One of the outstanding characteristics of our Lord Jesus Christ as narrated in the gospels is the way He comforts and encourages His people. In Matthew 14:23–27, we see the disciples struggling on the sea as their boat was being tossed around by the waves. The Lord Jesus Christ was praying alone on the mountain. When the Lord comes to them walking on the water by early morning, the disciples thought that they saw a ghost and began to scream. The response of our Lord is remarkable and thought-provoking, “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.”
Prior to this the disciples had a similar situation when the Lord miraculously saved them from a great storm, Matthew 8:24–26. There we see Him rebuking the disciples for their fear and unbelief. Naturally, as they were behaving in the same manner again in a similar occasion, the Lord could have rebuked them, but He did not! Instead He says, “Be of good cheer.”
In other words, He says, ‘don’t worry, be happy’. What kind and comforting words indeed! The disciples had toiled throughout the night, rowing against the wind, and now were terrified. The Lord knew their actual condition and the need of soothing words and support.
How thoughtful and considerate is our Lord! He knows that we are frail and require help. Therefore, throughout the gospels we see Him consoling disheartened men and women. Consider few instances:
Matthew 9: 2 – To a crippled man lying on the mat, the Lord says, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven."
Matthew 9:22 – To a helpless woman who was sick for twelve long years the Lord says, “Daughter, cheer up!”
Matthew 10: 26, 28, 31 – To the twelve disciples as they leave for the mission field, the Lord says, “Fear not.”
Matthew 17: 7 – To the three apostles who were terrified and fallen flat on the Mount of transfiguration, touching them he says, “Arise, and be not afraid.”
Luke 12:32 – To the small company of His followers, the Lord says, “Fear not, little flock.”
Matthew 28:10 – To the two frightened women the Lord appears after resurrection and says, "Do not be afraid.”
Not only in the gospels, but throughout the Bible we see that God encourages and strengthens the weak and vulnerable. No wonder Paul says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,” 2 Corinthians 1:3. Yes, our Lord is God of all comfort and encouragement. He is able to comfort us in any situation. God is more than willing to encourage and equip His people. He does not want His people to remain disturbed, discouraged and disillusioned.
In fact, one of the titles given to the Holy Spirit is ‘Comforter’, John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7. The word ‘parakle¯tos’ refers to a person called along to help and support. This is one of the works of the Spirit of God in this present age; to comfort, strengthen and support His people. According to 1 John 2:1, the risen Lord Jesus Christ is also doing the same work as our advocate - parakle¯tos - in glory.
God’s wonderful program of comforting His people, through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, is being applied to our practical lives by the Scriptures. The Word of God is instrumental in imparting spiritual strength and encouragement to the heart of a Christian. Apostle Paul says that this is one of the purposes of the Scriptures, Romans 15:4. No wonder, he exhorts the Thessalonian believers to comfort one another with these words, 1 Thessalonians 4:18.
When the Lord encourages His people, He also gives a valid reason. He is not simply saying, ‘do not worry or fear’; He presents a basis while saying this. We observe numerous reasons regarding why we need not worry or fear. Let us consider just three from the gospels.
1. The omniscience & omnipotence of God. Matthew 10: 26–28
In this passage, the Lord exhorts the twelve not to fear. The reason being that all secrets will be revealed, nothing will remain hidden and that there is One who is all-powerful than the evil forces. In other words, the Lord was saying, ‘when God knows everything, however concealed it is, and He is able to do anything, then why should we worry’, Cf. Luke 1:30, 37.
Definitely, this is something that should inspire all of us at any occasion. Many times what discourages us most is that nobody understands us. In fact, several things are unseen today. People may not understand us properly. Our best efforts and intentions may be misunderstood or misinterpreted. Take heart believer! One day every secret will be revealed by the Almighty, with whom nothing is impossible.
2. Our value in the sight of the Lord. Luke 12:7
Here is another reason to rejoice. We are precious in the sight of God. Our Lord cares for us so much that He says, “even the very hairs of your head are all numbered”! In fact, the Lord cares for us more than we do. He is concerned and interested of each minute thing in our lives. Moses says that the Lord preserved Israel as the apple of His eye, Deut. 32:10. How much privileged and precious are the children of God in His sight. The Lord wants us to know this fact and be happy and courageous.
3. Our future in the divine program. Luke 12:32
To encourage the ‘little flock’ the Lord Jesus refers to the wonderful purposes of God. It’s the Father’s good pleasure to give the ‘kingdom’ to His people. By the term ‘kingdom’ the Lord Jesus is referring to all that God’s people already enjoy as well as are about to receive in future. The Lord made it very clear to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews…”, John 18:36. Therefore, all our blessings in Christ are spiritual and heavenly.
The knowledge of our possessions in Christ empowers and encourages us as Christians. It pleased the Father to give all the blessings of the heavenly places in Christ as a gift to all who trust in Him, Ephesians 1:3; Romans 8:32. Exhorting the discouraged Hebrew Christians, the writer refers to the unshakeable kingdom they are about to receive, Hebrews 12: 28.
We are well aware that all that we see today is movable and temporary. There is no guarantee for anything in the present world. That is the reason why our trust and hope on this world only lead to increased depression and disappointment. However, a Christian looking forward to the future, recognizing them as planned and purposed by God in His eternal program, rejoices. He takes heart in the fact that beyond the troubles and uncertainties of the present world, there is an eternal inheritance preserved for him, Cf. 1 Peter 1:5–8; Hebrews 11:13–16.
Thus, the aforementioned three basic reasons are enough to reassure and motivate a believer. The three vital things concerning our Lord - who our Lord is; how does He view us; and what He has promised for us - should remove all worry and anxiety from us.
Of course, there are several other reasons why we can cheer up and not lose heart. As we regularly read and meditate the Word of God, we come across such blessed truths. The Spirit of God will use them to grant us relief and strength in time of need.
Be an encourager
Finally, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:6, God comforts us that we may comfort others. Our great responsibility as Christians is to realize the need of strengthening the hearts of several weak and feeble-minded people. 1Thess 5:14
As Barnabas did, we must be encouragers and comforters in this hurting world, cf. Acts 4:36; 9: 26, 27. Many are seeking for a soothing word. Do not forget, even a kind look or a caring attention can encourage and inspire another person. Our Lord is an encourager; therefore, let us also be encouragers.