Paul’s incarceration in a Roman prison greatly assisted in the spreading of the gospel to many people in Rome, including the praetorian guard. His courage in the face of danger spurred other believers to follow in his footsteps and preach Christ crucified. He was not intimidated by threats, nor was he fearful of what man, or Caesar, could do to him. Paul’s intrepid attitude encouraged other believers to share the good news of Christ’s sacrificial death and glorious Resurrection fearlessly, with boldness, and with courage.
Paul rejoiced that the gospel was continuing to be spread abroad. Whether it was being taught by these beloved saints who dearly loved this chosen apostle to the Gentiles, or those that disliked him intensely and preached Christ out of jealous envy and bitter strife, Paul was glad that the gospel was being proclaimed far and wide to increasingly large numbers.
Many of his epistles were written while in prison, and centuries of saints have spiritually benefitted from the letters he penned while being detained for spreading the good news of Christ. I am sure a prison cell would not have been Paul’s preferred place to write holy Scripture and in this passage, we catch a fleeting glimpse of his heart-yearnings when he wrote: “I have the desire to depart and be with Christ, yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.”
Paul’s aching heart of evangelism knew his ministry to the Christian Churches was the essential ministry to which Christ had called him and for which the Lord had equipped him, and yet he yearned to be with His Saviour. He longed to go and be with Jesus, Whom he loved so dearly.
Paul was unsure whether he would eventually be released or have to face immediate martyrdom for his faith, and perhaps the words he wrote in this passage also ministered to his own soul, during those long dark days in Rome. The longing of his heart was that Christ would be glorified in his body and through the testimony of his life.
Physical release would enable him to continue his earthly witness to his dearly loved brothers and sisters in Christ. The longer he lived in this mortal coil, the greater would be his opportunities to proclaim Jesus Christ and Him crucified, buried, risen, ascended, and seated on the right hand of the Majesty of High.
The fields were white with harvest and as long as he had life in his body, Paul knew he could proclaim the good news of the gospel of grace to those who were dead in sin and preach the Word of truth to babes in Christ and mature men of God, and so we read his thoughts: “I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better.” YET, he admitted: “To remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.”
Paul was in a dilemma between the two choices. On the one hand, he desired to depart from this life and be with Christ in heaven, which he knew would be so much better. And yet he admits: “But to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you.”
Although he used different words, Paul said in this verse – THY will, Lord Jesus, not my will be done – for Your sake and for the sake of those for whom You died. Paul demonstrated a selfless attitude that honoured his Lord when he placed the well-being and needs of his friends above the desires of his own heart.
Heavenly Father, how I praise and thank You for the teachings of Paul that give me so much encouragement and comfort. Thank You for his example of a man who cared for the spiritual well-being of others before his own desires. Thank You for all the saints who have been instrumental in telling me about Jesus, encouraging me in my spiritual growth, and placing my needs above their own. I pray that I may show the same grace to my brothers and sisters in Christ. In all things may I joyfully say, “Thy will, Lord Jesus, not mine be done, for Your glory and the well-being of others.” This I ask in Jesus’ name, AMEN.