I’m a Winner Either Way

Title: I'm a Winner Either Way

Bible Book: Philippians 1 : 21-27

Author: Steve Wagers

Subject: Death; Christian Living



I think of some very strange epitaphs that I have come across.

Seen on the grave of a dentist:

Stranger! Approach this spot with gravity.

John Brown is filling his last cavity.

Taken from the grave of an editor:

Here lies an editor! Snooks if you will;

In mercy, King Providence, let him lie still.

He lied for a living; so he lived while he lied.

When he could not lie longer, he lied down and died.

From the tombstone of a hypochondriac:

I told you I was sick.

From the Wall Street Trinity Church cemetery:

Remember friends as you pass by.

As you are now, so once was I.

So, as I am soon you will be,

So prepare for death and follow me.

Someone wrote underneath those words:

To follow you I’m not content,

Until I know which way you went.

We have learned, thus far in our study of Philippians that Paul was writing from the Mamertine prison in Rome. Yet, in the midst of unbelievable persecution, he could write about joy, with joy, and for the purpose of joy.

As we come to the closing section of the 1st chapter, Paul cuts to the chase as to the reality of his situation.

Whenever I come to these verses of our text, I think of the song by Mike Upright:

“I’m a winner either way,

If I go, or if I stay.

I’ll still have my Jesus

Each passing day.

I’ll have my healing here below,

Or life forever if I go.

Oh praise the Lord,

I’m a winner either way.”

Paul’s words reveal the attitude of his own heart. To him it mattered not if he lived or died. He felt that he would be a winner either way.

I. The FATE that LOOMED before Him

Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays, president of Morehouse College, wrote a classic poem entitled "Life Is Just a Minute." It is excellent, and reads:

"Life is just a minute

Only sixty seconds in it.

Forced upon you, can't refuse it,

Didn't seek, didn't choose it.

But it's up to you to use it.

You must suffer if you lose it.

Give account if you abuse it.

Just a tiny, little minute,

But eternity is in it!"

“For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (James 4: 17)

Paul was looking eyeball to eyeball with the fate that lied before him. It was:


[20] “Death”

[21] “To die”

[23] “A desire to depart”

It’s almost like Paul is writing from death row. He knew that he would lay down his life in a few short hours. Death was a subject fresh on his mind.

I'm sure most of you have heard the expression, "The Dead Man's Hand." It originated on August 2, 1876. Wild Bill Hickock sat down at a poker table in Saloon #10, in Deadwood, South Dakota, and began to play his hand. Jack McCall entered the saloon, pulled out a gun, and shot Wild Bill Hickock in the back. As he laid there, those around noticed the cards that remained in his hand, a pair of Aces, and a pair of 8's. That combination, ever since, has been known as "the dead man's hand."

Every one of us has been dealt the ‘dead man’s hand.’ There will come a day when all the cards must be laid out on the table. We will have to play our hand.

Fredrick Buechner was right, "Intellectually we all know that we will die, but we do not really know it in the sense the knowledge becomes a part of us. We do not really know it in the sense of living as though it were true. On the contrary, we tend to live as though our lives would go on forever."

The odds of death are absolutely astounding:

1 out of 1

3 every second

180 every minute

11,000 every hour

250,000 every day

Most feel like Dr. B.R. Lakin who once said, "If I knew where I was going to die, I wouldn't go there."

Death is an appointment no one has ever, or will ever escape, excuse, or evade. The death angel knows no birthdays, recognizes no holidays, and takes no vacation days.

Shakespeare writes in the "Seven Ages of Man" that, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women are merely players; they have their entrance's and their exits."


Although death was something he faced, it was:


Paul’s view of death is quite interesting.

[21] “To die is GAIN.”

The word “gain” is the Greek word ‘kerdos.’ The word means “profitable.” We could translate the word “dividend.” It was used to speak of interest that money had gained, or accumulated.

It was if Paul was saying, “If I die, I will cash in all of my investments and will receive both principle, and interest. If I die, I will receive more of Christ than I had while I was living.”

In other words, Paul was in a no-lose situation. Whatever happened to him, he was going to win. Whether he lived or whether he died, he was a winner either way.

I once heard about a lady that was standing on the deck during a terrible storm. A crewman said to her, "Ma'am, you need to get inside. It is dangerous to be out here. You could be swept overboard." She replied, "I've got a daughter in New York and one in heaven. And, since my Father owns the land on both sides of the river, it doesn't matter to me which one I see next."

Death is something we all must face, but not something we all need to fear. For the lost man, this is the only Heaven you will ever know. For the saved man, this is the only Hell you will ever know.

Paul described death as a departure.

[23] "For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart."

Paul used the same word in 2 Timothy 4:6,

"For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand."

The word “depart” or “departure” is one of the most wonderful words in the Bible. It was a picturesque word that had a variety of usages. The word was used to describe the dissolution of a chemical.

