Over the last few weeks, I’ve been writing about the importance of staying encouraged in the Lord. I’ve shared several steps we can take to avoid discouragement, but sometimes when push comes to shove, we just have to make a conscious decision to be encouraged. Jesus told His disciples, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me” (John 14:1, NLT). The fact that Jesus told them not to “let” their hearts be troubled indicates that they had the ability to control whether or not their hearts were troubled. The same is true for us today. We may not be able to control our circumstances, but we can control our hearts. We can decide whether to be encouraged or discouraged, and Jesus wants us to choose to be encouraged!
When Joshua was on the brink of leading the people of Israel into the promised land, God had an important message for him: “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9, NKJV). Notice the language God used: be strong … be of good courage … do not be afraid … do not be dismayed. Those sound more like commands than suggestions to me! God didn’t say, “Wait until you feel strong … wait until you have courage.” He simply stated, “Be strong and of good courage.” Joshua had to make some important decisions. He had to choose to be strong and of good courage; he had to choose not to be afraid or dismayed. Those are the same decisions we have to make! We have to choose to be strong and of good courage; we have to choose not to be afraid or dismayed.
You see, sometimes we get it all backward. We want to wait until our circumstances change before we become encouraged. But really, we need to be encouraged first so that we can be in position to receive God’s blessings. This principle was demonstrated in the healing ministry of Jesus. When Jesus encountered people who needed physical healing, he sometimes addressed the state of their hearts and minds before he addressed the state of their bodies. For example, in Matthew chapter 9 we read how some men brought a paralyzed man to Jesus on a mat. The man had obvious physical needs, but the first words Jesus spoke to him were “Son, be of good cheer” (v. 2). Later, Jesus told the man to rise up and walk, and miraculously he did. But I think it’s interesting that Jesus first dealt with the man’s attitude and then dealt with his physical condition.
You may have needs in your life, but first examine the condition of your heart. I believe the first words Jesus would have for you would be the same: “Be of good cheer!” When you are encouraged, you are in a better state to receive the blessings God has for you. So, don’t wait until all the conditions in your life are “just right” before you are of good cheer; be encouraged now! Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Obey God’s command, and make a decision to be encouraged today! “Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord” (Psalm 31:24).