Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 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, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
Have you ever wanted to see what real faith looks like? Read this passage!
As he waits for his trial, knowing fully that the likely verdict will be death, he believes that his situation will result in his deliverance; either way. He believes that even should he die, that he will not be “ashamed” and that he will have the courage to exalt Christ in his body. You can see the connection he makes between “ashamed” on the one hand and “courage” on the other. If he is sentenced to die, he will walk to the execution with his head held high as one who is looking forward to being with Christ.
Then comes that famous verse, verse 21: For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Just look at what troubles him; he is having a hard time deciding which is better; life or death. If he lives on in the body, he will have much work to do for the cause of Christ, but he is to die in the body, he will be with Christ. What a choice! He would rather be with Christ and away from this life, and yet he seems to think that maybe it would be better for everyone else if he remains alive a while longer so that he may continue to mentor them in the faith.
Let’s think about this, pray about this and reflect. This was no hypothetical question for Paul; it was very real. What was his primary concern? It was to continue the glorious work of Christ here on earth so that many would come to salvation. Paul was 100% motivated by God’s purpose. How does this strike you?
How does this strike me? To be honest about it, it’s a little embarrassing. How often do I think I need a “break”? How often do I hesitate because I don’t want to tick anybody off, or because I don’t want to look foolish…? Could I look death square in the eye and not blink?
I’ll get back to you on that.
Yes, dear reader, this passage is one for deep reflection and self-examination. Here’s the question to ask:
Is God speaking to me in this text?