The Lord is at Hand! No, it's not the Second Coming1
“Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” What could that possibly mean? Continue reading . . .
“Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” What could that possibly mean? We tend not to ask that question because the exhortation is nestled into, and often gets lost within, one of the more important and well-known passages about prayer.
In other words, we often spend time studying Philippians 4:4-7 for what it tells us about prayer, and that is certainly a good thing to do. But in doing so we tend to overlook other elements that are crucial to living godly lives in Christ. So again I ask, what does Paul means when he says in v. 5 – “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” Look at it in the context of the entire paragraph.
“4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).
This word translated “reasonableness” (ESV) is hard to interpret. The KJV translates it, “let your moderation be known to all.” But this is not a call for temperance or abstinence. Others suggest the idea of generosity or the willingness to make allowances; the quality that keeps one from always insisting on one’s full rights. It’s the opposite of entitlement; the opposite of always demanding one’s due. It is the patient willingness to yield wherever yielding does not compromise moral principle.
We know from other texts in Philippians that Paul does not mean we are to be quick to compromise on our doctrinal beliefs. Neither is he suggesting we accommodate or adapt to the world’s standards of conduct (see Phil. 2:15; Romans 12:2). He’s not telling us to be wimps, but he is telling us to be willing to bend a bit; to not be so brittle or inflexible that people bounce off us like a golf ball on concrete.
And please note that this quality of character is not to be confined within your heart. It is something you must strive for all to see: “let your reasonableness be known to everyone.” So, what do you most want to be “known” for? Is it your physical appearance, your bubbly and infectious personality, your wealth, your wit, your wisdom, your ancestry, your work ethic? Perhaps we should focus on something far less sensational, but more spiritual: reasonableness.
And what reason does Paul give for this advice? “The Lord is at hand” (v. 5b).
This phrase “at hand” could be taken temporally or personally. That is to say, he may be referring to the nearness of Christ in terms of time or space. If it’s time, he may be alluding back to what he said at the close of chapter three. There we were encouraged to keep our eyes fixed on heaven from which “we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (3:20b).
But I’m inclined to think he is speaking in spatial or relational or personal terms. His point, then, is that the Lord is close to you, present with you, aware of your conduct, concerned about your relationships with others, available and willing to come to your aid and assist you. This may well be why Paul immediately follows this declaration with an urgent command that we pray. If the Lord is near to help and encourage and strengthen us, we need to be quick to pray to him about everything! We hear an echo of this in Psalm 145:18 – “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”
So, if being “reasonable” with other people, especially those who irritate and exasperate you, seems to be out of reach and beyond your strength, remember that the “Lord is at hand,” he is near, ready and able to infuse you with strength, if only you will cry out to him to do so.