And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him, And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. And his disciples came to him and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. But the men marveled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him! (Matthew 8:23-27)
I've written previously about being in the midst of a storm as the disciples were, fearful of certain failure and even death even though we are walking with Christ. Last night I was reading John Piper's "When I don't Desire God" and something he said just threw a light bulb on in my head concerning this passage in Acts right before Paul is shipwrecked.
But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon. And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive. And running under a certain island which is called Clauda, we had much work to come by the boat: Which when they had taken up, they used helps, undergirding the ship; and, fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands, struck sail, and so were driven. And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship; And the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship. And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away. But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss. And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man's life among you, but of the ship. (Acts 27:14-22, emphasis mine)
Be of good cheer? They think they are about to die! They're terrified, experienced sailors are throwing everything they can think of off the ship in order to stay afloat, and this crazy guy who has been hanging out somewhere by himself says to be of good cheer! Doesn't he understand what is going on? How can they be of good cheer when obviously they are about to die?!
Ah, but we know they aren't about to die. Great loss will come, but God has ordained that their lives will continue. I read this passage and am sure that something similar must have been going through these men's minds, simply because it is what would have been going through my mind. In this way they remind me of the disciples, fearful of death they don't know what else to do. And here comes Paul saying, "Guys, guys, just relax. We have nothing to fear, for God has told me we won't die."
Similarly Christ says to His disciples, "Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?" In the time between Him asking this question and Him rebuking the waves I wonder if similar panic was running through the minds of the disciples? Why are we afraid, Jesus? You're asleep and we're about to die!!
But they weren't going to die now, were they? No. God had plans for them and though the surrounding circumstances seem to scream "death" God said "have peace." The world would say panic, indeed our very nature tells us panic, but God's word says to be of good cheer, to trust and we will find peace and rest.
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. (Isaiah 26:3)
The things we fear will kill us often won't. Nothing can take our lives until God has ordained it is time. And so we must have peace. Though things in our lives may be frightening and stressful, though we don't see how we're going to survive our latest trial we must be of good cheer because we will survive. If we have faith we will survive, no matter what the physical outcome of the situation may be we are "more than conquerors" in Christ (Romans 8:37).
Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away. Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish. (Isaiah 41:9-11)
For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee. (Isaiah 41:13)
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)