Volume 13, Issue 8
Usually we think of death as the enemy. It and its companion, sickness, are the prices we pay for sin, both original sin and individual sin. Sometimes, when a person is suffering a great deal, we say that death is merciful, because it ends the pain. Normally, however, we view death as tragic, and people often exert great effort and expense to avoid for as long as possible.
Nowadays, people tend to avoid thinking about death unless and until it is absolutely necessary. But it has been stated that a person is not ready to live unless he or she is ready to die. To live properly, we must live purposefully or intentionally, always keeping in mind both the certainty of death and the uncertainty of when it will occur.
Many great Christians of the past thought often about death. Martin Luther said, “Even in the best of health we should have death always before our eyes [so that] we will not expect to remain on this earth forever, but will have one foot in the air, so to speak.” Jonathan Edwards, as a young man, wrote down 70 resolutions which he read weekly to help keep his life focused. Resolution number nine was: “Resolved, to think much, on all occasions, of my dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.”
A common word associated with death is “loss.” Remarkably, however, the Apostle Paul associated death with “gain.” At Philippians 1:21, he says: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
What did Paul mean when he said that “to die is gain?” One way to understand what a term or phrase means is to understand what it does not mean. One thing that “to die is gain” does not mean is that a Christian should desire death because he hates life.
Paul did not hate life. To the contrary, he was filled with joy, even though his circumstances were difficult (1:18). He viewed life as sweet fellowship with Christ and the joy of serving Christ. This is why he said, “to live is Christ.” So he was not viewing life as tough and death as escape or relief.
Sometimes when life is difficult, or when we suffer from chronic, painful diseases, we long for relief and may even be tempted to take our own lives. The Bible provides many examples of this kind of thinking. For example, Moses said to God: “I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now” (Numbers 11:14-15). Afraid of Ahab and Jezebel, Elijah fled to the desert, where he said to God: “I have had enough Lord. Take my life.” (1 Kings 19:3-5)
Jeremiah said: “Cursed be the day I was born! May the day my mother bore me not be blessed! Cursed be the man who brought my father the news, who made him very glad, saying: ‘A child is born to you – a son.’” (Jeremiah 20:14-15) And Jonah said: “Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live” (Jonah 4:3).
But suicide is never God’s will for anyone. It does not exalt Christ, as Paul here wants his death to do. It is always a selfish act, done in disregard of those left behind to grieve. It usurps the sovereignty of God who has a fruitful purpose for every believer’s life. Thus it would be grossly wrong to interpret Paul’s words as a warrant for suicide.
Another thing that “to die is gain” does not mean is that a Christian should not grieve over the death of loved ones.
Until Christ returns, death is still our enemy that robs us of the presence of our loved ones. Scripture doesn’t condemn grieving; in fact, it tells us to “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). Jesus wept with Mary and Martha at Lazarus’ tomb, even though He knew He was about to raise him from the dead (John 11:35). As Christians, we do not grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13), but we still do grieve.
It is not unspiritual to grieve or weep at the death of a loved one. Scripture does contain two passages in which people were forbidden to grieve. When Aaron’s sons disobediently offered “strange fire” on the altar, and the Lord struck them dead, Moses told Aaron and his surviving sons not to grieve for them, but to allow the rest of the people to grieve (Lev. 10:1-7). Apparently their grief would have given the impression that Aaron and his other sons were on the side of the sons who died, rather than on the side of the Lord who punished them. Also, when God suddenly took Ezekiel’s wife he told Ezekiel he could groan silently, but he was not to shed tears or grieve outwardly, as a sign of the impending judgment on Judah (Ezek. 24:15-24). However, these were exceptional circumstances. The norm is for Christians to grieve, and it is not a sign of weakness or a lack of faith.
Thus when Paul says that “to die is gain,” he does not mean that Christians should desire death because they hate life or that we should not grieve over the death of loved ones. Next month, I’ll write about what Paul does mean.
Halstead Bible Fellowship: email address: email@example.com. Please join us at 112 West Third Street, Halstead, KS, – Sundays at 9:45am.
Pastor Visitation: If you would like a visit from Pastor Tony, please call 620-951-4438 ©
August Birthdays Happy birthday to:
1 Terry Glanville 6 Megan Evans 11 Lois Huebert
12 Don Grossardt 23 Marge Talbott
In Our Family
Pray for the family of Jackie Burnett, who passed away the evening of July 31st. Memorial service to be announced at a later date.
Keep Lois Huebert in prayer as she mends and returns to Halstead Health and Rehab.
Pray for Gloria Schroeder as she has moved to Newton to help care for her brother, Dan. Also keep Dan in prayer for his recovery from heart issues.
