The spirit of God tells us that “in the last days perilous times shall come” (2 Tim. 4:1). The word translated “perilous” is chalpos, and the dictionary gives the meaning as: “hard; hard to do, or deal with; difficult; hard to bear; painful; grievous; harsh; fierce; savage.” Does not this word very accurately describe the condition of our present day? As we look around us we might well be discouraged, cast down, filled with fears and forebodings.
But if one little Greek word can so accurately describe the spirit of the present day, there is another little Greek word that can heal the wounds of fear and sorrow and discouragement caused by all that is about us. That little word is Tharseo, or as our Lord loved to use it, Tharsei, for it is a favorite of our blessed Lord; indeed with one exception it is reserved entirely for His use. He used it time and again when He was on earth, both to man and woman; and He used it once again after His return to the Father in the Glory. Eight times we find it in the Greek New Testament. We find it in every Gospel, and in the Acts of the Apostles; and if I mistake not, He whispers it to His tried saints even in the present day. Sure I am that you and I may take it for ourselves.
My father often had to use a seal in his work, and he loved this word so much that he had the Greek letters of it engraved on the seal he always used, so that he might ever be reminded of its message. As a little child I loved to watch the hot, red sealing wax, as he sealed his important letters; and when a little older, loved to trace out the strange Greek letters, which he told me meant:
So this word was my introduction to the Greek New Testament. Do you wonder I love it?
The word has been translated: “Be of Good Cheer” or “Be of Good Comfort,” as we generally find it in the Authorized Version of our Bible; but others prefer, “Be of Good Courage,” or “Be Confident!” or “Take Heart!” or (as I love it best), “CHEER UP!” But it has the meaning of all these.
The first time we find it in the New Testament is in Mt. 9:2, where He says to the man sick of the palsy, “Son be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.” We find it next in the 22nd verse of the same chapter. He is using it here to a woman; and that is not by accident. The Lord would have us each - man or woman, girl or boy - learn this word for our very own selves. Here He says, “Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole.”
We find it for the third time in this same Gospel. (I think Matthew loved this word). See chapter 14:27. It was a dark, stormy night, and the disciples were far out on the sea, and the wind was contrary, and for hours they had been battling with the wind and waves. It is at such a time this word sounds the sweetest. The disciples were toiling in rowing. They were alone, without their Lord in the boat. But unknown to them, He had been watching them in their toil and fear, though they had no idea He was doing so. Then they saw a strange sight. Someone walking on the water, and coming near to them. They were troubled and cried out with fear. So would you and I, had we been in their place. Then straightway, Jesus spoke to them. What did He say? “THARSEITE!” “Cheer Up! It is I; be not afraid!” Or, as the old Wycliffe translation so beautifully puts it: “I am nyl ye dread.”
We find it for the fourth time in the same story, this time told by Mark (6:50). We find it next in Mk. 10:40, spoken to the blind beggar Bartimaeus when he cried to the Lord for mercy. Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called; and they call the blind man, saying unto him, “Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee.” This is the only time in the New Testament when this word is not spoken by the Lord Himself; but used in directing a needy one to Him.
Then we find it in Lk. 8:48; but this time the reading is doubtful. It is the same story we saw in Mt. 9:22. Jn. 16:33 is the last recorded time our Lord uses it on earth, and it seems to be wonderfully fitted as a parting message to us all, as He prepared to leave this world and return to His Father. “In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” What a word for us today! So, be of good comfort! Be of good cheer! Cheer up! The Lord says it! “I have overcome the world.” This is His message to you, to me, for today.
The last time we hear it in the New Testament is in Acts 23:11. Paul had used a rather clever device of his own to divide the Jewish council, setting the Pharisees and the Sadducees against each other. In Acts 24:21 he seems to confess that he had been wrong in doing this. We can well suppose that the night following, lying there in the Roman prison, too sad and discouraged to sleep, Paul was deeply regretting what he felt had been a dishonour to the worthy Name by which he was called. Then the Lord Himself comes and stands by him. He does not call to him out of Heaven. He does not use a vision, or send an angel to carry His message. No! He Himself comes right down into that prison, and stands by His grief-stricken servant; not to upbraid him: no, indeed! But to say once again that well known and well loved word: “Tharsei!” “Cheer Up, Paul!” I think that transformed the dungeon into Heaven itself.
It may be that you and I are at times sad, discouraged, cast down, filled with fears and dread: perhaps we have failed, and dishonoured the One we love. It may well be that at such a time we will hear His voice, the voice His own sheep know so well, and in tones of love, of hope, of confidence, we will hear Him call our name (for He calleth His own sheep by name) and we will hear Him say:
THARSEI! … CHEER UP
“Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercies, and will break
In blessings on your head.”