One could take a chemical compound as found in the form of a tablet and drop into water. In doing so, the chemical would dissolve. In its dissolving it would disappear but would not be destroyed. Its form is only changed from a solid to a liquid.

When a Christian dies, he disappears but he or she is not destroyed. The form of life changes from a physical state to a spiritual state. We die, but we don't die. We just change the conditions of life.

The word was also used to describe the setting free of a prisoner. The prisoner was released from his bondage and chains, and allowed to go free. We live this life chained to the limitations and temptations of our body. But death is a release, and a setting free from life’s prison.

The word was also used by a farmer. It described taking the yoke off the oxen. The day of labor was over, and it was time to rest from the burden of the yoke and the service in the field. For the believer, death is a lying aside of the burdens, and yoke of this life. Our race is run and our work is completed.

Finally the word was used to describe the lifting of an anchor. A ship is ready to leave the harbor and sail to a new land. The anchor is lifted, the sails are hoisted, and the vessel sets sail for it new destination.

Death is like stepping on board the Old Ship of Zion and setting sail for a Heavenly land and leaving the old land behind. One day were leaving out of here! No wonder Paul said death was better. No wonder death was nothing for Paul to fear.

With the fate that lied before him, there was also:

II. The FOCUS that LIVED Within Him

Someone has well said:

“Only one life,

‘Twill soon be past.

Only what’s done

For Jesus will last.”

We have only one life. This life is not a practice run, it is a dress rehearsal. This is the only shot we’ve got. Paul had only one life, thus a very narrow focus.


[20-21] “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. [21] For to me to live is Christ.”

Christ was the reason for his very existence. F. B. Meyer said, “Christ is the essence of our life, the model of our life, the aim of our life, the solace of our life, the reward of our life.”

After his conversion, he asked, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” That question shaped the course of the rest of his life. From that moment on, it was no longer about Paul, it was about Christ!

What is life about to you? At this moment, what is the most important thing to you? Money? Material things? Fame? Fortune? Prestige? Popularity? Are you more interested in gold, greed and gain; or are you focused on God!

Although there was a heavenly focus, there was also an:


Paul was not so heavenly minded that he was no earthly good.

[23-24] “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better. [24]Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.”

There is a struggle going on in Paul's heart. There was a place that blessed his heart and a people that burdened his heart. These were both very dear to his heart and his longing for them both, but him in a unique dilemma.

The word "strait" speaks of something that is compressed. It means, "Distressed, hard pressed, to be in a dilemma." It spoke of someone that was in a place where they could neither turn to the right or left.

[22] “But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour.”

What is the fruit of his labor?

[25-26] “I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith. [26]That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.”

Paul had a desire to die, and a desire to live. He desired to die to go to a better place, but he wanted to live to be with a burdened people.

If Paul died, he would look upon Christ. If he lived, he would live for Christ. It didn’t matter to him. But, if he lived, he would live his life not only focused on Christ, but focused upon others.

It was J.H. Jowett who wrote: "To have helped somebody a few steps along the heavenly road, to have infused a little more holy courage into their spirits, to have given a more exuberant swing to their stride; these services abundantly justify a delay in the journey, and will assure for us a more glorious welcome in the Father's House."

Lord, help me live from day to day

In such a self-forgetful way,

That even when I kneel to pray,

My prayer shall be for others.

Let "Self" be crucified and slain,

And buried deep; and all in vain

May efforts be to rise again,

Unless to live for others.

Others, Lord, yes others

Let this my motto be.

Help me to live for others,

That I may live like Thee.

Warren Wiersbe described Paul well, “He is willing to postpone going to heaven in order to help Christians grow, and he is willing to go to hell in order to win the lost to Christ.”

Paul understood the plan and purpose of God for his life. To die, meant he would go to Heaven; to live, meant he would bring Heaven to others.

Let me ask you a question. If God allows you to live another day, what will you seek to accomplish? Will you live it to yourself, or will you life it for Christ? Will you seize it as an opportunity to gratify yourself, or see it as an opportunity to edify another?

Paul understood the plan and purpose of God for his life. If he died, he was ready to leave. If he lived, he was ready to serve. He had a heavenly focus, as well as an earthly focus.

III. The FINISH that LASTED Beyond Him

John Piper writes, "Every moment we live before the face of God and before His face there are no forgotten deeds, no disregarded words, and no inconsequential choices. Each moment is a chance to live utterly to His glory."

Annie Dillard said, "How we live our days....is how we live our lives."

Paul understood that life consisted of fleeting moments, faithful ministry, but also future meaning.


[27] “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ.”

The word “conversation” is the Greek word politeuomai, which yields our English word “politics.” It speaks of behaving as a citizen that belongs to a particular country.

Paul was a man in the land of the dying headed to the land of the living. He lived his life as one who belonged to another country.

The great general and leader, Alexander the Great, once learned that in his army was a man named Alexander, but he was a notorious coward. Alexander the Great, who conquered the world when he was just 23, called the soldier before him and asked, "Is your name Alexander, and is you named for me?"

