What are you afraid to do?
Sometimes fear saves. Our fear of the snake just off the hiking trail, the out-of-control driver in the express lane, the unattended toddler near a swimming pool.
But fear can also be an excuse. We can let it hold us back or keep us silent.
Fear in its proper place is a gift. Fear unbridled is a cage.
Our church is in the midst of a sermon series called “Ask Anything” where we tackle tough questions from the congregation. I’ve rarely wrestled to put a sermon together like I did for last week. It wasn’t that the topic itself scared me, it’s that it was so big and important I feared not doing it justice.
Of course, approaching any sermon with some level of trepidation is a healthy sign of humility and reverence. But this one was freaking me out. And it was just week one of a 5-week series, with more challenges to come.
But for us preachers, Sunday is always coming. If I let the fear stop me for long, I’d soon be out of the pulpit for good. So I did what is often the last but should always be the first thing: I prayed.
Lord, speak through me.
Lord, guide my study.
Lord, steady my voice.
The beautiful thing about fear is that it can be properly ordered. When submitted to Jesus, fear becomes an opportunity for grace to flow.
The fear drove me to my knees, to my Bible, to commentaries, to wisdom from our senior pastor and from Daryl and from authors I respect and admire.
The fear drove me to Jesus. The work is, at the end of the day, his alone.
By the time I stepped into the pulpit on Sunday, I was still afraid. The sermon was long and weighty, the passages were dense. I tend to be a storyteller in most of my preaching, centering on Scripture but boosting with illustrations and examples, pop culture references and literary allusions.
This teaching sermon was uncharted territory for me, as I worked to stitch together a dozen different Scriptural texts into what I hoped would be a cohesive whole.
I’m praying for you, Daryl texted before the service began.
God meets us in the midst of our fears, and it is often when we step out and face them that we come to know him most intimately. Not because of our courage, but because God is good. He shows up in the desert, in the raging waters, in the voting booth, at the borders, in the sermon preparation, in the truth-speaking, at the 12-step meeting, in the counselor’s office.
As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:
And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
If Paul was nervous–the same bold and bombastic Paul who met Jesus on the road to Damascus and journeyed thousands of miles to preach good news to those who had never heard it–surely there’s no shame when we are, too.
But we can’t let fear stop us from following where God leads.
What step are you afraid of taking?
How does God want to meet you there?
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