"Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life" (Proverbs 4:23)
People fear public speaking more than death. When I delivered my first presentation in a college speech class, fear gripped my heart, and yet how could I forget the thrill of eventually conquering this in becoming an accomplished public speaker.
I learned a pivotal lesson from a conversation right before Cain killed his brother Able. This conversation reveals principles upon which I've deeply reflected in conquering fear. Questions help to diffuse fear and when I am asked questions they cause me to lean in. Questions make me feel like others are talking with me, rather than at me! Scriptures say, "Then the Lord said to Cain, 'Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen [sorrow & suffering]? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up [be accepted]? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it'" (Genesis 4:6-7 | NASB).
Six words echo in my mind: "and its desire is for you." When I began referring to the Serpent as the enemy of my soul, the fight became personal. Ask yourself, "Is the enemy of my enemy my friend or my enemy?" The phrase "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" is usually considered a foreign policy doctrine. According to Wikipedia this phrase "is an ancient proverb which suggests that two opposing parties can or should work together against a common enemy." Clearly sin is the common enemy of everyone, and yet we fail to rally together to conquer this spiritual war! Scriptures say, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12).
I understand the purpose of public speaking to be influencing and persuading one's audience so that together the audience and the speaker agree on what is said. Doesn't this imply that the speaker and audience hope to become a body of one? Weren't "would be listeners" drawn together for a common good? Cause? We all set expectations. Right?
Public speakers fear the possibility of suffering shame and humiliation, should their message be rejected. Scriptures say, "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'See, I make you as God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet" (Exodus 7:1). Ask yourself, "What did God mean by making Moses as God?" The answer is found a bit further in scripture as follows: "So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, 'What shall I do to this people? A little more and they will stone me" (Exodus 17:7). It is essential that we ask ourselves what we have done to God!
Indeed Moses cried out! When is the last time you cried out to God? Carefully consider a baby's response to fear. Babies always respond to fear by crying. Now picture a compass in your mind's eye with the needle revolving around the compass headings in the direction just like an analog watch. To the north is fear! Mankind's first response to fear is sorrow because we don't like suffering. So picture east as sadness and another way of expressing this is "countenance fallen." Interestingly the common response to fear and sadness seems to be anger. Remember the first question that God addressed to history's first convicted murderer? Scriptures say, "Then the Lord said to Cain, 'Why are you angry?'" (Genesis 4:6a | NASB) This analysis makes me think that the root cause of anger is twofold: fear and grief. So ask yourself, "Is it true that angry people are the ones who become the most controlling?"
I knew a wonderful woman and she confessed to me how fear controlled her life. Her response was to obsess on keeping her house tidy. Nothing could be out of place! She was a perfectionist living in an imperfect world. The cycle of attempts at control are endless. What then is the solution? Scriptures say, "For God has not given us a spirit of timidity [fear], but of power and love and discipline" (2 Timothy 1:7 | NASB). The secret hidden in this scripture is to embrace the notion that fear is given to us from the enemy of our collective souls: The Serpent.
The NIV version of the Bible translates the sentence "If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up?" in other words as follows: "If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?" Being rejected is diametrically opposed to being accepted. The desperate expectation of a public speaker is to be accepted. Right?
Knowledge without wisdom and understanding is useless. Moreover, understanding and knowledge without wisdom is foolishness! This is the reason that scriptures say, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Proverbs 1:7 | NASB).
The enemy of my soul, the serpent, knows who God is; and yet he is a rebel who refuses to submit and make God his Lord. To unlock the secrets of wisdom hidden in plain sight within scripture, one must possess the Spirit of God. Scriptures say, "The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord" (Isaiah 11:2 | NASB). Listed herein are seven attributes of the Holy Spirit: 1) Lord, 2) Wisdom, 3) Understanding, 4) Counsel, 5) Strength, 6) Knowledge, and 7) Fear of the Lord.
Fear of consequences causes people to justify and rationalize their wrongs. Often times people minimize their wrongs. And of course people frequently blame others for their wrongs. As an example the first man responded to the first sin as follows: "The man said, 'The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate'" (Genesis 3:12 | NASB).
The word of God, the gospel, cannot be understood by reasoning it in one's mind; for scriptures say, "Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?'" (1 Corinthians 1:20 | NASB).
To conquer fear we must learn to understand God's word by understanding it through our heart of hearts. Scriptures say, "Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?' Then I said, 'Here am I. Send me!' He said, 'Go, and tell this people: 'Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand. Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim, Otherwise they might see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEARTS, And return and be healed.' Then I said, 'Lord, how long?''" (Isaiah 6:8-11a | NASB).
Not one of us has lived without experiencing dreams that are shattered when expectations go unmet. Common to all of us is the fear of the future. To conquer this fear God gave us His word through the Bible which tells the history of what happened, what is happening, and most importantly what will happen. To foretell the future is called prophecy. Scriptures say, "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb [Jesus] has come and His bride [The Church] has made herself ready.' It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, 'Write, 'Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'' And he said to me, 'These are true words of God.' Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, 'Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; WORSHIP GOD. For the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy" (Revelation 19:7-10 | NASB).
God is the ultimate public speaker! Ask yourself, "Have I rejected God's speech? Isn't this what God fears the most?" Collectively we have all broken God's heart. Right? At the time of the flood all the people of planet earth decidedly worshiped the serpent who is the enemy of our collective souls, that is except eight faithful followers of God. At the end of the day who will you serve? God? Man? Scriptures say, "The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart" (Genesis 6:6).
What have we done with God? A compelling question exists in ancient scriptures and I will end this piece with that, "And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. He named the place Massah and Meribah because they tested the Lord, saying, "Is the Lord among us or not?" (Exodus 17:6-7)