“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.” (Philippians 1:19–21, ESV)
Paul found himself in prison. But he believed he would be delivered. But things were uncertain. There were no guarantees. From where he sat, he could spend the rest of his life in the prison or even face execution.
But he knows that the Philippians are praying for him. And he is confident that their prayers will result in his deliverance from prison. Indeed, prayer is powerful. It is not the least we can do. It is the most we can do! Prayer will move obstacles and strongholds in life that were previously unmovable. Where there may seem to be no way out, prayer will open doors of opportunity.
A big part of the equation is Paul’s expectation. He saw the prayers of the Philippians as more than a nice thing. He saw their prayers as a powerful weapons against the schemes of the Devil. He knew that the sincere prayers of the Philippians would move the hand of God.
Yet, sometimes we pray earnestly but fail to see the deliverance happen. I have prayed with people believing and expecting that God would heal the cancer. But the healing never seemed to come and the person died. And we were left to wonder if God somehow let us down.
But when it comes to a believer, we know that they are healed. We prayed for healing and that was exactly what they got when they died. They are now with Jesus and there is no more cancer. They left the cancer behind on earth. And now in the presence of God, the cancer is removed. The prayers turned out for deliverance. It just was not in the way we expected.
So Paul is believing God for deliverance from the prison. He believes he will walk out a free man. He knows that there is still work for him to do on earth. His labor is not finished. God has more in store for him. He expects to see the sun again.
At the same time, he acknowledges that it might not happen. He could die in prison. But that does not matter. He says to live is Christ. In other words, he is living his life for Christ. That is what matters. He laid down his life for the sake of the gospel years before. And there is nothing he could lose. If he were to die, he says it would be gain. He knows that his death would mean that he would be unshackled from more than just the chains of the prison. He knew that he would be freed from all the suffering of this world as he dwells in the perfect presence of Christ.