Snow is gently falling outside, turning the landscape into a Norman Rockwell portrait, as I sit at the keyboard in the waning hours of 2012.  It seems a fitting time to make my initial entry for the Generations blog.  The snow covering our front yard is nearly perfect, with not even one footprint to blemish it.  The same could be said about the New Year which is about to dawn.  It’s fresh and unstained, holding such promise, just waiting for us to make our first marks on the clean, white page.  And so it is that Drew and I are at the beginning of a new journey, launching a blog that we hope and pray will be a blessing to many, especially those in ministry.  But what to write for my inaugural submission?

The truth is there are lots of thoughts rattling around in my often empty cranium.  When you have been ministering for over thirty years there is no shortage of material to share.  In recent weeks I have been jotting down some of the things that I wish to write about in hopes that they will inform, encourage, and stimulate thoughts from those who read the blog.  But since we stand at the threshold of a New Year I thought I ought to begin with something relating to this monumental moment on the calendar.  As I was pondering this dilemma I was also working on a message for the final Sunday of 2012.  That’s when it struck me that the main thoughts of the sermon would be ideal for the blog as well!  Problem solved.

During the month of December our sermon series at Mt. Gilead has centered on the five times in the New Testament when we see the phrase “Be of good cheer” or “Take courage.”  We entitled the series, “Joy to My World.”  During the holidays so many people are hurting, and dreading the celebration of Christmas and the New Year.  While folks are singing “Joy to the World” they are whispering, “There isn’t any joy in my world right now.”  So we decided it would be helpful to center on the “be of good cheer” statements, the first four of which come from the lips of Jesus.  You can find them in Matthew 9:2, Mark 6:50, John 16:33 and Acts 23:11.  But the final time we see those words in Scripture, which was the basis of my year end message, they come from the mouth of the apostle Paul in Acts 27.

Headed to Rome as a prisoner, Paul sought to encourage a ship full of soaked, worn out and panic-stricken seamen.  You probably remember the scene, as described by Luke.  Confronted by a terrible northeaster, the good doctor admits, “We finally gave up all hope of being saved (Acts 27:20). Of course that statement isn’t completely true.  Everyone had given up except the apostle Paul.  While sailors desperately tried to keep the shop from sinking and passengers quit eating, Paul remained calm.  He wasn’t in charge but he took charge.  Joseph Parker writes, “Paul began as a prisoner; he ended as the captain.”  I love that!

Now I realize Paul had been promised by the Lord that he would make it to Rome (Acts 23:11), a truth that was reiterated by an angel of God (Acts 27:23-24).  Still the apostle didn’t know all that would transpire or how difficult the journey would become.  And in a similar way you and I know we will one day reach the shores of heaven, but have no clue what will transpire along the journey.  Still, while we have no guarantees in regard to the immediate future we can be of good cheer, facing the New Year with confidence.

There are so many great truths to be mined out of this account from Paul’s life and his response to the storm and shipwreck.  I would encourage you to read Acts 27 again, taking time to notice Paul’s incredible faith and optimism in the midst of a terrifying, life-threatening experience.  And while there are many potential applications for our lives, let me share the one that speaks most loudly and clearly to me at this gateway to a New Year.  Here it is: Storms, no matter how sever, cannot hinder the purposes of God.  That’s why we can face the future with complete confidence even in these turbulent times.

I guess that is the reason I don’t have a lot of patience with preachers who are always negative.  So many sermons seem to focus on the fact that our world is beyond hope, on a fast track to hell.  Myriads of preachers I know gripe and complain about most everything including the church they serve, their lot in life, and the plight of our nation.  And while I am sympathetic, realizing life can be awfully tough, I want to gently take them by the shoulder and say, “Be of good cheer.”

For that reason I want to leave you with two simple words in, this, my opening post: “But God!”  When you begin to feel overwhelmed and start to cry out in frustration remember those two simple words.  They are game changers.  But don’t take my word for it…consider God’s Word instead: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good (Gen. 50:20).  “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart” (Psalm 73:26), “They took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb, but God raised him from the dead” (Acts 13:29-30).

But God.  Those two words carry more power than all of life’s tornadoes, floods, hurricanes and earthquakes combined.  And as we step gingerly into a New Year, not knowing what it holds, we do so with a calm confidence, because nothing can hinder the perfect will of God, and nothing can separate us from the love of Christ Jesus our Lord.

So, be of good cheer!

Via the  blog “Generations,” a blog by  Dave & Drew Thurman; used by  permission.

  • Dave Thurman is the  Missions & Teaching Minister at the  Mt. Gilead Christian Church in Mooresville, IN

Note: The  lady in the  photo is Dave’s mother, Norma King Thurman