by the Rev. Andrew Kuyvenhoven
Philippians is Paul's love letter. The epistle is also a good instrument for learning the secret of this great man. Paul considered living Christ and dying gain. And, although he wrote from a prison cell, his refrain was "Rejoice in the Lord always."
I am tom between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ ... but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body (Phil. 1:23–24).
Sitting in prison, one hand probably chained to a soldier while writing with the other, Paul hovers between life and death. Just as Hamlet discussed his choice ("to be or not to be, that is the question...") so Paul is weighing existence—but on a different scale. Here's how he weighs death and life (says R. P. Martin in his Commentary on Philippians):
"Life," he said, "is Christ" (v. 21a).
"Death is therefore gain" (v. 21b).
"To go on living means more fruitful work" (v. 22).
"My desire is to depart and be with Christ" (v. 23).
"It's more necessary that I go on living" (v. 24).
Paul was unsure of the outcome of his imprisonment. It might be death, it might be acquittal. And since he didn't know which to choose, he didn't know what to ask for. Apparently, though, he did know what he "desired." He was most attracted by the prospect of "departure."
In most crises we are inclined to pray according to our natural desires. We pray for life, health, happiness, and the continuation of these. Or, when we are too weary to go on, we pray for departure.
But there is a bigger interest to be served. Our usefulness to God in helping others is more important than our personal desires. Perhaps the best prayer is this: "Glorify your name in my living or dying."
And God's glory is best served by the progress of the gospel.
Andrew Kuyvenhoven's Daylight, a modern devotional classic, was originally published in 1994. This edition is copyright by Faith Alive Christian Resources, from whom may be ordered Daylight, the predecessor of Twilight.
A man of many accomplishments, Andrew Kuyvenhoven is probably best known for his contributions to Today (formerly The Family Altar), a widely-used monthly devotional booklet associated with the Back to God Hour. Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations for this edition of Twilight are from the New International Version