Fear of Public Speaking
During one of his standup routines, the comedian Jerry Seinfeld said,
According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. This means to the average person… if you go to a funeral… you’d rather be in the casket… than doing the eulogy.
I can relate. I spent the first half of my life petrified at the thought of having to speak in front of other people. I’m not absolutely sure where the fear came from, but I have a suspicion.
When I was in 5th grade, my family moved from Georgia to Florida. So, I was a brand-new student in a school where I didn’t know anyone. To make matters worse, the school year had already begun, so I couldn’t fly under the radar screen and sneak in. I had to go through the whole, “Class, this is Dale. Let’s make him feel welcome,” routine. We all know how famous 5th graders are for their hospitality to new kids at school.
So, I was the new kid, starting a new school, after the year had already begun.
Here’s the thing: I’m not sure how long it was into the school year, but I remember having to dress up like George Washington to give a biographical report to my new “friends.” I wore a white wig and a ridiculous looking woman’s coat that I think was supposed to look like a revolutionary war coat, to make this presentation. You can just imagine how gracious and supportive a room full of 5th graders was.
I can’t remember in detail the horror I must’ve experienced, but whenever I’ve wondered where my stage-fright came from, I’ve always traced it back to that experience. From that day on, I avoided every opportunity to ever speak in front of a group of people.
Arguing with God
Therefore, you can appreciate how unhappy I was when God started calling me to ordained ministry.
I remember arguing with God as I mowed my parents’ front yard, not too long after I graduated from college. It was a genuine argument. I reminded God about the whole public speaking thing. I told God he must have confused me with someone named Dale Tedler, who was probably a fantastic public speaker.
But, as is usually the case, God got his way, which reminds me of the old saying,
God doesn’t call the gifted, he gifts the called.
The truth is, there’s no one you’ve ever read about in Christian history, or in biblical history, who was just so extraordinary, that God was compelled to call them into service. Instead, God calls ordinary people like you and me, and then he gives us the gifts we need to serve him.
Such is the case with the Apostle Peter.
I know Peter is familiar to most of us, but just as a refresher, here’s a little reminder. Peter was one of the twelve disciples chosen by Jesus. He wasn’t a preacher, or a teacher, or a general, or a politician - he was a fisherman.
Peter’s given name was Simon, but our Scripture this morning tells us this,
Jesus looked at him [Peter] and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).
Cephas is an Aramaic word that’s translated “Petros” in Greek… which means “stone” or “rock.”
Peter: Pros and Cons
You see, Jesus knew something about Peter that Peter probably would have never guessed. Jesus knew Peter would become a pillar in the building of the first-century church. In fact, the first twelve chapters of the Book of Acts focus on Peter’s ministry in establishing the expansion of the early church.
Now, to be sure, Peter had some leadership qualities. And yet, the very qualities that make up our strengths can also make up our weaknesses, can’t they?
For example, Peter had a brash personality. Scripture often shows him answering Jesus on behalf of all the disciples. He was the one who drew his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant. He seemed to always be the, “bull in the china shop.” The upside to Peter’s personality was that he was loyal and courageous. The downside was that he didn’t always engage his brain before he acted or spoke.
You remember when Jesus told the disciples they would all turn away from him, Peter was quick to say it wouldn’t be him. Matthew 26:31-33 tell us,
31 Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:
“‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’
32 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
33 Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”
And we know Peter would, in fact, deny knowing Jesus three times.
But God, in his grace, takes flawed, sinful, and ordinary people like you, and me, and Peter, and does extraordinary things with them. The Lord took Peter in his weakness and forgave him. Then, at Pentecost, he poured out his Spirit upon Peter and all those who had turned away from him.
And what was the result? Peter and the others went from cowardly lambs to courageous lions for Christ. They turned the Roman Empire upside-down with the Gospel.
Peter went from a fisherman to an evangelist, an apostle, and a leader of the early church. He went from being rash to being rock solid, from one who disowned Christ when confronted by others to one who gave himself completely for Christ, even unto death.
Through the power of God’s Spirit, Peter willingly took the job of shepherd. When Jesus restored Peter after his denials, Jesus told Peter to “feed and take care of his sheep.” And that’ exactly what Peter did to the end of his life. And, to reiterate, the first part of the Book of Acts is a record of Peter keeping his promise.
Lessons from Peter
Well, what do we learn from Peter’s call and ministry?
We’re reminded vividly, that God takes the weak things of this world and does supernatural and amazing things with them. The Apostle Paul reminds us of this in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31,
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (Emphasis mine)
Peter could boast in the Lord for what God had done in and through him. Peter was a weak thing, a foolish thing, a lowly thing. And it was this same Peter who God used in a mighty way for his Kingdom. The Bible is filled with many stories of those the world considered weak, and foolish, and lowly. And yet, those are the very people God called and used.
The Apostle Paul was feeling very weak when he asked God to take away his thorn-in-the-flesh, which was some sort of physical difficulty he had struggled with for a long time. And Christ himself responded to Paul by basically saying, “no.” But, in 2 Corinthians 12:9, Christ added these comforting words,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
When God uses the weak, foolish, and lowly people of this world – the ordinary people of this world – to do extraordinary things, guess who gets the glory? It’s God who gets the glory because it’s God who does the work in and through those same faithful, yet ordinary, people he calls to serve him.
