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 labour 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. Philippians 1:20-24 (NIV)
When people are tested to the limits of their endurance, their true colours shine through. Our masks drop when we face life-threatening danger. In such times, we pay attention to the most important matters in our lives. Paul is under house arrest in Rome. He was charged for bringing unrest to Judea, by proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord. He faced the death penalty, the Romans dealt extremely harshly with any signs of dissent to protect the integrity of their empire. They made public examples of any troublemakers, disturbing their peace. In these circumstances, Paul declares what is the most important part of his life. When he says he desires to do nothing that would bring shame, he expresses the commitment not to deny Christ in any way. It would have been the easy way out. He was a born Roman citizen, he could just have declared that Caesar was Lord, and all would be well. That was no option for Paul. He would rather have died for Christ than dishonour him. He wished to exalt Christ through his life, even if it would mean death or bodily harm. His mission in life was to proclaim Christ to all, he would not be silenced. His love for Christ had brought him to that point, where he clearly stated that the deepest meaning in his life was Christ alone. It was his desire to live for him, or to die for him.
When we build our lives on the love of Christ, we are building for eternity. It takes the fear of death away, and gives us purpose in life. That is why Paul wishes to remain alive a little bit longer, to do just a little bit more to build Christ’s church. He says in verse 24, death holds no fear, it would bring him to Christ, and that would be better by far. I admire and learn this from Paul today: the desire to honour Christ with our lives, and use every opportunity to further his kingdom. And when it is time, to honour him by death, and to be with him for all eternity. That is a life with purpose!
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for your grace in Paul’s life. Thank you that his suffering and martyrdom had shown us how precious your grace is in our lives. I want to declare today that you are the foundation of my life, my purpose for breathing every day. I want to honour you with all that I have, think and do. To live is Christ, to die for you is gain. Help me to remember that! Amen