Chapter 1:19-26 (ESV) - Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored 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 live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
Question to consider: From what was Paul praying for deliverance?
Jesus once said to the disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:23-26)
It would seem Paul had these verses in mind when he wrote today’s passage. After all, Luke was with him, and Paul wrote this letter during the time described in the last two verses of Acts. It stands to reason that Luke penned his epic to Theophilus (the gospel of Luke and Acts) during this time as well considering how much time they spent confined to a room, and I’m sure Luke and Paul had many conversations about the ministry of Jesus and what Luke had gleaned from his discussions with Mary and Peter.
Paul asked for the Philippians to pray for him, not that he be set free from prison, but that he would continue to honor Christ and proclaim the gospel with boldness so he would not stand before Jesus in shame at His return. Whether Paul was delivered from prison by being found innocent at his trial or delivered through death, he would rejoice. To him, it was a win-win situation. Either he was found innocent and could continue the work of the gospel among the churches, or he would die and be with Christ. His preference, of course, was to be with Christ.
Paul did not write this because he was suicidal or depressed. He knew that there was still work to be done and wanted to stick around to help serve the other churches as long as the Lord would have him do it, but Paul’s focus was on eternity. He was not concerned about making a comfortable life for himself here on earth. In fact, in the coming chapters we will learn exactly what he thought of his previous path to earthly glory.
Dear heavenly father, thank You for all of the good things You have given us and the people You have placed in our lives while we await to be reunited with Christ. Help us to live with eternity in mind, keeping our eyes on Christ rather than on earthly glory. Amen.