Paul here states his ambition, which is to boldly testify to Jesus Christ. Probably he has in mind the day when he will appear before the Emperor to hear the verdict, which would be either freedom or execution. (He may be referring to not being ashamed of Jesus the next time a new member of the Praetorian guard appears beside him.) Paul does not say that it is his eager expectation and hope that he will be released, although he later indicates in this chapter that he would yet come and see his friends in Philippi.
What did Paul expect? He expected that Christ would be honoured by his courageous response no matter if he was set free or condemned to die. Is this mere optimism? No, because Paul says that this has been his consistent experience whenever he was in a difficult situation.
How could a frail, old man accomplish this? It was not by his own resolve, although we know he had plenty strength of conviction before he was converted. He knew he could fulfil this ambition because the Holy Spirit would enable him to do so. Perhaps he recalled the words of Jesus to his apostles in Mark 13:11: ‘And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.’
In any case, Paul is challenging us regarding our ambitions. His words come down to two options: either Jesus is promoted by what happens to us or we are promoted by it. Strangely, if we take the first option we will get both in the long term; if we take the second option, we will get neither in the long term. Let’s follow the apostle’s example and live for Jesus in every situation.