And Philippians 1:19-21 talks about that – about the very real and imminent possibility of his death. We can listen in on Paul’s thoughts on the whole affair because they are written down for us in the inspired text of this book. We can see his reasoning laid out before us. And the final conclusion he makes is this: whether he lives or dies, it doesn’t matter, because, as he says in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Every believer should be able to say that very same thing. As long as I live, I’m going to serve Christ. And when I die, Hallelujah, I’ll see my Beloved in heaven and that will be gain – so much better.
As we look inside Paul’s mind, the first thing we see him talking about is his expectations. He’s waiting for a verdict to be handed down. What does he expect the verdict to be? Vindication – that his name will be cleared of all these charges, and that he will be given his freedom again. Philippians 1:19 records that: “For I know that this (His trial and imprisonment) will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” He says, I’m confident I’m going to be delivered.
Commentators have pointed out that what Paul does in this verse is quote from Job 13:16 where Job tells one of his tormentor friends, “He (God) also shall be my salvation.” Job is talking about his confidence that God would deliver him from all his troubles, and Paul is too, for the same reasons.
You see, Job knew that God was in control, and Job knew he wasn’t suffering his horrible maladies as a punishment because of any sin. Likewise, Paul knew the same thing. The word for “know” means to know with absolute assurance. Had God revealed this to him, like in a dream or a vision? Probably not. But Paul was totally confident in God’s sovereign control of the situation. And he was confident that God would carry him through this even if it meant rescuing him from execution.
But he wasn’t all that sure that he would escape death because in verse 20 he says, “Whether by life or by death.” God is going to get him through this one way or another, but maybe not alive. God may let Paul die. But if Paul dies, he will be in heaven with the Savior he loves. That’s a win.
The moral for us is this: We can have confidence in God, but not that He will always do things our way. He may not deliver us in the way we’d like, but He will always be there for us - getting us through in His way. Paul’s confidence is in the fact that God is in control. The decision isn’t in the hand of the Roman judge, the decision is in the hand of God.
But something else made him confident. Verse 19 says that the reason he knows “this will turn out for his deliverance” is “through your prayer.” The Philippians were praying. Amen! When you know people are praying for you, doesn’t that give you confidence? Nothing thrills my heart like knowing that someone is praying for me. James 5:16 says, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
Do you believe that verse? Do you really believe that fervent prayer is effective to avail much? You better, because this is God’s Word, and His word is truth. And His Word declares loud and clear: “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Prayer works - prayer moves God to act - prayer is effective.
Paul firmly believed that. Repeatedly Paul asked people to pray for him. Ephesians 6:18-19 says:
“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— 19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel.”
1st Thessalonians 5:25 says, “Brethren, Pray for us.”
2nd Thessalonians 3:1-2 says,
“Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, 2 and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith.”And this one: 2nd Corinthians 1:8-10, a situation just like we are seeing in Philippians:
“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, you also helping together in prayer for us, (WHY?) that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many."Paul repeatedly asked people for prayer because he fully believed that prayer works. He believed that God answers prayer. And when people pray, everyone who prayed can get in on giving thanks to God for the answers. God answered, not just Paul’s prayer, but all their prayers, since they all prayed.
Prayer works. Believe that with your whole heart. Believe it so much it causes you to pray and pray fervently. See how much it accomplishes. I beseech you to pray fervently for me. I beg you to pray fervently for this church. Will you do that? Will you commit to it? If you do, God will work in response to your prayers, and we will see amazing things happen here.