Paul lifts his pen, his fist hovers over the parchment, he can see the tension in his grip, the urgency to communicate. A single bead of sweat groups on his forehead and begins to make its meandering way towards his face. He has to tell them, has to make them see. This is a precarious time. The faith seems to be tottering on a cliff edge all of a sudden. There is talk most days of execution here. The guards know all about his faith and his past and they sneer the name of Jesus regularly, though he has a hunch one or two would love to get him alone and dig a little deeper, find out if there’s any truth in the rumours about lives being changed. But the point, the reason he must write now, is very clear to him. He may die. The axe may fall, the blood may drain away. But that is not the end. It does not mean this whole thing has gone wrong. It’s no sham, Paul is at peace about moving from one world to another. His faith is the very thing that hands him this heartful of hope. If he dies then let that be. If he survives then he’ll get busy living.
But he’s terrified that the young believers out there will be thrown into despair, lurch into a maelstrom of chaos and doubt. So he must reassure them. If he is dead it does not mean that God is, it does not mean this is all empty, all about nothing. Paul has made his peace with this life and the next. He is ready. Nothing has gone wrong. In this life there is conflict and trouble, questions and complications. It’s the way it is. His time may be up, but theirs goes on. This time in prison, this threat of annihilation, it can wipe out this travelling man, but it cannot wipe out the God he serves. The Romans just aren’t that powerful. They may have a hundred gods of their own, they may have their fake news about the gospel of Caesar, but in a thousand years, where will they be then? The Caesars will be history. But the God of Paul the God of genuine good news, the God who is as present in the dark as he is in the light, the God of all these believers he is writing to, this God will be as vibrant then as he is now. As present, as compassionate, as immediate, as sacrificial, as understanding… as he is now. So Paul lifts his pen and writes.
Philippians 1 vv 12-30