Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Father Michael Cupp at Prince of Peace Anglican Church spoke at some length on Sunday on anxiety, or worry (see NRSV on link above) robbing us of the joy that is to be ours in King Jesus. And the context in Philippians 4 bears that out. The rejoicing we are to do is in the context of also obeying the imperative/command not to worry, but to pray (see NLT‘s helpful translation, as well).
The NLT gets it right with the translation, “the Lord is coming soon,” of the more literal rendering, “the Lord is near.” The promise of King Jesus’ coming, or return is embedded and therefore part and parcel of this passage. We need to keep it in mind. Advent is anticipation of King Jesus’ coming, as well as remembering when he came. I don’t think that has been a factor at all in my reading and understanding of this passage.
We’re to be marked with gentleness, or being considerate of others, since the Lord’s return is imminent, or soon. Depending on how one looks at it, it could seem soon, but more than likely we would ask, “Why the delay?” Or we can easily be put off by misteachings on the Second Coming, from well meaning teachers, but whose intepretations prove to be false.
The Second Coming, or King Jesus’ return is part of the gospel, no less. Thinking about that, called “the blessed hope” (Titus 2:13), surely can help us overcome the anxiety and fear or prolonged worry, which can rob us of our joy. The Lord is going to return! We need to see all of life in that light. He returns to make all things that are now wrong, right, and to make everything new. Such a promise is not only an occasion for our joy, but also for our preparation, as we seek to live as those who are ready should Jesus return at a moment’s notice, even today. Would we be ashamed, or would we at least be anticipating with the effort to be ready?
To get caught up in anxiety over any number of things can steal this joy away from us, can rob us of this joy. Instead we need to have this word of God planted in us so as to make a difference in our lives every day. We don’t know which day our Lord may return. Perhaps not in our lifetime, but we don’t know that. Part of our calling in Jesus is to be in antipation of such. Something I want to work on, beginning today. So that other concerns with the responsibilities they bring can be seen in the light of that. Not just our concerns, but the concerns of the world. Where is our hope, and do others know what our hope actually is, as part of our witness?
Yes, the King is coming! Come, Lord Jesus.