Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:5-7, ESV)
From Gary Paulsen:
In my blog post last week we learned that the apostle was facing isolation as a prisoner and the possibility of death due to false charges against him (Phil. 1:7, 13-14, 17, 20-23). His circumstances were much like ours as we also face quarantine, isolation, and the possibility of death from this virus. Paul’s response to these things was to instruct all who trust Christ to continuously rejoice in the Lord no matter the situation. We learned that rejoicing in the Lord is based upon contemplation and reflection upon all that Christ has done on the believer’s behalf and to remember his many promises concerning our welfare.
That is not the end of the apostle’s teaching regarding life through difficult events. He now reveals to us how to best navigate through stressful and anxious situations.
Following his directive in verse four to “Rejoice in the Lord always,” Paul then commands the believer, Phil. 4:5 “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” This expression translated “reasonableness” in the ESV and “gentleness” in the NASB describes the believer’s heart-attitude toward the ordeals of life. He not only “rejoices in the Lord,” but this rejoicing produces in him this mindset translated as “reasonableness” or “gentleness.” The word denotes reasonableness or gentleness in circumstances of judgement. It signifies humble, patient steadfastness in which one is able to submit to injustice, maltreatment, and disgrace without hatred or malice. It is trusting God in spite of it all. Paul commands the believer to let that attitude be known to all with whom he comes into contact. The apostle commands us not only to have this attitude within us but to express it to those around us: “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.” We are directed to wear our trust in the Lord openly before others in difficult times.
How appropriate this command is as we consider our present circumstances. We are to make known our humble, steadfast trust in the Lord to all with whom we have dealings. Those around us may be perplexed, troubled and fearful in today’s virus-dominated world. But the believer rejoicing in the Lord, and humbly proclaiming his trust in his sovereign Lord’s ability to work all things together for his good and God’s glory, is a marked contrast to this world’s present fear and chaos and brings glory to our God.
Next, Paul declares the reason that we can let everyone know of our steadfast trust in the Lord in trying times when he asserts, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand” (Phil. 4:5). That is, the Lord himself is right here with us through our various circumstances and troubles. The Christian can possess humble, steadfast trust in the Lord in any circumstance because he fully appreciates the truth that his loving Lord is near him in the midst of every trouble, every trial, every difficult situation. “The Lord is at hand,” is simply Paul restating the promise of Jesus, found in Matthew 28:20 “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Because the believer, with Paul, confidently embraces Jesus’ promise, he realizes that there are no circumstances, no situations in which he is detached from the presence and love of his Savior. So, he can rest completely upon the promise of Romans 8:38-39 “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Fellow believer, the Lord Jesus himself is walking with us through these perilous days and he will see us through until the end.
With that knowledge that the Lord is at hand, Paul now presents us with a double command in verse 6 where he declares, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” He first orders the believer to cease being anxious about anything. After all, how can there be any reason for fear or anxiety knowing that the Lord is with the believer through any and every situation that may befall him?
As before, with these commands, Paul uses a verb tense that indicates continuous, constant application. “Believer” states Paul, “continually be resisting the temptation to be anxious and fearful.” He is indicating to us that fear and anxiety are continually attempting to defeat us and leave us worried, apprehensive, and fretful. So, stop anxiousness and fear in their tracks by recalling the promise that the Lord is at hand and that he is at work in and through these frightening and anxious times. This theme is nothing new in the Word of God for the Lord Jesus himself admonished his followers in the very same way when he commanded, “Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself” (Matt. 6:34). Whether it is the need of food, or clothing, or the fear of death, Jesus commands us to stop being anxious. Earlier, in verse 33 Jesus provides us with life’s primary anti-anxiety remedy, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” So, what does he mean by that? Jesus is revealing to us that we are to make it our constant priority to seek the rule and reign of God in our lives daily. A life lived constantly acknowledging God’s control and sovereignty over every circumstance is a life that conquers anxiety and fear.
Following his command to stop being anxious, Paul now tells us what we must do rather than worry or fret, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil 4:6). Paul simply affirms Jesus’ words to “seek first God’s kingdom.” That is, the earnest prayer of the Christian, seeking relief from all that causes anxiety, is a demonstration of a sincere trust in the all-powerful God. When the believer prays, she is confessing that God is indeed the mighty Sovereign of the universe who is able to do more than can be imaged to alleviate all her fears and anxieties, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Eph. 3:20).
Believer, so often we are anxious about everything and we do pray not at all. Pray! declares Paul, pray! And the result is the polar opposite of worry, fear, and anxiety. The result is peace. This not just any peace. It is the supernatural, inexplicable, all-calming peace of God, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7).
And so, Christian friends, as we face the challenges of current events, let us rejoice always in humble confidence and dependence in our God, in spite of all the grave reports around us. Let us demonstrate to everyone that our trust is in our sovereign Lord’s love and care for us in this trying time. And finally, let us exhibit our reliance on him by praying about all things and being anxious for nothing, knowing this: that his indescribable peace will soon overwhelm all our fears and worries.
Lastly, I have absolute confidence that every promise and truth covered in this essay is unquestionably true, yet candidly I find myself struggling at times with these issues. I have found that I must work at trust, toil at prayer concerning anxiety, and labor to rejoice. Nevertheless, God, in his mercy. has responded in grace to my struggles as I applied his truth and promises. So, friends, keep at it!