We tend to avoid talking about death and old age because we don’t want to be seen as morbid. There’s some good to this, but it can make it harder for us to address these inevitable occurrences head on. The Apostle Paul offers us a different model in his letter to the church at Philippi.
Paul lived with hope.
Paul was clearly not feeling morbid when he wrote that he lived in “earnest expectation and hope” that he would “not be put to shame in anything.” (Philippians 1:20) Paul meant two things by this:
- He meant that he was sure that the faith he held would not be proven to be false. He was sure that he would not be put to shame by his commitment to Christ.
- Paul also believed that the Spirit of Jesus Christ would be with him in such a way that he would not die in a way that would bring shame to his Lord. He would not recant, he would not relent, and he would not back down.
“Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Philippians 1:20)
Notice the phrase “as always.” Paul was confident that Christ would be exalted in his body at all times—not just while he was a healthy young man traveling boldly around the Greco-Roman world. Notice also that Paul deliberately used the word body. He was talking about this present physical state.
Paul understood the purpose of his life.
Paul knew that his entire life had been a journey. He wrote in Philippians 3:13, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet.” In other words, “I haven’t yet arrived.” Paul spent his last days continuing to press on toward growth, toward Christ’s likeness.
Life is indeed a journey, and it’s a journey that should not be defined by circumstances. Your life should not be interpreted or understood based upon your title, or what good or bad things have happened to you. Paul wrote from prison in Philippians 1:12, “Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel.” He didn’t want to be in prison; he had defended himself repeatedly. But Paul understood that his life was to be lived out under the lordship of Jesus Christ. He understood that, whether by living or by dying, the purpose of his life was to honor Christ. May we all come to understand that same truth as we grow and mature.