Exhortation: Be of Good Cheer

Reading: Mark 6:45-52

There is a phrase that occurs seven times in the New Testament, namely, “Be of good cheer” or “Be of good courage”.  It is used for people in trouble. Jesus loves you!  He comes to you saying: “Be of good cheer (or courage); it is I, be not afraid”.

Life is full of storms of uncertainty, disappointments and sorrows.  Never before have there been so many people who are depressed or just feel ‘down’.  Is this your problem?  Do you feel that no one loves you and that you just don’t count for anything?  If this describes you, ‘cheer up’ because Jesus knows your problems and why you have them.

Once when Jesus’ disciples were in a ship on the Sea of Galilee, a violent storm arose. Jesus, a short time before, had provided food for more than 5,000 people from a boy’s lunch of five loaves and two fish.  He did this miracle to show the people that he was the Jew’s Messiah and the Saviour of the whole world.  After this meal he told the disciples to get into a ship and cross the sea to the town of Bethsaida while he sent the people away.

When the people were gone, he went to a mountain to pray. It was late in the night when Jesus finished praying.  As he looked across the water, he saw the disciples fighting for their lives in the storm.  After the disciples had been on the water for about eight hours, Jesus went to them.  Even though the water was tossing high with waves, Jesus walked without difficulty.  It was around three o’clock in the morning when he came close to them and would have walked past them.

As he continued walking, they saw him and screamed out in fear.  Jesus went to them saying, “Be of good cheer; it is I: be not afraid”.  When he got into the ship the wind and storm ceased.  The disciples were so startled at what was happening, they didn’t know what to do. The Bible says they had forgotten the miracle of Jesus feeding the huge crowd and their hearts were dull at this time toward Jesus and his teachings.

Our lives, in many ways, may be like a sea voyage.  There are many waves, dangers, disappointments and depressions.  These, and other troubles, may sweep over us as waves mount over a small ship.  If we take Jesus on board it will be a very different experience than trying to cross life’s sea alone.  Without him, we will make shipwreck of your lives; with him, our voyage may only seem rough but he will calm the storms.  If we allow him to stay in our lives and obey his orders, he will bring us to the end of our voyage, to his haven of safety.

Jesus knew long ago that our lives would have times of distress.  He said to his followers and says to us: “In the world ye shall have tribulation (trouble and sorrow): but be of good cheer: I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  If we are not Christians, this assurance does not apply.  In order for his delivering power to be effective in our lives, we must allow him to enter our lives and take control. Remember, the stormy sea became calm once Jesus entered the ship.

The life of the sinner is shown in Isaiah 57:20, 21 “The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.  There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked”. Maybe we have gone astray and want the peace in our lives that only Jesus can give.  Let us ask him now. Come back to him and ask him to enter our hearts.  To do this we must pray the sinner’s prayer: “God, be merciful to me a sinner”.  The tax collector knew this prayer (Luke 18:13).  God will come to our lives with calmness more real than the calm of the sea.The apostle Paul speaks of this peace in Philippians 4:7: “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”.

As Christians, we may have times of storm and unrest.  This may be caused by the cooling of our relationship with Jesus.  He wants us to be hot in our relationship with him.  In speaking to the church of the Laodiceans in the book of Revelation, he said: “I would thou wert cold or hot.  So then because thou art lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spue (spit) thee out of my mouth” (Rev 3:15, 16).

If this condition makes Jesus sick, it is no wonder that a man feels as though he is in a storm when this condition exists.  It may be that Jesus allows times of testing.  He brings circumstances into our lives to show us our direct dependence on him for everything.  He may have caused the storm on the sea to test the faith of his disciples.  Jesus watched them during the storm, perhaps waiting for them to call on him for help.  Why does Jesus allow such times of testing to come on those he loves?  He knows that even as Christians we have a tendency toward sin and selfishness.  Even at our best we cannot live a righteous life in our own strength.

