Be of good cheer!
In these days of distress when war has again broken out; when there is grave apprehension in many homes and in many hearts; how happy it is to hear from the lips of our blessed Lord Jesus the heartening words:
“BE OF GOOD CHEER!”
It is this that makes the true believer in Him superior to that which may come upon him, and that enables him to realize what an unfailing resource he has in Him who thus seeks to encourage him.
At the lake
Let us read the beautiful story in Matthew 14:22-33. The disciples were, as directed by the Lord, in a ship crossing to the other side; it was evening and a storm arose. "The ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary” (v.24). The storm seemed to rage more fiercely, and the Lord Jesus was not with them. Where was He? He had gone up "into a mountain apart” (verse 23). What was He doing? He was praying. For whom? Surely for them, for the corresponding account in Mark 6:48, tells us that “He saw them toiling in row ing.”
It was “in the fourth watch,” the darkesl hour of the night, when, it may be, hope had fled, “Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea” (v. 25.) So great was their distress they failed to recognise their Lord and “they cried out for fear" (v. 26). Then they heard His well known voice saying: “Be of good cheer, it is I, be not afraid” (v.27). He showed His power over wind and waves and when He got into the ship the wind ceased (v.32), for there can be no storm where the Lord Jesus is.
Is this being read by someone who is in a storm at present, whose circumstances are known only to himself, or herself, and the Lord? Listen, dear friend. He has gone on high, and from where He is in the presence of God, He sees, He knows, He loves, He cares, He prays for you. He is now making intercession for you. He may not change your circumstances but He will whisper in your ear, “Be of good cheer, it is I, be not afraid.”
“Yes,” says someone, “I know all that, but I am afraid.” Ah! you may be like Peter. He asked the Lord to bid him to come unto Him on the water, and He did so. Peter actually “walked on the water to go to Jesus” (v.29), but presently, “when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid” (v.30). Not more boisterous than when he left the ship, but getting his eye off the Lord he saw the wind, trusting to his own resource, he left the Lord out, with what might have been serious result. How tender was the blessed Lord’s lebuke, how powerful was His hand; “and when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped Him, saying, Of a truth Thou art the Son of God” (v.33).
We feel sure they would not have missed that experience for anything, for they got to know their Lord in an altogether new way. We cannot chide Peter, can we? because we are so like him. If the Lord has to rebuke us, how lovingly He does it! and we find His heart goes out to us; His power is at all times available for us, His priestly service is ceaselessly exercised on our behalf, and as we are of good cheer, we find ourselves as worshippers at His feet.
The night of His betrayal
We pass to another scene, and oh how touching it is! It was the night on which the Lord was betrayed, the hour of His deep sorrow. Yet with that self-forgetting love that ever marked Him, He thought not of Himself but of His sorrowing disciples. He told them how much He loved them (John 13:34); of the Father’s House (John 14:2); of His coming for them (v.3); of His company with them (v.18); of the Holy Spirit coming to indwell them (v.16); of the Father’s love (vv. 21,23); of the privilege that would be theirs during His absence of bearing fruit for God (chapter 15); and of coming out in testimony for Him here (chapter 16). Now we come to the last words He spoke to them before He entered the Garden. How we treasure the last words of those who love us and whom we love, and we treasure these last words of our blessed Lord Jesus. Let us read 16: 33. "These things have I spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation; but
BE OF GOOD CHEER:
I have overcome the world."
The fiercest storm that ever raged was just about to break over Him and yet He spoke of peace. He had already spoken of “My peace.” It was on that night of nights that He spoke of “My peace", and "My joy” (14:27 ; 15:11); and His desire was that in the storms through which they would be called to pass, they might have His peace and His joy. Tribulation they would have, and they did have, as long as they were in the world, but in it all He would have them recall His last word to them: “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
What a remarkable word! In a few hours He would be hanging dead upon a cross, and immediately after would lie in a sealed sepulchre, and He said, “I have overcome the world.” That which appeared like absolute defeat would be the greatest victory that has ever been known. If they were called upon to suffer, and they were—If they were called upon to lay down their life, and they were—If it seemed as if the enemy had triumphed, and it did; they would be overcomers in His power, who said, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” In this favoured land we are not called upon to suffer as they were; yet the Word tells us that "We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
It may be there are some reading these pages who, particularly in this present upheaval, are having experience of this. Some because they have to take up National Service of some kind, and it means leaving loved ones and engaging in that which is by no means congenial. Parents and sons, husbands and wives, fathers and children are separated; gloom will rest upon many homes, and dark forebodings will fill many hearts. We desire, however, to point out to our readers that just here is the opportunity to show what the grace of Christ can do. We belong to One who knows all about it; who offers us His peace and His joy; who tells us that in the world we shall have tribulation; but who bids us “Be of good cheer!” and to be overcomers in His Name, who has overcome the world.
Paul, the prisoner
Now we pass to another scene, which we find in Acts 23:11. The Apostle Paul was passing through much tribulation. He was a prisoner, and it may be he was asking himself, "Have I made a mistake? Have I taken my own way, and is this the result?” In the silence of the night he heard a well-known voice, the voice that he had heard when on the road to Damascus. The same voice that the disciples heard on earth, Paul heard from the glory, and it said, “Be of good cheer, Paul!” Yet another proof that “Jesus Christ [is] the Same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8). Take out Paul’s name, anxious reader, put in your own, and hear Him say to you, “Be of good cheer ...”
Now let us see how Paul was able to pass on that cheer to others. Shall we just here read Acts 27? He was a prisoner on his way to Rome. A storm of great severity threatened the safety of the ship and all aboard. In fact we read that “all hope that we should be saved was taken away” (v.20). At that moment Paul stood forth and with a ring of absolute confidence he said:
“BE OF GOOD CHEER!”
and he added, “I believe God.” He told the ship’s company how in the night an Angelic Messenger brought him a message; it was, “FEAR NOT, PAUL.” He was assured that he would reach Rome; and, said he, “God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.” He assured them of his faith in God as he said, “I believe God,” and once again he bid them “Be of good cheer!” They still had a rough time, but Paul was master of the situation, and became virtually master of the ship. He assured them of their safety, impossible though it appeared to be; he “gave thanks to God in the presence of them all” (v. 35). Calmly he began to eat. “Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took some meat” (v. 36).
We would not like anyone to suggest to us, nor to admit to ourselves that we do not believe God, but could we honestly say at this time of pressure, in that through which we are, just at this moment, passing, “I believe God that it shall be”? It is a challenging question, let us face it; tell the Lord our many doubts and fears; and hear Him say to us, “Be of good cheer!” Then let us say, “I believe God”; and having proved Him for ourselves, go to our many weary, anxious, doubting fellow- believers and say to them: “Be of good cheer . . . for I believe God that it shall be even as it was told me.”
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