“For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:19-24

Heavy trials take a heavy toll on our body. Having a sanctified soul is not a sure-fire preventative for difficulties. In fact, heavy trials are often most acutely felt by those who are spiritually aware. Where an unbeliever is tempted to mentally “check-out” in a trial, the believer draws strength and fortitude to face his trial head-on because he does not face his trial alone. In the believer’s case, spiritual knowledge makes you well prepared to discover the hidden things in heavy trial. Whether spiritual warfare, as in Paul’s case, or physical aging, disease, or burdens, the enemy is on a campaign to reduce your effectiveness for Christ.

There is no doubt that all your troubles have some connection with sin. You may discern a direct connection between your trials and sinful thoughts, behaviors, or actions. You can certainly discern an indirect connection between sin and your troubles simply because you live in a fallen world. There is not a human alive who does not feel the consequences of sin. The believer knows that sin exists, knows that mankind is fallen, knows the world and our body labor under a curse, and knows that there is only one Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. The task of the believer is not to so much to “avoid” trials, it is to embrace the trials that come in partnership with the Lord.

Paul has some thoughts on trials that are worthy of your consideration. His trial was that his ministry had brought him the consequence of being imprisoned for Christ. His universal apostolic work had been confined to one location. But his heart continued to reach out by way of his “Prison Epistles.” Being in prison, in his day especially, was no picnic. His life was hard and his mind did not stop yearning to take the Gospel further afield.

Despite his straightened circumstances, the Gospel had been effective (verse 12), he had made spiritual inroads among the palace guard (13), and despite his persecution believers had become emboldened in their witness (14). He truly lived his words of comfort found in Romans 8:28: “all things work together for good to them that love God and are the called according to His purpose.”

All this good, however, was not a “coping mechanism” by only seeing good and ignoring the struggle. There were things that weighed heavily upon him and he was not able to adequately address the issues due to his chains. His was a heavy burden of being an authentic apostle with authentic authority in the early days of the Church. Yet, he could not effectively voice his wisdom and set things right on the outside because of his confinement.

He marked the sinful motives of those taking advantage of his incarceration. He knew some were preaching out of envy, strife, selfish ambition, insincerely, and some with a hidden purpose of adding to his tribulations in his already difficult situation (verses 15f). To be sure, there were others who preached boldly out of good motives. Paul looks at the bigger picture, and through God’s eyes (verse 17f). His only real source of joy is that God can turn our disadvantage into His advantage.

In verse 19 he states, “For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” Deliverance is a word with so many marvelous meanings. There is deliverance in salvation that is spiritual – being soul-saved. Deliverance also has healing overtones, self-preservation, and promises personal well-being. In short, deliverance means rescue. Paul says he “knows.” His is a supreme confidence in God’s mercy, and therefore, his confidence is forward thinking—way out to the end. He owns the idea that all of this difficulty will eventually lead to his rescue. It was all about corporate prayer and the bountiful supply of the Holy Spirit. Now there is a partnership worth having! Paul’s confidence is because of his vital spiritual union with Christ.

His well-founded (funded by the saints and the Spirit) hope eventuates in his unreserved waiting upon God. Verse 20, “according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed (put to shame), but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.” It is this verse which begins to connect with many Christians today, whose chains are not forged out of iron, but out of infirmity.

Earnest expectation is from a compound Greek word made up of “away the head” plus “to watch” With an outstretched neck he maintains his upward look to the Father rather than a downcast look to his restrictions. With his characteristic boldness (complete outspokenness) he is motivated to make Christ more conspicuous (magnified, let loose, set free) even because of his physical limitations – whether by life or death. His union with Christ is vital and his submission to Christ is monumental.

“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain!” There is triumph in every word. He is going on record to declare that every day he spends on this earth “the living is Christ; to have died is increase.” There is not the slightest thought of life apart from Christ. His is godly courage in union with Christ, backed by prayer and by the Holy Spirit. Such is the hope in heavy trial to which you have access so that Christ may be magnified in your body. Trust and obey.