Some read these words in Phil 4:5 and think the apostle Paul expected the Lord to return at any minute to judge the world and save the Christians. Since this did not happen, they devalue the integrity of his writing. First, we must consider 2 Thes 2:2 where Paul said it is not true “that the day of the Lord is just at hand,” though some were teaching this falsely. Second, “at hand” often means “nearby.” Now that is a comforting thought that fits well the encouraging words of Phil 4: “Rejoice,” “Don’t be anxious,” “The peace of God shall guard you,” and “The Lord is at hand (nearby).”
When Jesus is nearby, one can find joy where there is nothing to be happy about, and one’s soul can be at peace though his world is in turmoil. God is everywhere all the time. He is ever-present, whether I accept that or not. So, one must be spiritually in tune to reap the benefits of Jesus’ presence. One must open his eyes to receive the assurance that comes from knowing that Jesus really is nearby his heart—"at hand”.
God seeks us and provides the means for us to unlock the shackles of the mundane and see Jesus nearby. We start with thanksgiving (Phil 4:6) and as a song says, “Count your many blessings.” We may not have all we want (and that is probably best for us), but God has been good. Next, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing yourselves with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God;” then, “In everything, by prayer and supplication;” “Pray without ceasing” (Col 3:16, Phil 4:6, 1 Thes 5:17).
Elisha's servant awoke one morning to find the city of Dothan, where he and Elisha were staying, surrounded by a Syrian army. He despaired, "Alas, my master! What shall we do?" But Elisha prayed for the servant’s eyes to be opened and then he could see, in addition to the enemy forces, the hills covered, with horses and chariots of fire. God's angelic army of protection was "at hand." (2Kg 6:15-17).
Unlike Elisha’s servant, we do not need a miracle to open our eyes so that we can see Jesus at hand. We fill our hearts with thanksgiving and feel the love of his presence; we sing praises and hear an echo, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the ages” (Mt 28:20). We bow our knees in prayer and glimpse from the corner of our eyes the master calming the sea. When we tune our spirits toward God, the “eyes of our hearts will be enlightened” to see Jesus at hand, for us, with us (Eph 1:18).
“Am I a God at hand, says Jehovah, and not a God afar off?” (Jer 23:23)