April 28, 1992
Contrary to the claims of the Tough and Determined, everyone has fears. They may be unusual, such as thalassophobia: fear of the sea; climacophobia: fear of stairs; optophobia: fear of closing one’s eyes; or logizomechanophobia: fear of computers!
Others fears are more common, such as claustrophobia: fear of being locked in; achluphobia: fear of the dark; and androphobia: fear of man. Closely related to the last one is the number one fear in North America: fear of public speaking (which also has several long names ending in phobia).
At the root of being afraid to speak in public is a fear of what people will think if I make a mistake. Will they reject me? Laugh at me? Talk about me in a demeaning way behind my back? We are afraid of people but when called upon to get up and talk before a crowd our concerns center more on getting rid of sweaty palms, dry mouth, and a stomach full of butterflies.
Experienced speakers say that no matter how many times they speak, there are always some symptoms of anxiety. However, progress can be made. As a speaker learns to concentrate less on himself and more on the audience, those jitters are markedly decreased. Since kings fit into the category of experienced lecturers, peeking into a king’s journal might give further insight into dealing with this major fear of public speaking.
The shepherd-king of Israel had reason to fear man — both before and after taking the throne. Saul, the former king was constantly trying to kill him. Leaders of other nations threatened his kingdom. His own son betrayed him and tried to take his God-given position of leadership. When David wrote in his journal (the Psalms), he did not have public speaking in mind but the fear of man occupied his emotions. Dealing with it is getting at the root of the other fear.
As we might expect, David hoped in God for his confidence. He said: “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked, even my enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though a host should camp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident... (note where he places his confidence) ...for in the time of trouble (the LORD) shall hide me... in the secret of His tabernacle; He shall set me up upon a rock.”
David knew that no matter what his enemies tried to do to him, God was in control. Furthermore, even if the worst should happen, his hope was in the fact that he could retreat into the safety of his relationship with God. God loved him. God accepted him. God never, ever ridiculed him. In that Rock he could find stability for fearful emotions and security against all threats.
To have that kind of confidence, David (and you and I) need an intimate relationship with God. It will not do to merely know in our heads that He is sovereign and that He loves and accepts us. These truths have to be deeply ingrained into our hearts to the point that when dangers, darkness, public speaking, or other experiences threaten, terror will not fill our minds and tense our muscles. Instead, we will immediately think of God and trust Him.
Fear’s causes, whether spiders, trains, travel or burglars, are never as awesome or as powerful as God. He controls all that comes at us and even though some of it will test us (to see where we really place our confidence), it borders on idolatry to let anything we fear control our lives — instead of Him.