Links Daily Devotional

Live Like You Are Dying

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21, NIV)

Roughly 16 years ago, a member of our Atlanta Country Club Links Fellowship, Phil Rees, was diagnosed with leukemia. Over the years, he has endured several bouts of chemotherapy, transfusions, and even a stem cell transplant last fall. He enjoyed a couple long reprieves from illness and was blessed with several years of remission by taking full advantage of his extended life. Unfortunately for us, Phil went to be with the Lord on January 30.

I have no doubt that living 30 percent of his life with an illness that could rear its ugly head and kill him had a significant impact on the way he lived.Phil lived extraordinarily; he was extremely successful in business, beloved by friends, family and colleagues, and never missed an opportunity to relationally invest into any of them; he played music in a rock band, traveled the world, loved to eat good food and drink good wine, and he enjoyed playing golf at some of the greatest courses around the world. Though he was only 54 when he passed away, he lived a full and abundant life, loving others well all along the way. I have no doubt that living 30 percent of his life with an illness that could rear its ugly head and kill him had a significant impact on the way he lived.

I had the privilege of officiating his memorial service. In it, we heard stories from family, friends, co-workers, and even an admiring ex-husband of Phil’s wife. Anyone in attendance could not help but be inspired to make more of a relational impact on those around them. And though I am sure Phil was a great guy before his initial diagnosis in 2000, he certainly lived extraordinarily and made an impact on many people afterward. As evidenced by the roughly 400 people in attendance and eight speakers during the service, many were impacted by a man who lived like he was dying. Reflections of this have forced me to think about today’s verse, which I have known for years, much more deeply.

In the times spent with Phil prior to his death, I saw a man who was at complete peace with whatever the outcome of his illness would be. He loved living and wanted to beat the cancer to have many more years with his five children (of which only one was his biologically—but you would have never known it by the way he loved each of them) and new granddaughter, and to play more rounds of golf; however, he was prepared to go to be with the Lord. With that said, he still expressed his concerns of leaving this life on earth because he was concerned that some of his children and others that he loved did not yet know Jesus. The apostle Paul understood this thought as well:

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith. (Philippians 1:21-25)

At Phil’s memorial service, Christ certainly reigned and many non-believers and people of faith with doubts connected the dots of Phil’s beautifully lived life and the Jesus he knew. Two lives were celebrated: the one Phil lived very well with us and the new one that began early in the morning of January 30 when the Lord called a beloved son home for eternity. All of this was made obvious because of the way Phil lived in his dying years.

Phil, thank you for showing so many of us what it looks like to live as Christ and to die as gain. We love you and already miss you.

Josh Nelson
February 27, 2017
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