The young soldier replied, "Yes sir. My name is Alexander and I was named for you." Alexander the Great asked him, "Have you displayed courage or cowardice on the battle field?" The young solider admitted to displaying cowardice. Then, Alexander the Great said, "My son, either change your behavior or change your name!"

Paul behaved like he belonged to another country called Heaven. He was a citizen of 2 countries, but he lived like he only belonged to one country. It has been said that, “Some people are going to hell because of those who claim to be going to Heaven.”


There was a very cautious man

Who never laughed or played.

He never risked, he never tried,

He never sang or prayed.

And when one day he passed away

His insurance was denied.

For since he never really lived.

They claimed he never died

In a few hours, Paul would really die; but, before he really died, HE REALLY LIVED. He leaves behind a legacy that every Christian should seek to imitate. Paul’s legacy speaks for itself.

[21] “For me to live is Christ; and to die is gain.”

Paul, most certainly, with dignity and honor, lived for Christ and lived like Christ. When it came time for him to die, he died with dignity and honor.

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. [8]Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day.” (2 Timothy 4: 7-8)

If anyone fought a good fight, it was Paul. If anyone finished his course, it was Paul. It anyone kept the faith, it was Paul. The resume of his legacy would read like:


Student of the Word

Servant of Christ

Soldier in the army of the Lord

Steward of the mysteries of God.

Jack Graham said, "Too many people are enduring instead of enjoying their lives. Their favorite day of the week is "SOMEDAY." Someday they'll find that perfect relationship; someday they'll experience the blessing and fullness that other people seem to enjoy; someday they'll be happy; someday they'll get that promotion at work, or build that dream home that will give them the fulfillment they want."

Many of you have more years BEHIND you than you do BEFORE you, so how will you be remembered? What impact have you made? How many people will be in Heaven because of you?


What will your legacy be? What will you be remembered for? How do you desire to be remembered? Will your part of the world be different once you’re gone than it was before you came?

I’m sure that no many people, if any, have ever heard the name Bill Wallace. Bill Wallace was born 1908 in Knoxville, Tennessee, the son of a doctor. Initially, he had little interest in medicine, but loved cars and motorcycles.

At the age of 17, while working on a car in the family garage, a nagging question kept haunting him once again, “What will you do with the rest of your life?” Then, the question came, “What would God have you do with the rest of my life?”

With a New Testament in his hand, the decisive decision was made: he would give the rest of his life to be a medical missionary. The date was July 5, 1925. The decision was one from which he never wavered or recanted.

After 10 years of medical training, he arrived at Stout Memorial Hospital in Wuchow, China, where he served for the next 15 years. He dated a young lady, and many thought they would be married. However, later, the young lady said, “Marriage was out of the question. It would have been bigamy; Bill Wallace was already married to Christ and his work.”

On December 19, 1950, Chinese Communists lied their way into the clinic grounds of the hospital. Chinese soldiers ordered Bill Wallace and other workers out of their bedrooms, and led them to the hospital. Immediately they began to accuse Bill Wallace of being an American spy, and even planted a pistol in his room to discredit him in the eyes of the Chinese people.

On February 10, 1951, after months and months of extreme torture and agonizing pain, Bill Wallace was dead to the world, but alive forever with Christ.

There was no funeral service for Bill Wallace. The government officials wouldn’t allow it. A grave was dug, and a nailed shut coffin was lowered into the ground. Later a marker was erected that had but 7 simple words: “FOR TO ME TO LIVE IS CHRIST!”

Although the life of Bill Wallace came to an earthly end, his legacy lives on until this day. In Puchan, Korea there is the Wallace Memorial Hospital. At the University of Tennessee the Baptist Student Union is named for Bill Wallace. There is also the vibrant Wallace Memorial Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee.

At a memorial service in 1985, at Wallace Memorial Baptist Church, Dr. James McCluskey powerfully noted the legacy of Bill Wallace.

‘The remains of Bill Wallace are going to Costa Rica tomorrow in the life of a young lady who returns to continue her missionary service.

The remains of Bill Wallace are in Grenada, West Indies as a couple continues to serve there. They responded to the call of missions as a result of this church named in honor of Bill Wallace.

The remains of Bill Wallace are in Ecuador where a young man is completing his 2nd year as a missionary journeyman.

The remains of Bill Wallace are in the lives of more than 25 people of this church who are already serving, or preparing to serve in church-related vocations.

The remains of Bill Wallace are scattered into the uttermost parts of the earth where they give witness to the Lord Jesus Christ, who Bill thought was worth living, as well as dying for.’” [1]

Adrian Rogers made the statement, “You’re not ready to live, UNTIL YOU’RE READY TO DIE. But, once you’re ready to die, you’re finally ready to live.”

Do you know Jesus as Lord and Savior? If not, then you’re not ready to die. If so, are you living for Him so that when your time comes, you’ll not be ashamed to meet Him?


1) “Five Who Changed the World,” Danny Akin, ppg. 37-55.

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