All of us need encouragement at one time or another. Sometimes we become discouraged with circumstances, or with the people we have to work or live with; and sometimes we even become discouraged with ourselves. Jesus Christ is the “Great Encourager.” During His ministry here on Earth, He never became discouraged no matter how difficult the situation became. Isaiah 42:4 says of Jesus, “He shall not fail nor be discouraged…” Because He was never discouraged, He is able to encourage you and me.
Several times we hear Jesus saying, “Be of good cheer!” Literally, this greeting means, “Take heart! Don’t give up! Be encouraged!” When you find yourself ready to quit, take time to consider the encouragements that Christ gives to us.
His Pardon (Matthew 9:1-8)
What a variety of people there were in that meeting! There were critical spectators just waiting for an opportunity to accuse Jesus. People like this always miss the blessing in a meeting. It amazes me that people will come to church with a critical attitude because they contribute nothing to the meeting and get nothing from the meeting. But there were also some concerned soul-winners, four men who brought their needy friend to Jesus. We need more church members like these four! They were concerned about somebody else, and they worked together to bring him to Jesus. They even had the courage to “raise the roof” in order to get their friend before Jesus! Most of us would have said, “Well, the crowd is too big so we’ll not try today. We’ll try another day.” Thank God for people who have the courage to do something different, something unusual.
Everybody expected Jesus to say, “You are made whole—get up and walk!” But instead, He said, “Your sins are forgiven you.” Apparently this man’s physical problem was the result of sin. At any rate, his greatest need was not healing; his greatest need was salvation, forgiveness from sin. “Be of good cheer! Your sins are forgiven you!” What a thrilling message this was to the man.
Of course, the critics went to work. (Whenever God’s power is at work you will find the critics busy.) “Only God can forgive sins!” they muttered among themselves. Correct! This means that Jesus Christ is God! Of course they would not accept that truth because their minds were already made up. “Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or to say ‘Rise up and walk’?” Jesus asked them. (Of course, they were not able to say either one and they knew it!) Actually, it was easier to say “Your sins are forgiven” because nobody could prove that they really were forgiven. So, to prove that His power was at work, Jesus told the man to rise up and walk—and he did! It was a miracle not only of physical healing, but also of spiritual cleansing.
The next time you get discouraged over your failures, listen to Jesus say, “Be of good cheer! Your sins are forgiven!” He has removed them as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). He has washed them white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). They are buried in the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19). Nothing can separate you from the love of God (Romans 8:31ff). God has forgotten your sins (Hebrews 10:17) and they will never be written on your record (Romans 4:6-8). “Be of good cheer!”
His Power (Matthew 9:18-22)
We not only get discouraged over our sins, but we also get discouraged over our secret needs. All of us have hidden needs and problems that sometimes even the closest to us know nothing about. That was the case with this poor woman. She had a physical problem that was slowly killing her. And, along with the physical needs were emotional problems: she had spent all her money going from doctor to doctor, and was only growing worse. Add to these problems the fact that her affliction barred her from the temple, and you can see that she was a woman with a heavy burden. But nobody knew it.
It is interesting to contrast the people who came to Jesus. Here is an unknown woman and a famous Jewish leader named Jairus, yet both of them had needs. The woman was poor, and Jairus was rich; yet both of them needed Jesus. Isn’t it wonderful to know that anybody with any need can come to the Savior! This woman let nothing stand in her way—she determined to go to Jesus with her problems. Granted, her faith was a bit superstitious (“If I but touch the hem of His garment”), but Jesus will respond even to the weakest faith. It is not the strength of our faith but the strength of the Faithful One that counts!
How tenderly Jesus dealt with this woman. “Daughter, be of good cheer. Your faith has made you whole!” Jesus did not expose the woman’s problem; that was between Him and her alone. He did encourage her to acknowledge what had happened because He wanted her faith to be in His Word and not in her own superstitious ideas. But He met the secret need in her life and sent her away rejoicing.
Take your secret needs to Christ. He has the power to meet them and to solve the problems of life. Perhaps you are fighting a secret battle that is about to defeat you. Tell it to Jesus! Bring Him all the burdens that you secretly carry and let Him help you. If He does not immediately remove the problem, He will still give you the grace to bear it until His purposes are worked out in your life. “Be of good cheer!”
His Presence (Matthew 14:22-27)
Perhaps your discouragement today does not come from sin, or from secret needs. Perhaps you are discouraged because of the storms of life. Storms do come into the lives of Christians. Sometimes the storms come because we have been disobedient; Jonah is an example of that. But in the passage here, the disciples were in a storm, not because of disobedience, but because of obedience! They did what Jesus told them to do and found themselves in a storm!
Please do not get the idea that the obedient Christian life is an easy one. The fact that “everything is going fine” is not always evidence that we are in the will of God. Everything was going Jonah’s way until that storm hit. That little boat in the midst of the Sea of Galilee is a perfect picture of the church today. It is night; it is stormy; Jesus is up on the mountain praying, just as today He is in heaven interceding for us. We feel alone, helpless, frightened. And then Jesus comes! “Be of good cheer! it is I! Be not afraid!”
If you are going through one of life’s storms just now, listen to His voice over the noise of the storm: “Be of good cheer!” He comes to us in the storms of life; in fact, the very waves that frighten us are the stepping-stones that bring Him to us. He comes at the darkest hour; He comes just when we need Him. He comes where we are, and enables us to come where He is. There is nothing to fear when you have the presence of Jesus Christ.
Have you ever noticed in the life of Paul that Jesus always drew near to him when he was going through a storm? When the going was rough in Corinth, Jesus came to Paul and told him to stay on the job and not be afraid (Acts 18:9-11). When Paul was arrested illegally in Jerusalem, Jesus came to him and said “Be of good cheer, Paul!” (Acts 23:11). On board that grain ship, when the storm was at its worst and the men had given up in despair, Paul experienced the presence of the Lord and was able to say to the passengers: “Be of good cheer! For I believe God!” (Acts 27:22-25). At the close of his life, when death was just around the corner, Paul wrote to his dear friend Timothy that just about everybody had forsaken him. “Notwithstanding, the Lord stood with me and strengthened me…” (2 Timothy 4:16-18).
My friend, “Be of good cheer!” There is no reason to be discouraged, for we have the pardon of the Lord, the power of the Lord, and the presence of the Lord. He has promised to be with us to the very end. Let’s get our eyes off ourselves and our own needs, and let’s look by faith to the Savior Who died for us, Who lives for us, Who comes walking on the water to us, and Who is able to see us through! “Be of good cheer! It is I! Be not afraid!”