This week’s eNewsletter Feature
was written by Jim Teague
FPCE director of communications.
There is an old piece of advice regularly offered to those who have a fear of public speaking or giving presentations to a group of their peers. It recommends that the presenter overcome their anxiety by mentally picturing the members of their audience in their underwear.
I suppose the idea is to help the nervous speaker relax by conjuring a humorous image to focus on rather than worrying about what the audience is thinking. Maybe it’s that the disturbing thought of all those undressed people frightens the fear away. Or perhaps the speaker is meant to be so ashamed of thinking of others in their undergarments that, by comparison, doing a poor job speaking seems tame. Whatever the theory behind it, I never felt comfortable using that tactic.
I can’t say I particularly enjoy public speaking, but I have always loved doing theatre and performing in concerts.
There is, of course, a big difference between being asked to present something you wrote or created alone at a podium for others’ consideration and being part of a cast or band on stage with the script or lyrics provided by someone else.
On Sunday, Rev. Raymond Hylton will preach from Jeremiah 1:4-10 where Jeremiah recounts how he was told by God that he would be “a prophet to the nations,” and how that had been the plan since before he was born. Jeremiah admits his response was less than enthusiastic.
“6 Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.’”
Last week, Pastor Ray’s message included the reminder that just as the grape farmer expects the vines he or she tends to bear good fruit, God expects his work in us to result in a healthy, abundant representation of him here on earth– the “good fruit” of the kingdom. That “great expectation” of God is not a condition he puts on us as a requirement for entering heaven and an eternal relationship with Him. Rather, it is the natural growth which comes out of our relationship with Him in this life.
As our hearts respond not only to what Jesus Christ accomplished for us on the cross, but also to the good things this life has to offer, the expected result is as natural as it is to expect grapes to come from grape vines rather than from corn stalks.
At the end of the message, Ray reminded us that God does not simply plant us in the world and leave us to our own devices. In John 15:4-5, Jesus told his disciples—and us—to “abide in me as I abide in you.” And that “abiding” is accomplished through his Holy Spirit!
Galatians 5:22-23 says:
22 …[T]he fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.
If we manage to pass that kind of fruit around among those who we share our lives with, we can’t help but be good witnesses of Christ’s love and bear much good fruit.
So, back to Jeremiah.
God doesn’t let him off the hook after Jeremiah plays the “I’m too young for this” card. In fact, God makes it clear that the future prophet should knock off the pessimism and excuses and remember who is addressing him.
The long and short of it is that God is extremely confident in his ability to use a young boy like Jeremiah for his purposes. All it takes is a touch of God’s hand to Jeremiah’s mouth and the words to be spoken are there to be poured out.
The rest, as they say, is Bible history.
To me it is no coincidence that when the Holy Spirit came to the Apostles, it came as tongues of fire and resulted in them being heard by those nearby in their native languages. Today, we share the same message of love and hope and power Jesus’s first followers brought.
There is no denying sharing our faith can be frightening and intimidating, particularly in an age when being a Christian is considered by so many to be a synonym for being judgmental, closed-minded, power-corrupted, and hypocritical.
But when the opportunity comes for us to stand alone (though we are never truly alone) in proclaiming the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we don’t need to think of people in their underwear or find some other method of overcoming our fears.
We have been appointed for this, and we can trust God to put the right spirit in our hearts and the right words in our mouth!
We look forward to seeing you this Sunday morning at 10 a.m. for our worship service (in person or online)!
Director of Communications