But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose.Philippians 1:22(NASB)
It was in the city of Philippi that Paul told the jailer at midnight: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved," and Paul had the joy of seeing this man and all his family place their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. What a joyful memory this must have been for Paul as he wrote his letter to the Philippian Christians, some ten years after that jailor's glorious conversion.
But as Paul wrote his epistle, we discover that he was once again confined to a Roman jail where he knew that his very life hung in the balance. Suffering for Christ was nothing unusual for this apostle to the Gentiles who had come to learn that our present troubles, our momentary afflictions, and our short-lived sufferings are achieving for us an eternal weight of glory, which far outweighs any trials or tribulations we may have to face on earth.
Paul was not fearful of the future, whether he lived or died. He knew that should his life be spared, he would have the joy of living for Christ on earth. And should he be called upon to die, he would have the joy of being with the Lord forever: "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain," was his joyful conclusion.
What a great testimony to all believers down through the centuries who have read the epistle to the Philippians. And what a great encouragement it is for us today in these increasingly difficult and dangerous times, where world-wide persecution is escalating out of all proportion, and many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being slaughtered for their faith.
The sting of death had been removed for Paul. His steadfast trust in his Saviour was unshakable for he knew life held the joy of fruitful labour for Christ (where the gospel would be preached, souls would be won, and heavenly rewards would be secured). And death presented an even more joyful alternative whereby he would transfer directly into the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ: "If I am to live on in the flesh," he declared, "this will mean fruitful labour for me, and I do not know which to choose."
Praise God that like Paul our times are in God's hands, and no matter what present sufferings, momentary afflictions, difficult troubles, or harrowing persecutions we may be called upon to face, they are achieving for us an eternal weight of glory which far outweighs any trials or tribulations we may be called upon to face in this earthly realm.
Our citizenship is in heaven and whether we live a fruitful life or die a martyrs death, may we do all to the glory of God the Father.
Heavenly Father, as I look at the apostle Paul, I can see Your guiding hand in every situation of his life and every situation of my life. I pray that I may live a fruitful life that brings forth much spiritual fruit for Your praise and glory. Whether I live or die, I thank You, Father, that my life is in Your hands and that Your grace is sufficient. Thank You that my light afflictions, which are but for a moment, are working in me an absolutely incomparable, eternal weight of glory. Praise Your holy name forever and ever, AMEN.