Monday, August 18, 2014

Be Of Good Cheer

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                I have said this over and over again, but it is worth repeating since it describes me to a tee: I am my own worst critic. I have a tendency to over think things. I get hurt by someone and that is all I think about for days. I question everything about the conversation. I question my responses, my motives, my heart condition, everything. What usually happens is that I end up getting so down on myself that I start to get down in my faith as well. I start to question every aspect of my walk with the Lord. I start to question whether I am walking in the Spirit, or am I walking in the flesh? I start to pick apart everything I can about my relationship with the Lord. All this does is bring me to a place where I am left depressed, discouraged and disquieted within my soul.
      In the book of Acts we read about the amazing testimonies and witnesses of the disciples and Apostles. We read about how they healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, saved thousands and preached the gospel to millions. When I read about their lives I think about how little I do for the Lord in comparison. I look at the boldness of Paul and tell myself that I am a worthless excuse for a Christian, because I can’t even find the courage to witness to the lady at the checkout line at Wal-Mart! But, this morning, the Lord showed me something in His Word that I believe has finally freed me from these two struggles that I have had an issue with. The first, my struggle with being my own worst critic, and the second, comparing my walk to others.
                “But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, ‘Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.’” Acts 23:11
                Paul has been arrested in Jerusalem, put before the council and high priest and their desire is to wipe him off the face of the earth in Acts 23. It would make these men so happy to see Paul dead because he has been preaching Jesus all over the known world, and disrupting their self-righteous lives. Paul’s heart desired for his countrymen to come to the knowledge and salvation of Jesus Christ, (Romans 10:1) so Paul being able to stand before the Jewish Council and preach Christ must have been a dream come true. But what happened to him was the exact opposite of what he must have hoped for. Because it left him feeling disappointed, depressed and discouraged. How do I know this? Because Jesus came and encouraged Paul by these four simple words, the same ones He used to encourage me and start the process of freeing me today- “Be of good cheer.”
                Whenever Jesus speaks these words “Be of good cheer” He speaks them to encourage us where we are and give us the courage we need to face what is coming next. Be of good cheer means that we can take comfort in Him. We have confidence in His forgiveness, in His healings, in His hope, in Him. Each time Jesus speaks “Be of good cheer” it is meant to encourage the one who has fallen into discouragement; which is exactly what happens to me when I get into my own worst critic attitude.
                Jesus speaks to people in different situations but each of them has the same disposition- they are all discouraged. He speaks to the man who has palsy in Matthew 9:2, telling him to be of good cheer, his sins are forgiven. This man must have been thinking that his sickness was a result of his sins. (I am reading in the white spaces here, so bear with me), discouraged that he would never be free from the bonds of this disease. The next time Jesus speaks the words, “Be of good cheer”, he is speaking to the woman with the issue of blood, (Matthew 9:22) this woman had spent years, and years at the doctors with no resolution. She was most likely discouraged, thinking she would never be healed. But Jesus tells her to be of good cheer- her faith has made her well. The next reference is to the disciples, (Matthew 14:27) they are afraid, being tossed upon the stormy seas, and Jesus comes to them, walking on the water,  and tells them to be of good cheer, it is Him and He is with them. Fear is a great discouragement to our faith, but Jesus tells us to be of good cheer, it is He and He is with us. The last one is in John 16:33 where Jesus encourages us that when we go through trials and tribulations, we can take comfort because He has been this way before. We can be of good cheer because He has overcome the world.

                You see, no matter what situation in life we may find ourselves, we can take comfort and encouragement from the simple words “Be of good cheer”. When we turn to the Lord in the midst of our discouragement, we find the peace that our soul longs for. Psalm 42:5 asks, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.” God is ever present, He is always with us. We have nothing to be discouraged about. Yet I find that I need someone to continually tell that to my soul!
                My soul is easily discouraged, because I am constantly questioning myself, constantly wondering if I am walking in the flesh or in the Spirit. I find myself asking, “Lord, is this you or is this me?” I do not need to question anymore. I am sometimes harder on myself than God is. But, what the Lord showed me today that has helped set me free from this desire to criticize myself is that when I do this, I am focusing on me and not on Him. I do exactly what I don’t want to do- I take my eyes off of Jesus and I turn the focus onto self. When I start to question everything, I am no longer walking towards Him but I am now walking in my own flesh, I am choosing to live in me, me and me.
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                My day is full of good cheer because I have Jesus living in me. I do not need to stress myself out wondering if this is of me, or is this of the Lord. I do not have to question every single thing that I do, or don’t do. All I need is faith to walk out His word in my daily life, and have a humble heart ready to repent when I do those things I don’t want to do. I could list off a thousand ways I fail Him every day, yet, He still looks at me and says, “Be of good cheer.”
                When my focus is on what I am doing, or what I am not doing, then my focus is no longer on Jesus but on self. I am going to mess up. I am going to stumble and fall. But this need not discourage me. I need not mull it over in my head until I have brought myself to a place of disappointment and discouragement. I don’t need to run back the recording in my head of the conversation I had with someone, wondering if I said the wrong thing, or if I said what the Lord wanted me to say.  I can be of good cheer because Jesus doesn’t look at me and see all the mess-ups, all the sins, and all the faults. He looks at me and says, “Be of good cheer”. We can have peace from these disappointments and these discouragements in life. All we have to do is be of good cheer. Take comfort and draw strength from the One who has walked this way before. Live out your faith and let God do the rest.
                Jesus did not criticize Paul for speaking out against the high priest, and He did not question Paul over every little thing that he said. He only pointed out the good that Paul had done, by testifying of Him in Jerusalem, and encouraged him that God was not done with him yet. This also frees me from comparing myself to the men and women in the book of Acts because even they were discouraged, disappointed and sinned from time to time. There is no comparison because each and every one of us is unique and precious to the Lord. He created me for a purpose and He created them for a purpose. There may be some similarities, but my life and my walk will never look like someone else’s. Be of good cheer, my brother, my sister in the Lord, for Jesus has overcome the world. Amen?

                Father, I pray that these words that you have given me will be a blessing to all who read them. Father, if anything is of me and not of You, I pray Your mercy and forgiveness. I pray that through my daily life, no matter Your will, You are glorified. In Jesus Name, amen and amen.