In 2015 ABC News reported that the five most common fears that people hold are 1 – Social Phobias, 2 – Fear of Open Spaces, 3 – Fear of Heights, 4 – Fear of Flying, and 5 – Fear of Enclosed Spaces.
Some people have a dreadful fear of snakes. In fact, that fear was #7 on the list. Personally, there are only two kinds of snakes that I am afraid of: live ones and dead ones! Some fears are rational—we should be afraid, it’s natural, others seem to understand. Some fears are irrational—our emotions overtake our common sense. We know we really shouldn’t be afraid, but we are.
When I went on a mission trip to Papua New Guinea last month, I was subjected to situations that would fit all five categories above. Think about it: I was forced to be in social situations that were unfamiliar and drastically different than my everyday routine. I was in large airports, huge metropolitan cities, and wide-open mountainous places. I was on the 55th floor of a hotel tower, on mountaintops, and in airplanes. The one 14-hour flight from Vancouver (British Columbia, Canada) to Brisbane (Australia) encompassed the fears of heights, flying, and enclosed spaces in one experience!
Our mission team encountered different customs, different languages and accents, different foods, different modes of dress, and different styles of worship. Our fears of public speaking, meeting new people, being stared at, and being 8,000 miles from familiar surroundings were certainly put to the test.
We were out of our comfort zone! Twenty of us submitted to the rigors of traveling through six airports together, being crammed into crowded airplanes together, sharing life in a six-room, two-bath dormitory together, refurbishing a schoolhouse for missionary kids together, and eating what was put in front of us together. It was challenging, but the rewards were worth the effort!
Did you get that? Challenge and reward, challenge and reward. It seems to me that not too many things in life bring reward without meeting some sort of challenge beforehand.
I heard a great statement years ago that impacted my life: “There is never a feast without a sacrifice.” Wow! That’s powerful when you think it through. Think about the last Thanksgiving Dinner or family gathering you attended. You probably enjoyed what we would call a feast, a sumptuous meal, a real culinary spread. How did that meal happen? Someone or many someones sacrificed time, energy, and money to provide that feast. Even eating out at a nice restaurant requires that someone sacrifice to earn the money to pay the tab for that fancy meal.
In the Bible there are examples of feasts that are preceded by sacrifices. It was the Old Testament Jewish way of living life. But today, living in the dispensation of grace, a Sacrifice has been made so that we may enjoy the feast of abundant life now and eternal life forever! In fact, the Bible says we are all invited to a Feast—the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Jesus the Lamb of God will come to take his Bride (the Church, the Body of Believers, the Redeemed) to Heaven and we will celebrate that union with a great feast. What a day that will be!
With God’s help you can overcome your greatest fears, whether they are rational or irrational. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, you can move out of your comfort zone to accomplish the things God is calling you to do. We can thank God for the Sacrifice of His Son Jesus on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins so that we can enjoy the feast.
And by the way, don’t be afraid. He has already defeated the snake!
Michael Hancock is the Associate Pastor at Xenia First Church of the Nazarene and guest columnist.