No one used this expression more in the New Testament than Jesus. As a matter of fact, it is Christ speaking in six of the seven instances it’s found. The expression means, “to be firm or resolute in the face of danger or adverse circumstances, be enheartened, be courageous.” Others may encourage us to “cheer up” but when those words come from the lips of the Master, we really ought to pay attention! What is particularly striking is every time Jesus said “Take heart” He was responding to specific universal needs. Let’s consider 5 occasions in life when we’re instructed to “Take heart.”
Occasion #1. The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome” (Acts 23:11). In this context, Paul was given assurance by Jesus that he indeed would go to Rome and proclaim the gospel. It was a message of commendation, encouragement, and confidence. People have a problem with the future and we must learn to faithfully trust in Christ’s provision.
Occasion #2. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). On the night He was betrayed Jesus uttered these words. Really, there are only 2 possibilities in life: overcome or overcomer. The “overcomer” knows peace in Christ – one has the possession of adequate resources in Him. People have a problem with tribulation and turmoil and the solution is to be found in Christ’s peace (John 14:27; 1 John 5:4).
Occasion #3. “Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid” (Matthew 14:27). In this passage, the disciples were made by Jesus to get into a boat only to encounter a raging storm. For hours they struggled, a long way from land and with the waves crashing against the boat as the winds were against them. It must have been both exhausting and frightening! And that’s precisely the point. People have a problem with fear and fatigue and we can trust in Christ’s presence (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5-6).
Occasion #4. Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well (Matthew 9:22). This is the “miracle within a miracle” story where Jesus heals both a woman with a blood loss issue and the daughter of Jairus who was about to die (cf. Matthew 9:18-26). The woman had this severe problem for twelve years and had tried many doctors, but to no relief (Mark 5:26). Jairus, like any good parent, must have been “at his wit’s end” considering how seriously ill his daughter was. People deal with discouragement and despair and we can trust in Christ’s power. This does not mean Jesus provides healing for every sickness, but it does mean that He provides grace and strength to deal with every life circumstance (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:7-9; 2 Timothy 2:1). And He assures us that trying times are temporary and eternity with Him awaits!
Occasion #5. And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2). Our Lord forgave the paralytic of sin and then to prove He actually could forgive, He healed him of his paralysis! People have a problem with sin and Christ’s pardon is what we need (cf. Acts 2:38; 1 John 1:7-2:2).
We all get down sometimes, but we have every reason to “take heart” in our glorious Lord!