“19 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. 20 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. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 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! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 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, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
These verses always wreck me. Paul has eager expectation and hope for deliverance. Hope fueled by prayers and the Spirit that he will be delivered. He won't die, he will be set free!
And yet we know that's not what happened. Church tradition states he was beheaded in Rome.
Even in his hope though, he acknowledges that “by life or death” Christ should be glorified. He states that death would be a gain, he has nothing to loose, and everything to gain. In fact, Paul even says that he prefers death! He is not suicidial or insane, but he is certain that if he dies he will be with Christ. And what a sweet reunion that will be. On the other hand he knows that if he lives, that would enable him to continue ministering and Christ would be honored and glorified.
The bottom line is that Paul cares so much more for Christ's glory that he does for his own comfort. Jesus is so dear to him that death seems like a welcome event because it would mean time in His presence. Is Jesus that dear to us? Is He more dear than life itself? If we find ourselves saying no-which if I'm being honest my life doesn't always testify to His dearness to me- let's not be discouraged. But let's press in to Him.
Ask Christ to grow our affections for Him. Ask Him to help us let go of the tight grip we we have on things or people who are taking His place in our hearts.
Be encouraged that like Paul said, no matter what comes in our life, we have nothing to loose. We have gained it all in Christ Jesus!