Could you affirm what Paul did here--especially the phrase I emphasized? Could you truthfully say: "I don't count my life dear to myself"? This is a difficult question to answer.
Now, of course, Paul wasn't saying that he considered his life to be worthless, and thus, not dear to him. That's not his point at all. His meaning is this: If I die in Jerusalem because of my faith, so be it! I do not treasure my physical life so much that I am unable to risk it in service to the Lord!
This attitude toward life was often expressed by Paul. For example, he stated in Philippians 1:20,21 - "According to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain."
Paul really didn't care if he lived or died when he returned to Jerusalem because he would magnify the Lord in his body no matter what happened. He would bring glory to God through his actions! If he wasn't persecuted to death, then he would use the days God had given him to live for Christ and bear much fruit in the kingdom. However, if he was persecuted to the point of death, he wouldn't forsake the Lord out of fear for his life. He would gladly die, if necessary, and in so doing, bring glory to the Lord!
Paul had a simple philosophy of life: while I live I will live for Christ! He didn't search for death or hope that he would die, but he did understand that when he did die it would be to his advantage. How so? Because after death he would no longer suffer physically or be persecuted; he would have eternal life to look forward to! With this type of attitude, it is no wonder Paul said in Romans 8:18 - "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." May we all learn to have this same attitude toward life that Paul did! Let us remember that we are not our own for we have been bought at a price. Therefore we should be motivated to glorify God in our spirit and in our bodies which belong to Him (I Cor. 6:19,20). Paul understood that fact, do you?