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Summary: Face your fears with faith. Trust God who knows the future, because He controls the future to refine and purify His own.

In 1973, Producers hired a young director to make a movie based on Peter Benchley's novel about shark attacks called Jaws. That movie launched Steven Spielberg’s career at the age of 26 with its scary special effects. In fact, the movie was so scary that even to this day millions of Americans panic when they get wind that a shark might be present in a beach near their home. And I suspect that a persistent shark phobia keeps even some of us Kansans away from considering a vacation on the beach.

Even so, a recent article in Foreign Policy magazine last year claims that on average less than one American (0.92 people) dies each year from a shark attack. So just in case you really need something better to worry about, here's a list of some items more likely than sharks to cause your death while living in the United States:

Trampolines account for an average of 1.1 deaths per year.

Roller coasters take 1.15 lives per year. So the article advises, “Keep your hands inside the car; your next thrill-ride could be to the coroner's office.”

Free-standing kitchen-range tip-overs cause 1.31 deaths per year.

Vending machines account for 2.06 deaths per year. The article states, “So if those high-fat snacks don't take your life prematurely, rock or tilt that machine while looking for a freebie, and you'll be sleeping with the Pepperidge Farm goldfishes.”

Riding lawnmowers take 5.22 lives per year.

Fireworks cause 6.6 deaths per year. Although, technically, these deaths were caused more by careless and impatient people who peered into the PVC piping because the fireworks didn't seem to be igniting. Most of these deaths occurred despite safety posters warning something like, “Fireworks Can Burn at 2,000°F—Hot as a Blow Torch!”

Skydiving accidents account for 21.2 deaths per year.

Getting crushed by a television or furniture causes an average of 26.44 deaths every year in the United States. This statistic led the comedian Stephen Colbert to issue a warning against the perils of “terrorist furniture.”

The article concludes with a challenge to face our fears and take action. After reminding us that the risk factors of smoking, poor diet, lack of physical activity, and alcohol kill 87 percent of Americans prematurely, the article urges us to get off the couch, turn off Jaws, and go for a swim. (Micah Zenko, “There's Nothing in the Water…” Foreign Policy, 8-10-12; www.PreachingToday.com)

I like the sentiment of that article: “Face your fears and take action.” But the fact remains: there are an awful lot of fearful people in the world today.

National Geographic recently initiated a survey of Americans on their attitudes towards potential “Doomsday scenarios”. Here are some of the key findings:

More than 62 percent of Americans think the world will experience a major catastrophe in the next 20 years.

The four most likely disaster scenarios include (in order) a significant earthquake, a significant hurricane, a terrorist attack, a financial collapse.

71 percent envision a major disaster in their lifetime as an “act of God, not man.”

85 percent said they are not ready for a devastating event; &

25 percent claim they've done absolutely nothing to prepare for a major disaster.

When asked what people would do the night before they thought the world might end, these were the three highest answers: Resolve feuds with loved ones (27 percent); Have sex (24 percent); and Stock up on resources (20 percent). (Meghan Gleason, Nat Geo TV Blogs, “The Results Are In: Is It the End of the World as We Know It? Survey Says!” www.PreachingToday.com)

The vast majority of Americans are afraid of a major catastrophe in their lifetimes, something for which they say they are not ready. So what do we do about it? How can we face our fears and take action? How can we keep from being paralyzed by fear and help our friends and neighbors find real hope.

Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Daniel 11, Daniel 11, where the prophet Daniel found hope in an uncertain future. War looms on the horizon for His people, the Jews, but God gives him a message of hope even as they face a potential “doomsday scenario.”

Daniel 11:2 “Now then, I tell you the truth: Three more kings will appear in Persia, and then a fourth, who will be far richer than all the others. When he has gained power by his wealth, he will stir up everyone against the kingdom of Greece. (NIV)

Israel, at the time, is under Medo-Persian domination. It’s an uncertain time for Daniel’s people. They have recently returned to Jerusalem after a 70-year exile, and their enemies are trying to wipe them off the face of the map.

That’s when God tells Daniel what’s ahead for his people. He says that there will be three more Persian kings. Then a fourth Persian king will arise and invade Greece, and that’s exactly what happened!

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