12 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; 14 and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. 15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.

19 For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 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. 21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. 25 And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, 26 that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.

Paul was just a man, right? Sometimes I read his perspective [eternal], and I just walk away completely ashamed and convicted. The thesis of Paul’s life was to live for Christ, which means to live for the other; his circumstances were always filtered through how the Gospel was going to advance. It didn’t matter to him whether he was in prison [the setting for this epistle], stoned [in the first century sense], shipwrecked, beaten with the rod, lashed, etc.; his driving concern was that the name of Jesus Christ was proclaimed, that the Gospel went forward.

The amazing thing to me is that Paul could write stuff like this (in the excerpt from above) in the face of being in prison; or even in the face of death. He was so concerned and consumed about making Jesus known that death was not a concern for him; in fact he saw death as a welcomed thing, an instance where he gets to be with Jesus forevermore. But his burden was that the people in the church knew who the living Christ was, and for that he was ready to stay, ready to continue the fight for Jesus Christ. What does it mean to say: For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain? I know what Paul is saying, and it’s easy to hear him say it (I say: “Amen, Paul”); but when faced with my own immortality (potentially), it is harder to say — especially for me to say: “to live is Christ.” I don’t think we can honestly say “to live is Christ,” until we can honestly say “to die is gain.”

I am not saying that I don’t think Paul feared the process of dying (although he didn’t seem to), but instead that he was so consumed with living in Christ; that dying in Christ was really only its obverse — in other words, his life was so shaped by both sides of this coin, that to die physically was to only transition from one locale to the best locale; wherein he would continue on in the pattern he was already living (even on earth) . . . only in a glorified way.

 One of the things I think the Lord is trying to teach me (in particular) is that I need to take on Paul’s attitude. That until I can say “to die is gain” (honestly), that to say “to live is Christ” is somewhat hollow. Really all I’m saying, is that I think the Lord is pressing me further into the “eternal perspective;” challenging me to live in a way that really is abandoned to Him. Challenging me to let go of all the creaturely comforts that this earth has to offer; which means that He is challenging me to find my stability completely  in Him (and in nothing or no one else). To recognize that this world has nothing to offer; and that the only thing that is lasting is Him, and thus the only thing that is lasting on this earth are people in Him — which means that proclaiming Christ is paramount, and nothing this world has to offer should hinder that.

Just some reflections . . .