The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah said in a prayer: “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).  We can surely see from this scripture that we must receive our guidance and strength from God.  The apostle James says:  “Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8).  Jesus has done so much for us by showing us how to live a life pleasing to God.  He died on the cross to give his blood as an offering to God for our sins.  He has done all he can without running against our free will.  So, when he comes to our life with tests, don’t let us do as the disciples did, cry out in fear, thinking he has come to harm us.  Be sure we are in the right relationship with him when the waves of testing come so that we can grow in our faith and closer in our walk with him. For the disciples, the storm in their hearts was more frightening than the storm on the sea.  As Christians we should not let outward conditions affect the peace in our hearts.  The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee” (Isa 26:3).

Another reason Jesus allows testing times is to teach us faith so that we can help other Christians in their testing times.  The Bible says that God,  “comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Cor 1:41). When testing comes, the Bible has many promises of God’s care.  God allowed difficult times in king David’s life.  Sometimes when David sinned, God worked in his life to bring him to see where he stood with Him.  Often it seems David allowed his troubles to get him ‘down’.  He wrote in the Psalms of his struggle: “Why standest thou afar off, O Lord?  why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1).  “How long wilt thou forget me, …how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?” (Psalm 13:1).  “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? ( Psalm 22:1).

But then David speaks of the greatness of God being with him and delivering him: “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God: and he did hear my voice out of his temple and my cry did enter into his ears” (2 Samuel 22:7) He also wrote, “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous (Ps 34:15). Now read Psalm 23 to find more of the care God provides.  Remember, Jesus said, “Be of good cheer”.  This means “Be cheerful”.  Are our troubles too much for us to handle?  If they are, we can be sure Jesus can help.  He said, “ Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn of me: for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy and by burden is light” (Mat 11:28-30).

When troubles come, “Be of good cheer”.  They need not lead to despair.  Jesus is more real to us even than our troubles.  Remember, he walks on the waves to deliver us.  They will pass but he will stay with us.  But we are so often absorbed with our own affairs, trying our best to steer straight, anxiously watching the events around us, and allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed.

We may be so taken up with the things around us that we have no time to look across life’s waters to see who is coming through the storm to help us.  We must keep our eyes and total attention on the only one who can help us.  God said to people who turned from Him: “In returning and rest ye shall be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).

Are we always aware of Jesus’ presence with us?  Is he really our best friend?  A favourite hymn of many is:

            “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear,

            What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.

            O what peace we often forfeit, O what  needless pain we bear!

            All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer”.

If our troubles are great, we must call on Jesus, he will answer and help us.  We may want to go to a Christian friend for help. He may have had victory over similar experiences in his life. Let us tell him our problem and then pray together and gain encouragement from Jesus’ words, “Be of good cheer; it is I.  Be not afraid”.  In Matthew 9:1-13,  a lesson was left for us all.  Whatever our weaknesses, whatever the sins we commit, we could not have a more understanding God, and a more fervent Saviour and mediator.

 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”(1 John 1:9).  That paralyzed man, forgiven his sins, was able to jump for joy.  The realization of the marvel of forgiveness we received should cause us to end each day happy in the knowledge that we have been so privileged. (Matt 14:23).presents the Lord as a solitary figure, in a lonely place, under a full moon, conversing with God.  Alone one can experience a greater frankness and earnestness, it may be that prayer is more effectual as the mind is not encumbered or distracted.

“Be of good cheer”.  How can we respond to it unless we read and live this word each day?  How can God listen to us if we seldom bow in prayer?  How can He answer if there is no plea from us? God is more than aware of all that we do.  So if there is a solid faith now, with no wavering on the way to Zion, if we live our lives to the glory of God and to the praise of His dear Son, He will be pleased with us. As we come to the emblems of the Lord’s sacrifice, we think of that surge of joy for us all, as we are welcomed by our Lord, “Be of good cheer”; and the kingdom will be ours.

Bro Thomas Radido (Mombasa, Kenya)

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