Lift up Gwen Haspels and her surgeon as they make final adjustments to her face. Praise God that He has guided the hands of the dentist and surgeon during the many phases of surgeries and repair.
Pray for a safe and fun Old Settler’s and a joyful time at the all school reunion.
It’s back to school time again. Pray and praise for all teachers. Give them patience, wisdom and a renewed vision for their students.
John & Gwen Haspels, firstname.lastname@example.org
Pray for John and Gwen as they continue travels to speak about their experience in Ethiopia and the blessings of forgiveness.
Praise God!! He is working his purpose out!! Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice. In Christ, Gwen and John
John & Joy Haspels, AIM, Nairobi, Kenya: email@example.com
Greetings all our friends,
This is not actually an update, but a request. As I mentioned in our last update, Kenya is going to be holding their general elections the beginning of August. We have a couple of supporting churches who feel it would be good for the family, Joy and the kids, to be in the United States during these elections. As Crises Manager for our branch, I would feel much more comfortable with the family being safe in the States. We do not feel it is essential for the family to be gone during the elections, but it would keep them safe in the event of chaos and would make it easier for me to manage any crises.
(Joy and the kids are all safely in New Hampshire at this time. John remains in Kenya.)
John asks for continued prayer for the Kenyan elections.
Habtom, Heather, Faith, Hope and Josiah Kebede,
Box 1111, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: (c/o John Haspels) firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks again for standing with us and walking with us on this journey. We are so very thankful to you and your partnership and to God for blessing us in so many ways. One new blessing is that we received a gift of a van that will help us transport youth and family. Praise God!
We would love to hear from you and join you in any prayers or praises!
Grace and Peace in abundance to all of you, Habtom, Heather, Faith, Hope and Josiah
Anne Adrian, ISI, Lakeland, Florida email@example.com
This week I introduced a new ISI couple, Bob & Audrey Welch, to the team in Tampa, including the Dir. of Friends of Internationals, Mark Schaeffer. As I sat in that meeting, I was flooded with gratitude to God for the way He has worked, answering many prayers to bring together such a fabulous team- all deeply committed & gifted with a vision to reach the world! I felt privileged that I had a part to play in all that happening! Several of the leaders are now leading M28 groups (an ISI Discovery Bible Study method) with the women, including many from M*lim backgrounds! A community “owned” international student ministry with a special outreach to M*lims is exactly what I’ve always dreamed of! Pray for wisdom, power & protection as they move forward!!
Answered Prayer for Ramadan!
During Ramadan I continued to meet one-one with the M*lim women I’ve mentioned before; PRAISE for good conversations with all 3 about their fasting beliefs. With each of them I was able to share the freedom we have because we are already accepted through Christ’s righteousness. “Doesn’t that mean that Christians can do anything they want then?!” A common question & as old as the NT – as Paul responds, “Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?” W. wants to improve her English & we decided together to look at both the Bible & the Koran to compare stories of “the prophets” (M*lims consider Adam, Abraham, many of the OT heroes of faith & Jesus prophets). Please keep on praying for that the Lord will open opportunities for conversations that will point them to Jesus & especially for the studies that I will do with W.
A Vision for Lakeland
What I’d like to see here, similar to Tampa, is Christians keenly aware of the international students at our local colleges & intentional about befriending them. With an Islamic Center here, the increasing number of M*lim students & immigrants settling here, my passion is to see real bridges of friendship being built to M*lims, tearing down misconceptions & fear on both sides. I have been busy sharing this vision; pray that God would lead me to more people whose hearts are open to this & also that He would give me opportunities to talk to churches about this need. This week Kent & I hosted a gathering of these M*lim friends to introduce them to a few American families – it was a joy to see them interacting so well! May this be just the beginning!! Thank you for partnering with me in prayer & with your financial support to build those bridges of friendship that the nations may know the One we love & joyfully serve!
With joy in the Gospel of Peace!
Ministries for Everyone
Adult Sunday School: This class meets at 11:00 a.m. every Sunday after service, led by Pastor Tony. All are invited and encouraged to bring a friend.
Prayer Meeting: Prayer every Monday at the Neighbor’s Store and Pantry at 5:00 p.m. All welcome!
Fellowship Group: A Fellowship Group meets for the study of God’s Word. The group meets at 7:00 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month at Halstead Bible Fellowship. See Steve Page for more information. Open to everyone. (June meeting will be on June 28th – this is a change from the regularly scheduled date)
Bible Study: Please join this Bible Study each Wednesday morning at 10:00. The study is held in our homes. Contact Joan Bailey for more information.