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Dying Is Gain (13 of 52)
Series: Discipleship Part 2
Christopher B. Harbin
Death is part of life. It is all around us. Without death, life cannot be fully appreciated. Without death, life cannot exist. Even so, death presents itself to us as the enemy of life. It is something we instinctively fear. It is loss in its greatest or fullest expression. Death is something we avoid, even something we avoid talking about. Death is something we tend to fear on a very existential level. In spiritual terms, we look at death somewhat differently, but we mostly do that as an abstract exercise and in a way that keeps us from dealing with death as the tragedy and crisis we experience.
Death was something with which Paul was intimately familiar. Death was something he had experienced from the perspective of a participant in bringing about. It was something he had experienced as a near miss, and it was a very real option facing him in the near future. After all, Paul had been present at Stephen's stoning. He had been shipwrecked. While writing the Philippian church, he was imprisoned and awaiting a trial after having escaped an attack on his life. The trial he faced could easily result in his death before Caesar. He did not know what would happen, but death was not some remote possibility from a teenaged perspective. Neither was death an eventuality he faced as an endpoint of the aging process. He expected death to interrupt his life, ushering him into that which lies beyond this life we experience on earth.
The stage was set for Paul to deal with death as a real and encroaching possibility. The closer he came to Rome as a prisoner under guard, the likelihood of his own death drew nearer. It was in making his personal spiritual and emotional preparations to face down death that he wrote this letter of joy to grant a dose of comfort to a beloved church.
Paul wrote here of death as almost a choice, and, in many ways, it could have proven to be a c ...
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