I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Apostle Paul expected and hoped that he will not be “ashamed” in the above scriptures. But in Romans 1:16, he said “For I am not ashamed of the gospel.” So Paul must be concerned of being ashamed of something else other than the gospel, maybe he was concerned with the fact that he was in chains. In the early church some might be ashamed of the gospel because the cross was an execution tool for criminals. It would mean that they could have doubted the true meaning of Jesus’ crucifixion or the reality of his resurrection. Today the cross has become a fashion statement so it is no longer a stigma, yet in the mind of many, there is doubt concerning the reality of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. They are ashamed of identifying with such “myth.” Or some may be ashamed of the apparent weak position they are in, like Paul, that in the eye of the world casts a negative testimony to the power of God. Just like the thief who chided Jesus, “if you are Christ, save yourself and save us,” or, “Paul, if the God you believe is true, then why are you in chains?” Of course God is able to deliver us from any circumstance, but our faith and allegiance in Him should not be hinged on that, for our God is sovereign and His thoughts and ways are higher than ours. He will cause everything to work together for the good of those who love Him. We should be like Daniel’s three young friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who refused to worship the image Nebuchadnezzar made, saying, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Dan 3:16-18) This is faith in the love and righteousness of God. God is love, so He has our best in His mind. He is righteous, so everything he does is right.
Then Paul prayed for sufficient courage. It means even Paul, the great apostle of great faith, felt his courage was sometimes insufficient to continue to exalt Christ in his life or death situation. If courage is a burst of passion and energy for a brilliant moment of supreme dedication, it would be easier for Paul. But he was in chains, day in and day out contemplating his imminent death. This would require a steady sort of courage with perseverance in living out Christ in the daily grind of little things. If I were imprisoned with pending execution like Paul, would I still be courteous to the palace guards to testify for the gospel? (Php 1:12-13) I would either be too focused on my fate and scared stiff or I would be irritated with hatred toward the guards. I know this because even in slightly adverse circumstances I could become incapable to love and I turn my friends into enemies in my mind with my impatience and insecurity. Like Paul, I need sufficient courage to exalt Christ in my body in any circumstances. I pray that my living may be like Christ living in me, expelling all fear of losing myself because by losing myself I will gain myself.
May we receive sufficient grace from God for sufficient courage to exalt Christ in any circumstance.
Tom and Tehwan Tso
“The outcome of your faith is the salvation of your souls.” 1Peter 1:9
信心的果效， 就是灵魂的救恩” 彼得前书1：9