The year that is almost past has been one of turmoil. The financial world has seen great companies brought low and those responsible for managing them humbled. Time and again the leaders of nations have been unable to control the forces that were let loose. Although some stability may have taken place, the lesson for believers is that increasingly the human race is unable to govern effectively against the background of the social, commercial, and moral climate it has created. In some parts of the globe, this year has also seen physical repression and suffering so that many believers have feared for their lives, some even being put to death.
In the midst of this how does the believer, longing for, looking for the Rapture, fare? The little phrase that sits at the head of this page gives the answer. No matter what our circumstances, we are exhorted to "Be of good cheer".
These words are found on a number of occasions in the Gospels and in Acts. They were uttered by the Lord Jesus and are not an invitation but are always voiced as an imperative, that is, an absolute command. The word "cheer", sometimes translated "comfort", has also the thought of taking courage.
First, they were used by the Lord on two occasions showing that His power is able to deal with our past - when we put our trust in Him He delivered us from that which had mastered us. To the man lying paralysed on the bed that had been let down though the roof He declared, "Son, be of good cheer; thy sins are forgiven thee" (Mt 9.2). To the woman who had suffered for twelve years His words were, "Daughter, be of good comfort (cheer)" (Mt 9.22). The man on the bed had his sins forgiven and his past inability to walk was no more. To the woman, the past defilement with all the stress and pain she had suffered was gone. For both of them the change brought about by the Lord banished the difficulties and heartbreak of the past and introduced them to a new life. We have every cause to "Be of good cheer" because of what He did when He came into our lives. Little wonder that those who called to Bartimaeus said, "Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee" (Mk 10.49).
Second, His presence will calm our present anxieties. After a long tiring night on the sea "toiling in rowing" the disciples were weary. Due to the contrary wind little progress had been made. Frustration and tiredness gripped them. Suddenly they saw Him, but fear filled their hearts. Who was this walking on water? His words quietened that fear: "Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid" (Mt 14.27; Mk 6.50). Their fears were banished when He was in the boat. How many today feel that they are rowing against the wind, fearing as they look at their present circumstances. To such the calm words of the Lord come across the waves, "It is I". Nothing about His people is unknown to Him; His care for them is undiminished.
Third, His promise can be relied on for the future. To disciples in the Upper Room He spoke of what lay ahead: "In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (Jn 16.33). The night following Pauls appearance before the council, resulting in the chief captain of the guard fearing for the apostles life, the Lord stood by His servant and said, "Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so thou must bear witness also at Rome" (Acts 23.11). The disciples and Paul faced an unknown future in circumstances that none of them had experienced before. The promise of the Lord would give the disciples comfort and confidence. The world will oppose and use every artifice at its disposal against Christians, but fear not for He has overcome the world. To the apostle He promised that his desire to go to Rome would be fulfilled (Rom 1.9-13) and that he would preach in the imperial capital.
When trouble causes turmoil in the world or in our lives let us take heart. When the world does not know where to turn we have cause to be comforted, to take courage, and to be of good cheer. Our past, present, and future are all in His hands.