How About You?
So how about you? Is there something you feel God’s been calling you to do, but maybe you’ve been afraid to do? Maybe like I did, you’ve been arguing with God, telling him he’s got the wrong person? Maybe you feel a little too ordinary, a little too weak and lowly.
If that describes you, I would ask you to hear those words once more that were spoken to the Apostle Paul. I repeat them to myself on a weekly basis. Christ said,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
And when you remind yourself of the sufficiency of God’s grace in your life - that his grace is enough for you - then you can respond the way Paul did in the very same verse. Paul declared,
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
Trust in God to give you the gifts you need for what he’s calling you to do. And since I’m sharing old sayings with you, let me share one more,
God wants your availability, not your ability.
Let God take care of the ability part. He’s calling you and me to make ourselves available to what he wants to do in us and through us. Thanks be to God.
1 Chronicles 12:32 - Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, 200 chiefs, and all their kinsmen under their command.
The Mission Field in Our Backyard
If you were called to serve as a missionary in a foreign land, you would no doubt seek to learn as much as possible about that land and its inhabitants. You would want to learn how to speak the language of the people, as well as discover their customs and beliefs, in order to get to know them and communicate effectively with them. How else would you be able to meet their eternal and temporal needs?
In our world today, what is true about ministering in a foreign land is equally as true in our own. As many missiologists and evangelists have pointed out, if we desire to effectively reach our diverse culture for Christ, we must know the language, customs, and beliefs of the people we’re around every day. Jesus reminds us that these people are our neighbors whom we’re called to love.
Yet, we know that behind people’s perceived temporal needs there lurk real and eternal needs that only the Lord Jesus Christ can meet. Irrelevance is not a mark of faithfulness or a virtue to celebrate. Seeking to understand where people are “coming from” spiritually, philosophically, psychologically, and emotionally is not necessarily accommodation and compromise. Building relationships, meeting needs, and giving answers that never include the Lord Jesus Christ and his gospel is. It was the Apostle Paul who said that he had become all things to all people that he might win some to Christ (1 Corinthians 9:22). We can be certain that he was able to do so without sinning or selling out. Should we not seek to follow in his footsteps?
Called to be Like the Men of Issachar
Issachar was one of Jacob’s sons whose descendants grew to become one of Israel’s twelve tribes. By the time of King David, we are told in 1 Chronicles 12:32, that among the great fighting warriors of Israel were the men of Issachar, who were distinguished by knowing or understanding the times in which they lived and were able to advise Israel accordingly. It was the Lord Jesus who castigated the religious leaders of his day for being able to predict the weather but not being able to interpret the signs of the times (Matthew 16:1-3). God continues to call godly men to know the times in which they live in order to provide a faithful witness for Christ and his Kingdom in our own day.
Godly men should help their neighbors view the temporal world in which they live with and through the light of God’s eternal perspective. Whether the focus is theology, worldview, ethics, culture, Western civilization, peace, justice, economics, etc., godly men are called to provide those in their spheres of influence with biblically faithful, culturally aware, and practically useful wisdom and guidance. The goal should be to lovingly equip those entrusted to their care as well as to faithfully confront unrighteousness and evil with God’s truth. Such vigilant ambassadors of God’s Kingdom are called to represent the Lord Jesus Christ in their own personal mission fields to which they have been called to serve.
The King of Our Mission Field
Jesus Christ is the Lord over every mission field and we want to communicate that touchstone truth to every man, woman and child in a way that is true, significant, and attractive. We cannot save people ourselves but that doesn’t mean we should not bear witness to our Lord as lovingly, clearly, and faithfully as possible.
Like the men of Issachar, we need to know the times in which we live and effectively, humbly, and respectfully give an answer to everyone who asks us about the hope that we have in this world and the world to come.
Heavenly Father, help me to be a faithful steward and ambassador of your Word – the loving truth of the good news of Jesus Christ. As your ambassador, enable me to speak only your message to others, and not my “new and improved” version of it. As your steward, remind me that you have not only entrusted me with your truth, but you have also entrusted others to my care, that I might humbly share your truth with them. Your truth does not belong to me. It is yours and you have chosen to reveal it to the world. Therefore, help me faithfully communicate it to others in such a way that they will not only know how much you love them, but how much I love them as well. Remind me that it was the faithfulness of those who came before me that brought me this same good news. In Christ I pray. Amen.
This Week’s Prayer Guide
[You can use this prayer guide in your own personal prayer time. However, I encourage you to use it with a group of Christian men. Each week you should spend time praising God for who he is, confessing your sin to him (be specific) as well as expressing gratitude to him for his gracious forgiveness. Also, don’t forget to thank God for the many ways he has poured out his goodness in your life. Then, focus on the following areas of supplication, which will change from week to week.]
Petition – prayers for yourself
· Help me to mature in my faith and to increasingly please God by my thoughts, words, and deeds.
· Particular struggles in various relationships
· My activities for this day
· Other needs
Intercession – prayers for others
· My Family
· My local church
· My denomination
· Para-church ministries, particularly Christian education and discipleship
· Evangelistic ministries
· Other needs
Click the images above to learn more about my books for men.