It could be easy to be discouraged by what we see happening in the world around us. News headlines are dominated by political fighting, disease, tragedies, natural disasters, and wars. In our perso...
It could be easy to be discouraged by what we see happening in the world around us. News headlines are dominated by political fighting, disease, tragedies, natural disasters, and wars. In our personal lives as well, no doubt all of us have loved ones experiencing heartache or we are going through it ourselves. Even for those who are trusting in God’s promises, at times it may be difficult to keep a positive outlook.
Recently, I studied the instances in the Bible when the Lord spoke the words “be of good cheer.” It should not surprise us that He said them to people whose circumstances seemed to call for just the opposite attitude. For these individuals, an uplifting word would have been nice to hear from anyone, but these words were not coming from just anyone—they were from the Lord himself! He never uses words lightly. When He says something, He means it. What assurance it must have brought to have Jesus tell these individuals that they had cause to be encouraged!
There are four occurrences of Jesus telling a person or a group to be of good cheer, and I found them to be relatable to many of the hardships we still face today. As I considered each situation, it became evident that we too have good reason to “be of good cheer.”
Matthew 9:1-6 tells how a man sick of the palsy was brought before Jesus to be healed. Upon seeing the sick man, Jesus said: “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.” Interestingly, the man was still sick when Jesus told him to be of good cheer. He couldn’t walk and was in serious physical pain. Yet, Jesus saw his most important need: the condition of his soul. The man might have left happy if Jesus had healed him of palsy, but by experiencing forgiveness of sins, he was a whole lot happier! The weight of his sin was gone, and his soul was free of the things that had troubled him before. He actually received a double blessing because Jesus healed the disease in his body, too. The Bible records that he returned to his house walking on his own, and everyone who saw it marveled and glorified God.
I can relate to this account because around the time that I was saved, I also had a physical problem. I didn’t know exactly what was wrong with me, but I was feeling very weak. However, I remember lying in my bed one evening and being so thankful to be saved. There was such praise in my heart to know my peace was made with God and salvation was mine. The knowledge of sins forgiven is cause for joy! And that is how I felt, even though I was also experiencing weakness at the time. Then, as I lay there praising God for my salvation, He came down and touched me. It felt like electricity that started at my head and ran down through my whole body in an instant, and I was completely healed.
Does Jesus have authority to forgive a sinner? Does God have power to wash sins away? We know He does! Jesus has good authority—He paid for it with His precious Blood.
In the account in Matthew 9, some of the people who were present questioned if Jesus had the authority to forgive sins. The truth was, soon after that event Jesus would die on Calvary for that very man’s sins. Does Jesus have authority to forgive a sinner? Does God have power to wash sins away? We know He does! Jesus has good authority—He paid for it with His precious Blood. He came to earth to destroy the works of the devil, to bring us victory over sin, and to give us power to live the way God wants us to live. This is a reason to be of good cheer, and the other blessings He gives are wonderful as well.
Matthew 14 records an incident when Jesus had sent His disciples to travel by boat across the Sea of Galilee. While they sailed, the winds picked up and their boat began to be tossed in the waves. The storms that arise over that body of water can be life threatening, and the disciples must have been fearful. Jesus was far away on the shore, but sometime between three and six o’clock in the morning, He decided to walk to them on the water. As He came near, at first they did not recognize Him, but He said to them, “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid” (Matthew 14:27). When He entered the ship, the wind ceased.
This account is interesting because the disciples had gone into the boat at Jesus’ command—they were obedient to His will, yet they ran into a storm. This account is a reminder that even when we are doing God’s will, we can expect challenges along the way. We can also note that even though Jesus wasn’t visible to the disciples, He saw them and their dilemma. He sees what is going on in our lives as well, including when we experience times of fear, distress, sadness, and despair. But how wonderful it is when the Lord comes by! Doubts and fears vanish in His presence, and He ushers in peace, joy, and hope. We may not know how our situation will work out, but when Jesus steps on the scene, we have an assurance that all will be well because He is there.
