For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. (Philippians 1:19-23)
Not Ashamed To Die
The apostle Paul was languishing in a Roman prison when he wrote his letter to the saints in Philippi. He was not despondent or downtrodden by his experience, as evidence by the amount of joy and rejoicing sprinkled throughout the book. There was much Paul was thankful for. He had a positive view of his circumstance, a hopeful expectation of the Philippian church, and a powerful understanding of life and death. It was not clear how the imprisonment would turn out for the apostle. Would he suffer death at the hands of the Romans or be released to preach the gospel? The latter became his future but only for a short time. Paul would be arrested again, and the blade of a Roman sword set his soul free to see his Lord face to face. Death was a familiar companion to Paul. He knew of many Christians who suffered death because they served the King of Kings. His place of honorable death would not come with a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
Paul faced death without fear and shame. He knew if he was delivered from prison, there was much work to be done. However, if he suffered death, he knew it would be for the glory of Christ. There would come a day when Paul would be arrested and not delivered from death. Understanding the reality of death was vital to his service as a Christian. Paul could only imagine how much work had to be done to teach people, encourage the saints, establish churches, and further the cause of Christ. But God had not entrusted that work totally to the life of the apostle. As with all men, Paul would die, and others would take up the work. There was a fire burning in Paul that wanted to save lost souls until the coming of the Lord. His time was limited, and it was short. To live was Christ. There was a need to stay and preach. The glory of God would be magnified in the body of Paul. That was not the plan of God. Death will come to everyone regardless of how busy they are in the kingdom of God. Paul’s time was complete, and he joined the hosts of heavenly redeemed.
The way a person views life and death will measure how they face the trials of life. There is a misguided view living is “better than the alternative.” Many things hold the heart captive in this life. Family, friends, magnificent earth, the desire to see life blossom, and the joy of this mortal world. Death is feared with great anxiety. It is viewed with dread and doom. This should not be the case for the Christian. The world is filled with suffering, sadness, pain, misery, and hopelessness. Nothing in this world can be compared to what waits for the child of God. For the person who is not redeemed, there is much to fear. Sadly, Satan has put this same fear in God’s children. If a person is a child of God, there is nothing to fear about dying. Paul looked at death with both eyes and said he would be glad to die. Death was a “gain” for the apostle. Great faith comes from understanding the value of death. The reality of death is inevitable and why people try to deny death is remarkable. It will happen to everyone. The difference is how a person views death.
Paul suffered death by a Roman sword, but the cruelty of the moment was the blessing death afforded the weary apostle. Did Paul remember the faith of Stephen as he was dying at the hands of the mob Paul was a part of? Were the words of Stephen filling the mind of Paul as he himself said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit and do not charge them with this sin?” Christians have faced death from persecution, famine, sword, disease, pestilence, and tragedy for two thousand years. Is there no joy in the death of God’s saints? A man faces death with courage from a cancer that has ravaged his body because he knows the love of God. He will miss his wife and children, but they know how much he loves God. Sorrow experienced in death is but for a short time. There are many unanswered questions about why people die. Even in the COVID world of a virus that has taken so many of God’s people, questions are asked about why. The answer remains the same for the child of God. To live is Christ and to die is gain. Paul was not ashamed to die. He knew its ultimate blessing. There is heartbreak in the loss of our dear brethren, but oh, the joy they experience in death when angels carry them to the bosom of Abraham. Are you hard-pressed between the two – having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better? Find the peace of God in knowing the death is but a “sleep.” And then we awake. Praise God.