Be of Good Cheer
A long, long time ago, when the storm-tossed sea drove his companions to despair, when hope was almost completely gone, and when fear gripped the hearts and hands of strong men, Paul said, "Wherefore sirs, be of good cheer; for I believe God that it shall be even as it was told me." (Ac. 27: 25.) This confident expression from a prisoner, surrounded by desperate and faithless men, should be a source of courage for us today. Indeed Paul's hope was not because of his own might nor was it based upon his high educational attainments, but he said, "I believe God."
Now it is surely one thing to believe in God and it is another thing altogether to really believe what God says. Paul was truly a believer in God, but he was also one who trusted the word of the Lord. Thus he said, "it shall be even as it was told me."
Do we have this kind of confidence today? Strangely there is much pessimism among otherwise faithful brethren. Some seem to be able to see only the dark side. Many whine and complain. Both publicly and privately a spirit of defeatism often prevails. But we ought to "Be of good cheer." Christianity is not a life of sadness but a life of gladness. There is much cause for joy. If you think that I am a visionary crackpot, with my head in the clouds, consider just a few of the many reasons that could be given for cheerfulness.
1. Even if it could be proved that almost everyone is bad, we can be good. (Ac. 11: 20.) And even when we realize that we are not perfectly good (Rom. 3:23), we can still rejoice, knowing that God is entirely good and that "His grace is sufficient unto me," (Con 12:9) and that "I can do all things through him who strengtheneth me." (Phil 4: 13.) We can, with joy and hope approach the judgment, knowing that by God's abundant grace (Eph. 2:8), through our living faith (Gal 3:26), and at our full obedience (Rom. 6:17, 18), we have been redeemed (Eph. 2:7), and that the blood of Christ has continually cleansed us if we have "walked in the light." (1 Jn. 1: 7.) We can rejoice because we depend upon God's goodness and mercy and not upon our own perfection.
2. When gospel harvests seem too small, we can still be glad in the knowledge that the Lord has not charged us with the responsibility of converting the world. When we faithfully "preach the word" (2 Tim. 4:2), and live so that our light will truly shine (Mt. 5: 16), we can be of good cheer, knowing that "His word will not return unto him void." (Isa. 55:11.) Even though we may certainly be disappointed when people we love reject or neglect Christ, we must not be discouraged, but we must graciously, patiently and persistently "Press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 3: 14.)
3. Today many able preachers stand off and pout while the institutional battle rages before them. With quaking hearts they study to find a middle ground that might make them suitable to all. With quivering lips they speak soft words, so polished as to be offensive to almost no one. With trembling hand they take the "Sword of the spirit" (Eph. 6:17), hardly taking it from its sheath and barely waving it aloft, far, far from the battle line, and retreating farther and farther from the real conflict between truth and error. But if they would join sincerely in the good fight of faith, if they would press the dagger of truth firmly into the heart of false doctrine, and if they would, with strength and humility, with boldness and kindness, with love and power, uphold the Lord s church and oppose the encroachments of human societies they could sleep more soundly, work more conscientiously and "rejoice evermore." (1 Thes. 5:16.) Indeed, "Happy is the man that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth." (Rom. 14:22.) If the soldier of the cross would be content in his work, he must know in his heart that he has been true to the Lord he adores. Through many tears he can come with gladness, if he has "kept back nothing that was profitable" for the people. (Ac. 20:20.)
4. Many will complain that things are getting worse and worse and that churches are going farther and farther from truth and into false ways. Realistically we must recognize that this is indeed true of a great many churches. On the other hand, almost everywhere there are many, yes, many, many, turning from institutionalism. More and more churches are now searching for preachers who will not try to promote the use of the church treasury for support of human organizations. In the last twelve months I have preached in twenty-seven meetings over much of the eastern half of the U.S., and almost everywhere I find several churches seeking conservative preachers.
Brethren are awakening. The tide is turning. I do not mean that a majority of the brethren who lead the churches today will ever give up the institutional idols, but certainly a vast number have already done so, and every indication is that a great multitude will yet turn back to the New Testament way. Even in many places where, a few years ago, almost everyone "went along" with church support of some human societies, now many are turning back to the Bible arrangement. There is cause for joy! Truth still prevails -- to direct the hearts and hands of many. Christ still rules -- and many willingly subject themselves to him. Indeed, we have much cause to "Be of good cheer" and to press onward in truth and righteousness.
Truth Magazine VII, 1, pp. 11, 24