For to me, to live is Christ to die is gainThis is one of those phrases from Paul that every time I think I really understand what he means I realise that maybe I'm not that sure. In it's context it seems pretty straightforward.
Paul is trying to help his readers understand that being in prison is not the end of the game. There is still much to be done and life must be lived in the context of the kingdom and the power of God to do amazing things, even to the point of Paul being released and back on the missionary trail.
But Paul also knows that this is probably not going to be the outcome, although he refuses to give in to defeat and wind down his efforts and his hopes.
In Acts 20:24 he made this statement: I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me. So his desire to depart and be with with the Lord, is not out of weariness over his life, but somehow linked to his desire to finish well. It's as if he's saying, "If it's time, if I've done all that Jesus wanted me to do , then I'm ready. But if it's not, if there is more that he wants me to do, then living is what I'll do because it makes no difference. Dying means I'll be with Jesus, living means I am with Jesus."
The point is this: Paul doesn't speak this way because he simply wants to escape, he speaks about dying and living in the context of serving the purposes of God. He sees both sides. Yes he's suffered, yes he is probably in pain from all the beatings, yes he's probably wearied by the pressure and the injustice of it all. But Paul wants more than anything to serve God. His greatest desire, as we've seen, is that Christ is exalted. Do we share that desire?