“For to me, living means living for Christ.” – Phil. 1:21.
In order to really understand what Paul is saying in this verse, let’s try putting this statement in a different context. What if I were to say, “I live for food,” or “I live for my vacations”? Some might say “I live for football season” or summertime or “I live for work.” Food, vacations, football, summertime and work are all good things. None of them are evil. We’re not talking about rape or robbery here. We’re talking barbecued chicken, a walk on the beach or watching your kid score a touchdown. But when these items become central to our existence we are no longer truly living.
The Amplified Version says, “For me to live is Christ [His life in me].” His life in me, not my life in Him. His life in me. His being first; my being second. Jesus is not, like too many Christians think, a nice addition to whatever else we are doing. Too often we tack Jesus on to whatever else we’ve decided to do in order to do what we really want without seeking what Jesus would want. We say our prayers, especially when we have a need, and tack on “In Jesus Name, Amen” as a religiously oriented “Abracadabra!” that will magically bring us the desires of our heart. But if our heart’s desire is not lined up with the desires of God for our life, our prayers will never be answered the way we want because we don’t really want what God wants. We want what we want and expect God to fulfill it. But that is not the way God works.
We must not overlook the first three words of this verse. “For to me” is placed in the position of stressing the fact that Paul’s own faith was unshaken, regardless of the circumstances. No adverse decision from Rome or the worries of his friends could shake his firm belief about his present or his future. Paul tells us “living means living for Christ.” The very essence of Paul’s present life was Christ and all that this brought him, whether, as he says in 4:12, “it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little, for I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” He can even glorify God from a prison cell.
That is what it true living means. Since the presence of God fills the universe, it should also fill our every thought and guide our every decision, which is just how Jesus lived. In John 14:31 Jesus said, “I love the Father and I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.” Furthermore, not only should our actions be guided by the commands of God, so must our speech. Again, Jesus is the example of this. In John 12:49-50 Jesus said, “I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it. And I know his commands lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say.” How much different would our life be if everything we say, AND the way we say it, was guided by our heavenly Father? How much different would our life be if we truly had Christ on our mind in every decision we needed to make? How much difference would it make in the lives of others?