Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
I’m delighted to announce that my wife’s father and two brothers made it home from Peru last night! Praise be to God.
It’s really wonderful to have things to be grateful for right now. I wonder if you’ve noticed yourselves being more grateful in the middle of all of this. It’s really fascinating how such hardship can produce gratefulness, isn’t it? But it makes sense.
It makes sense because it is during trials and hardships that we think afresh about our lives. Challenges like these often cause us to make a fresh evaluation of all that we have, shuffling their orders according to our true priorities. In other words, a crisis makes us remember what’s most important to us. Suddenly, we’re grateful for our family like we haven’t been in a while. Or we’re grateful for our home or our community. And so on.
But for followers of Jesus, gratefulness and hope push past even these things.
You may remember that Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians from prison. He very well could have died in that prison, been executed (many think that he was crucified after his second imprisonment, in fact). And yet, he says, “…whether by life or by death.” Paul was going to rejoice whether he lived or died. How is that possible?
It’s possible because of what it was that made him rejoice. His rejoicing came from the confidence of knowing that the gospel would go forward, that Christ would be honored in his own body—whether he lived or died. He had submitted his life’s purpose to Christ’s honor, to God’s glory, and he was sure that Christ, who had already defeated death, would not fail in his mission to remake the world. And Paul knew that whatever his fate in this life, his soul was secure for the life to come.
Paul’s sense of his place with Christ was so certain that he could even say, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” To live would mean to glory to Christ for his deliverance from the perils of this world—prison and death. But should he die, he knew his soul rested secure with his Lord, and he knew it would mean his work here was done, that he could finally rest.
Followers of Jesus have access to this kind of gratefulness, a gratefulness that transcends even death. In fact, if you are a follower of Jesus, you may lay claim to these same things. It does not mean that we don’t weep when bad things happen. Only that we are not destroyed by them because we have the confidence that if we live, Christ will be glorified; if we die, we go to be with Christ. Thus, we can be grateful no matter what the outcome.
But it is a hard-won gratefulness. It’s not something you simply get like a package in the mail. Instead, it’s something that takes time and effort, patience and much prayer. Even Paul said that he had to learn to be content in all circumstances (Philippians 4:11-13).
I am certainly not where Paul was. I have not experienced his hardships, and I do not have his wisdom or spirit. But I will say that this crisis has brought me another step closer to having and holding a grateful spirit. I can see a little bit more clearly how God is good, and I look eagerly for how the gospel will advance in this time.
Don’t waste this opportunity to draw nearer to Christ. Don’t simply pass the time, waiting for things to “go back to normal.” Don’t miss the opportunity that God has given you to learn what it means to be content, to be grateful. Ask God to show you how. He is with you.
Father, have mercy on us, for we are weak. Remember that we are made of the dust of the earth. Teach us, patiently, to walk by the Spirit and not according to the flesh. Teach us to be grateful.