Tuesday, November 30, 2010

face your fear with faith

It is said that the greatest fear among Americans is public speaking. Not heights, not loneliness, not Islamic Terrorists, and not even TSA’s grabbing at uncomfortable body parts, but public speaking is our greatest fear. I never have been too terrified at public speaking, but I would be lying if I said I did not feel some level of discomfort every time I go to preach.

A week ago Sunday I presented my paper and answered questions to a panel of pastors and fellow Christians about my beliefs. The purpose was to vote on whether I was worthy to proceed with ordination. This elicited in me a greater degree of fear than preaching, or any other event that I can remember in the last 10 years. It was not as if I was doubting my call (I knew very well God had already ordained me to the task of pastoral ministry) and it was not as I was unsure how to answer questions (the questions I was asked I had been asked and struggled with before). I suppose the fear came from the vulnerability that comes with exposing yourself.

I full heartedly presented from the depths of my soul, my understanding about the most important of matters. At the other end of the room were trained professionals teasing out every phrase and word, and at the other end there were laity eagerly waiting for a truth or word from God they needed to hear in their personal lives. There was a fight inside me, where one side wanted to academically present sound doctrines and understandings of scripture that scholars wanted to hear, and the other side wanted me to present applicable and relatable truth that people wanted to hear. That is the difficult task of sharing the gospel. At one end we must be careful with our words to a critical world, and at the other we need to appeal to people’s needs.

If we simply speak professionally and academically we limit the faith in God and his Son the savior to a mere study of religion and history. If we speak simply what people want to hear we limit the faith to a feel good story with no truth.

I think of the difficult tasks that the prophets shared. At one hand they rationally and elegantly presented the very real word of God to a world who thought it was insane to believe in one god, and at the same time they shared the same word to those who needed to see signs of hope from a loving and caring God.

I think of Peter in Acts and Paul throughout the New Testament who argued and reasoned with people about God’s true and evident nature, and at the same time appealed to a lost and broken world with God’s sacrificial grace.

I think this is the fear that we all have in sharing the gospel. We think we will not do a good enough job properly stating facts and evidence for God’s presents, or we think we will come off sounding to judgmental, removed, and uncaring.

If you are afraid, all I can say is you are in good company. Pastors have the same fear. Moses had the same fear in the courts of Pharaoh, Jeremiah had the same fear in the presence of those older and more learned, Paul and Silas had the same fear in the prison yard. The work of sharing the gospel is not to first get rid of the fear, but to share despite the fear. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were the first to witness Jesus resurrected and you better bet they were terrified but Matthew 28:8 says it beautifully

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

The women were afraid, but they went anyway. Their joy pushed them through the fear. Our hope and prayer is not that we share with no fear (we would wait a long time for that to happen) but that we share despite our fear because Jesus is greater than our fear.