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, to die is gain. (Philippians 1:20–21—NKJV)

There are four tools that every little boy cherishes in his childhood: a match, a string, a pocket knife, and a magnifying glass. Everything else is nice and good for a few hours of fun, but the world opens up to you if you have one or more of the four.

Among the four, a magnifying glass is a thing of wonder. To be able to bend light waves such that an object can be brought in and out of focus is quite magical to young boys. The pudgy piece of glass is also quite versatile in that you can scare people with a distorted view of your eyeball, see that “no-see-um” splinter in order to remove it, and start fires by focusing the sun’s rays on an object.

Even to us “mature” boys, the magnifying powers of glass is a thing of wonder. The glass in binoculars and telescopes with all their multi-coatings, fine polishing and focal mathematics are filled with possibilities in the quest for clear and undistorted seeing of both earthbound and heavenly objects. In these instruments light is collected by the large objective lens, and directed toward the eyepiece which is used to focus the collected light into a fine beam, optimally sized to produce the brightest view of an object in perfect focus to the eye of the observer.

Certain things help promote a clearer, brighter image. The instrument needs to be aimed directly at the thing to be observed. Clean and unscratched lenses help prevent blocked and scattered light, which then becomes lost to the observer. Things need to be correctly aligned internally, with no obstructions, for the view to make sense. Finally, the larger the objective lens is, the greater the amount of light that is available to be focused through the eyepiece, and so the greater the detail that is available to the observer.

Paul’s teachings in our verse are ably served with an understanding of optics. He uses the word megaluno which has been translated “magnify.” The word means to make large or long, to exalt, glorify, esteem, praise, and extol. His fondest desire was to deport himself in such a way that he would be like a focused instrument pointed at Christ, transmitting a clear and undistorted image of the perfect glory of the Lord. Psalm 69:30, 32 echoes the same sentiment, “I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving…the humble shall see this and be glad.”

As Paul wrote these words, he was in prison for the testimony of Jesus Christ. Even while he was in desperate circumstances, having his freedom of movement restricted and not knowing whether he would be allowed to live or caused to die, he asked that the Philippian church pray so that, rather than the name and fame of Jesus Christ being diminished because of his situation, Jesus’ name and fame would be magnified. His “earnest expectation” (literally: turn the head away to the focus, watching with the neck outstretched) and “hope” was that he would deport himself impeccably. He knows he is just the instrument (like the binoculars or telescope) designed to bring God’s majesty into full view. He desired to focus fully on the Lord’s glory with all “boldness” (freedom of speech—fearless, bold testimony in both lip and life) so that whether by life or death the Lord may be magnified to all who will see.

He desired that Jesus Christ would be brought into such focus in his life that, as the unregenerate observed him, they would not fail to see the Lord magnified in him, and that they would tremble at such a clear view of the awesomeness of their Judge. He also desired that believers would see the magnification of his Lord in and through him so that they would be prompted to praise and revere God all the more. “For to me, to live is Christ, to die is gain,” Paul declared.

Do you conduct yourself in such a way that all who are around you get a magnified, captivating, clear, undistorted, uninterrupted, awe-inspiring view of God? Is He in focus in your life so that others may know Him? Trust and obey.