“To Live is Christ, to Die is Gain”
But there is more to that verse. Let’s look at the context of what the Apostle Paul is saying:
“My confident hope is that I will in no way be ashamed but that with complete boldness, even now as always, Christ will be exalted in my body, whether I live or die. For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. Now if I am to go on living in the body, this will mean productive work for me, yet I don’t know which I prefer: I feel torn between the two, because I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, but it is more vital for your sake that I remain in the body.” (Philippians 1:20-24 NET)
So the Bible does not excuse my giving up. But what it does endorse is my humbly accepting what has happened and moving on:
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5 NET)
Meek is not weak, but bridled strength, like a tamed stallion or a war elephant. So the fighting the meek do is not the kind of “fighting” I tend to do, all that complaining about wasted years and missed opportunities or flailing my arms as I “resist” sin. The meek do not live in regret, but they accept the circumstances, the temptations, the suffering. The meek channel their raw strength via discipline and wisdom to face these challenges. Therefore they are mature, grown, and in control of their power. They do not give up.
Yet I still tend to want to give up.
How to be Meek
For this I have to go back to an older translation, one in whose time meek never meant weak, like it does today. Jesus said:
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matthew 11:29 KJV)
So Jesus called himself meek. And I can learn from his life how not to give up. A great example took place in the garden of Gethsemane, just hours before Jesus would be betrayed by Judas to be crucified. Jesus knew his death was coming, and even he was distraught by it. (Remember that at this point, Jesus is not only fully God but fully human.) So he went with his students (the disciples) to pray in this garden, the place he would be betrayed in:
“He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, even to the point of death. Remain here and stay alert.” Going a little farther, he threw himself to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour would pass from him. He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:34-36 NET)
In another gospel it’s recorded that his student Peter tried his best to defend Jesus by pulling out a sword, one of two they had brought along (see Luke 22:37-38), and cutting off a man’s ear. But what good would two measly swords do against a crowd of trained Roman soldiers?
“Put away your sword,” Jesus told him. “Those who use the sword will die by the sword. Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly? But if I did, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that describe what must happen now?””
Matthew 26:52-54 NLT
In fact, the two swords were brought along just to fulfill an obscure prophecy:
“But now,” he said, “take your money and a traveler’s bag. And if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one! For the time has come for this prophecy about me to be fulfilled: ‘He was counted among the rebels.’ Yes, everything written about me by the prophets will come true.” “Look, Lord,” they replied, “we have two swords among us.” “That’s enough,” he said.”
Luke 22:36-38 NLT
So Jesus was indeed meek: He allowed the greater cause to direct his life, whether a small fulfillment of prophecy (‘He was counted among the rebels’) or fulfillment of his greater mission of our salvation. Through it all, he held back his divine power and authority that could have changed things for his own gain. He did not give up on his mission.
Instead he called on God for help, like David did in Psalm 18. And Jesus affirms that God would have protected him like he protected David. But Jesus in meekness said this:
“Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Mark 14:36 NLT)
How do I know then that these past 19 years weren’t God’s will for my life? Can I accept that they were and move on? Can I be meek by both accepting my circumstances yet not giving up on being able to change things for the better?
Yet a question remains for me: where do I find that strength to not give up?