But what does the second part of that verse mean? To die is gain. Dying to sin? Certainly that is one meaning. If we are to even try to be Christlike, we must die to our sinful nature and be truly reborn. It's not a matter of fixing our old life, it's a rebirth into a completely new one. One that is marked by our obedience and submission to the Father.
But "to die is gain" means something else as well. Out lives should be completely focused on the eternal implications of death when the end comes. This earth is completely temporal. The only thing that matters in this life is our obedience to God and our desire to glorify Him by being witnesses of His majesty and grace so that we may be used by the Holy Spirit to affect the eternal fate of those around us. Everything else is just dust in the wind. Our stuff, our jobs, even our relationships with those we love, all come in second to the command to love and obey God. We should be anxiously awaiting the time God has appointed for our deaths. We are assured of an inheritance far beyond the imagination and scope of man.
However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him."
I Corinthians 2:9
Even the apostle Paul was torn between being used by God during his time here on earth, and the ultimate joy of dying and being with Christ forever.
For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.
So while we are here, let's make a difference. Comfort the hurting, love the unlovely and bring the truth of the gospel to every person God places in our path. Let's die to the world and remember that our earthly death is simply a stepping stone to the glorious, eternal future of praising God forever. Let's be so filled with the Spirit that we long for death, in the sense that we will finally see our Saviour face to face.