame or pleasure or money if they are where they really belong in our lives. But if life to you is defined in terms of things or thrills, then what is going to happen when things disappear and when thrills become stale and boring?
The famous poet Lord Byron wrote these words on his thirty-third birthday:
On life’s road so dim and dirty
I have dragged to three and thirty;
What have these years left for me?
Jesus Christ died at about the age of 33, and His attitude toward life was exactly opposite that of the worldly-minded poet. Jesus said, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!” Among His final words on the cross were, “It is finished!” Not, “I am finished,” as though His life had been a tragic mistake. No, Jesus had fulfilled God’s plan and won the victory over sin and death and hell.
This is why Paul could write, “For to me to live is Christ.” To some other friends he wrote, “Christ liveth in me.” There had been a day when he had yielded himself to the Son of God, and Jesus Christ had moved into his very life to make him into a new person. Paul was not a divided man, with a painful civil war going on inside. No, he was totally surrendered to Christ; Christ was his life. Christ was center and circumference. He depended on Christ’s love and grace to see him through. He lived to please Christ and Christ alone. Above all else he wanted to magnify Christ, even if it meant death.
No wonder Paul was unafraid, and even joyful at the prospects of the future. Would he be set free, or would he be killed? Well, either way, Christ would be glorified, and that is all that really mattered.
Life is not a headache, or a mistake, or an accident. Life is a gift from God. And God has given us life, not to be wasted, or even spent, but to be invested. He wants us to be a part of something bigger than ourselves—something far more vast than the little corners we get smothered in day after day. He wants to give us life with a capital L—life that is found in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
What happens to a person when he turns from his sins and trusts Christ as his Savior, when he starts to say, “For to me to live is Christ”? For one thing, he experiences a wonderful peace in his heart. The Bible calls it a peace that passes understanding: even psychiatrists can’t explain it! It’s the peace that comes from being right with God and knowing that God will never judge you for your sins.
Then, there’s a wonderful new power that begins to take over. God’s Holy Spirit moves into your life. He transforms your body into His temple and starts to clean things up.
Life takes on a whole new meaning when you can honestly say with Paul, “and to die is gain!” Christ has conquered death and has transformed the grave into a doorway to glory.
Isn’t it time you looked life square in the face? What are you really living for? Where is life taking you? Is this thing that you call life really worth living? Open your heart and life to Jesus and really start to live! Then you can say with Paul, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”