Philippians 1:20 20as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be ashamed in anything but with full courage as always also now Christ will be glorified in my body, whether through life or through death. 21For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Prayer and the Holy Spirit had brought Paul to the point of eager expectation and hope. These two qualities go together and are almost synonymous in sense. Hope is a form of positive expectation that something good will happen in the future. The Holy Spirit brings hope to believers (Romans 15:13) by instilling within us a deep sense of love and expectation that God’s promises in Christ are true. Hope is the counter-agent to shame (Romans 5:5). Shame comes when we put our values in people’s opinions. Hope comes when are confidence, self-worth, and identity are in Christ’s victory.
For Paul, this expectation gave him courage to stand strong no matter what the future held for him. If he was to released and given more time to preach the gospel, all the better. His life was bound up and dedicated fully to Christ. For him to live is Christ meant his life was not his own anymore. His own will and desires were now conformed to the will and desires of Christ. Anything he did or experienced in the body was fully given over to Christ. It was no longer the old, selfish Paul struggling to be righteous by obedience to the law. This was a new Paul that had been laid on the altar of transformation and sanctification (Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 2:20). The presence of the Spirit of Christ (verse 19) gave Paul courage as always also now. This additional time indicator in verse 20 is a hint of his faith. He had learned the power of faith through many hard trials and even as he was chained in prison with an uncertain future.
His confidence is also seen in his assurance of what would come after his death. If he was never released and faced the inevitable execution, then his hope was sure that he would gain from this life. The word gain (kerdos) means the earnings or profit one receives from labor or investment. Paul had given his life to Christ, yet the human life of flesh still kept him from 100% bonding with Christ. Death would bring full transformation. As he wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” Paul’s gain would be to be fully in the presence of Christ his Lord. He would experience fully the love of God which he was experiencing in increasing measure in this lifetime.
The bottom line for Paul was faith that gave hope in an uncertain future. Although most of those who read this will not face the possibility of imminent death like Paul, death will come knocking at some point. This point may be sooner than we anticipate. As we deal with the pressures, struggles, and uncertainties of life, we can seek the fullness of the Spirit who can give us a deep sense of hope. This hope can grow and sustain us through our own journeys. The strongest faith we can have is to join Paul in verse 21: to live is Christ and to die is gain. We can only come to that point when our lives have been totally given over to Christ. We cannot hold back any of ourselves. This release of life is the only way to find life.
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