The Lord is Near

Rejoice in the Lord always.

Let your gentleness be known to all.

Have no anxiety about anything.

These are all exhortations the apostle Paul gives in the short span of Phillipians 4:4-6. And if we pause just a moment to consider the scope of these commands, we’re forced to acknowledge they constitute an enormous challenge. How can we reasonably rejoice at all times, particularly in the face of hardship and suffering? How can we demonstrate “gentleness”—a word in this context that represents a willingness to yield one’s personal rights—to everyone, even difficult and unloving people? And finally, Paul instructs us to not be anxious…about anything!

Is he serious? How could we even begin to do these things?

The key, I suspect, is wrapped up in four words tucked in the middle of the passage: “The Lord is near.” Though brief enough to escape our notice when reading these verses, this phrase constitutes a promise of powerful implications. Let me show you what I mean.

How can we rejoice even in the face of difficult circumstances? The Lord, with his deep compassion for your struggle and unmatched power for your aid, is near. His presence with his people includes a love that is never thwarted by circumstance (Rom. 8:35-39), but remains full and satisfying in the face of every trial.

How can we be gentle in the face of those who mistreat us? The Lord is present. He sees your situation. And he promises ultimately to bring about justice (Col. 3:25). There is therefore no need to “take matters into our own hands,” to respond to ill-treatment with the same.

How can we lay down the burden of our worries? By understanding that the Sovereign Lord of the universe is present to insure that our lives unfold according to his purposes and for our good (Rom. 8:28). By realizing that we already have the one against whom everything else, no matter how valuable, pales in comparison (Phil. 3:7-10)—the one who will never leave or forsake his people (Heb. 13:5).

Surely much more could be said, but hopefully we can begin to get the idea: the Lord is near to his people…and that is incredibly good news.

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