Some years ago, I went through a difficult time when several of my family members were not coming to church. The situation weighed heavily on my heart and I was in real distress. I prayed about it and gave it to God, and then kept it before Him. After some time, as I was reading my Bible one day, certain verses seemed to light up to me, showing me exactly what I should do. At that moment, I could have cried because of the faithfulness and the goodness of God. He settled my concerns, and it brought such relief and gladness to my heart.
One of the most amazing experiences we can have is to get up from a time of prayer after Jesus has passed by. We could be in the midst of a trial and carrying a heavy load, yet when we reach out to the Lord in prayer and He responds, there is joy!
Shortly before His crucifixion, Jesus gave an exhortation to His disciples to prepare them for the difficult time that would soon take place. John 16:33 records His words, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Trouble was coming for the disciples in the form of persecution. However, God’s ways are not our ways. Sometimes what seems to be a victory for the enemy is actually a time to be of good cheer.
We don’t serve a weak God. He is a mighty God, who has all power, and He has overcome the world! When our faith is being tested, we can remember these promises and take heart.
Some of us will face situations at work or even in our own families where we suffer for our beliefs. We should not be surprised when we face these types of challenges. Jesus did not say circumstances would be ideal every second of our lives; He said we would have tribulation in the world. At times we may wonder, How can I overcome this? The good news is that we do not have to overcome anything because our Savior overcame it all for us. After Jesus rose from the dead He said, “All power is given unto me in Heaven and in earth . . . and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:18,20). We don’t serve a weak God. He is a mighty God, who has all power, and He has overcome the world! When our faith is being tested, we can remember these promises and take heart.
The Apostle Paul was a missionary to the Gentile world, and he deeply desired to visit the believers in Rome. He told them as much in Romans 1:9-12, “Without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. For I long to see you . . . that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.” However, despite his earnest desire, years passed and an opportunity did not open for Paul to go to Rome. Eventually he felt God leading him back to Jerusalem, though several believers warned him that bonds awaited him there. They begged him not to go, but Paul said he was ready not only to be in bonds but also to die for Christ.
About a week after arriving in Jerusalem, the Jewish religious leaders apprehended Paul and nearly killed him on the spot, but the chief captain of the Romans rescued him and detained him overnight. The next day he appeared before the council of Jewish leaders, and again they almost killed him. He was held overnight once more. Paul had already stated that he was willing to die in Jerusalem, and after two close calls, he must have known there was a very real chance it could happen. But that night, the Lord visited him and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome” (Acts 23:11).
This promise from the Lord must have brought great comfort to Paul. His future was in peril, and in that moment, the Lord’s presence alone would have encouraged him, but He also had good news to share: “You’re going to Rome, Paul!” It would be a while before the promise was fulfilled—more than two years passed before he even started the journey to Rome. Yet we do not read that Paul felt he was sitting on the sidelines during that time. He continued to serve God, and it was exciting. He was escorted by hundreds of soldiers to Caesarea, and there he had opportunities to witness to Felix, Festus, and King Agrippa. Then, in God’s time and way, Paul did arrive in Rome.
Until we are called home to Heaven, we can be cheerful about whatever plans God has for us. Though it may be tough at times, He has promised to be with us and give us victory.
For most of us, God is not calling us to Rome, but He does have a plan for each of our lives and we can be sure that He will keep every promise He has made to us. Ultimately, we know what the final destination will be, and it is good news: “You’re going to Heaven, saints!” Until we are called home to Heaven, we can be cheerful about whatever plans God has for us. Though it may be tough at times, He has promised to be with us and give us victory.
Whatever we might be going through now, we need not be discouraged if we are trusting in the Lord. We can choose to take Jesus’ words to heart and be of good cheer, knowing that He has forgiven our sins. He will come to us in our time of need, He has overcome the world for us, and His plans for us are good.
This article was originally published in the May 1986 edition of our magazine...
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