For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.
What would you do if a dear elderly aunt called to tell you she had decided to name you as the sole beneficiary in her will? While you certainly would want her to live as long as possible, you would also realize that many of your worries will melt away. The thought of an upcoming inheritance would raise your confidence and sustain your spirits through any financial struggles you might have. It would free you to be less fearful about having enough money. It might also make you more generous in sharing what you have with other people.
Now think of Paul’s situation as he is writing this letter(Philippians 1:21). He is bound in chains and awaiting trial before the Roman emperor. Life in prison must have been brutal—he would not have had adequate food, and his captors could well have treated him harshly. Add to that the news that the church in Philippi was fighting dissension from within. Even worse, some missionaries were preaching a false gospel that threatened to undo all of his hard work. Given the weight of all of this, Paul surely had his fair share of low moments!
So much seemed to be falling apart that you might expect Paul’s letters to reflect nothing but frustration, anxiety, or despair. And yet Philippians is considered to be one of his most joy-filled, friendly letters! None of his sufferings robbed him completely of his confidence in the promise of the resurrection. None of them kept him from writing letters that continued to teach, encourage, and lift his readers’ eyes to heaven.
We all have physical, mental, or spiritual challenges to deal with. But we don’t have to live in a prison of fear or despair when they happen. Like Paul, we can hold fast to our inheritance and press on with courage. We can try to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and remember that his cross has won us the gift of eternal life. It won’t always be easy, but the more we look forward to life with God forever, the less we will fear the difficulties we face today.
Word Among Us