Summary: An examination of how fear limits our fulfillment in life. Clip from movie, "Parenthood", used as illustration.
I want to begin this morning by posing a question for your consideration. Before I ask the question think of something that you would really like to do—something you would find very challenging, something you know would be personally enriching—but you’ve never attempted it because you’re afraid that you probably could not do it. I want you to get that something clearly in your mind before I proceed with the questions. Maybe it is something physical like running a marathon or climbing a mountain; maybe it is something spiritual like fasting or praying; maybe it’s a ministry expression like playing an instrument or teaching a class; maybe it’s educational like taking a class or learning a language. What is it that you would like to do sometime in your life that you have always pulled back from, feeling it’s just not possible—yet something inside you says you will not be fully complete without at least giving it a try? Now let’s play a little game of “what if”. What if you applied yourself and actually did it? How would that feel? What if you tried it and failed? Would you really be any worse off than you are right now?
Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy...”(John 10:10. Thirteen million Americans suffer from a thief called “phobia”. It breaks into homes and robs people of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness everyday. Some people can’t even go out of their homes because of phobias. There are every kid phobia you can imagine. Aerophobia is fear of drafts. Odontophobia is fear of teeth. Chaetophobia is fear of hairy people. Pladophobia is fear of baldness or bald people. There is even a phobia for being afraid of being afraid. It’s called Phobaphobia. Thirteen million people are a lot of people. There are no doubt people in this room who could testify of their personal battles with phobias.
Phobias are a severe form of fear and because of their severity it is fairly easy to see how they kill the joy in people’s lives—rob them of personal fulfillment. But we all face battles with more subtle forms of fear. Sometimes we simply don’t try things that we would really like to do because we’re afraid that we will be embarrassed or unsuccessful.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy...”
Jesus set his own purpose in direct contrast to that, “...I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full”(John 10:10) About three years ago I made a decision. It was not an easy decision to make because it confronted a fear in my life—a fear of failure. Of all the subjects I have ever taken in school my poorest aptitude was in learning languages. The memorization was very hard for me. I did not learn English using phonics so I even have trouble pronouncing English words at times. Sometimes when I have to read words that I don’t know how to pronounce I have to deal with fears of embarrassment because in school I mispronounced words quite often. In other subjects, especially those related to logic I could waltz through them without much trouble. But languages were hard for me to grasp.
My decision three years ago was this: to either learn Spanish or Greek. With the quality people in my life who can speak Spanish and already provide that strength here and considering my love for the word of God I decided that Greek would be best for my situation. So last year I signed up for a Greek class. I had all kinds of knots in my stomach as I attended the first session. In fact, many days I had to deal with my fears and go to class knowing I would probably be called on to read Greek sentences that would be difficult for me to pronounce. I’m telling this story because we all have to deal with some fear. I never prayed over a class more in my life than that class. Do you know what God did? He not only gave me grace to finish the class. He enabled me to make an A+ in both semesters. It feels good to have faced that fear.
As I look back over that experience I see four important elements in that success.
1. One element was lots of desperate prayer. It’s amazing how easy it is to pray when you’re about to do something that scares you to death.
2. Another essential was following what I sincerely believed to be the will of God for my life. Not everybody is supposed to learn Greek. I’m not even trying to be a Greek scholar. But there is a level of proficiency in it that I think God wants me to have.