Jerry Seinfeld was on The Tonight Show the other day.
He was one of Jimmy Fallon’s first week celebrity guests and he did this bit with Jimmy about the Olympics. He said, “I think I’d almost rather come in last than get the silver medal. Because then you have to tell that story “how much did you lose by” your whole life. And you watch this micro…hundredth of a second, and they show the photo finish and it’s like: gold, silver, bronze. So this guy: greatest guy in the world. Never heard of him.” Jerry Seinfeld cracks me up and as I was preparing for today’s message, it got me thinking about another skit he used to do about speaking in public. I know I shared this with you before but it’s so relevant I’ll share it again. He said, “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that seem right? That means to the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you’re better off being in the casket than doing the eulogy (Seinlanguage, 120).” I looked it up and he’s right. According to the National Institute of Mental Health 74% of people suffer from speech anxiety. 74%! Fear of death? 68%. 68%. From there the next biggest fear is spiders at 30%. I mean, that’s huge. Two biggest fears in the world by far, speaking in public and death and death is number two. One psychologist, Dr. Glenn Croston, said that the reason we fear public speaking so much isn’t as much to do with making a mistake or even of embarrassing ourselves. We’re afraid of being rejected, ostracized from the group. That fear is probably more ingrained in groups who have needed to band together for social support – women, ethnic minorities, people who are gay. Belonging to a group of people who will protect you and stick up for you has been important for as long as there have been humans on the earth. So naturally, we’re deathly afraid of anything that might get us kicked out. But is that a good reason to not share our faith?
Listen to these inspirational words from the Old Testament.
If you have your Bibles or a Bible app on your phones, you’ll want to turn to the book of Esther beginning with chapter 4, verse 1. Esther 4:1. We’ll be reading this morning from verse 1-14. In the chapter leading up to this part of the story, Haman, one of the King’s most trusted followers, has a real hatred for Mordecai, a Jewish man living under the King’s rule. As a noble, people are supposed to bow before Haman, but Mordecai refuses. Not out of spite or jealousy, but because God has told the Jewish people not to bow before anyone but God. Haman is resentful. So resentful that he sabotages not only Mordecai but all of the Jewish people and convinces the king to put to death the entire Jewish race. And this is where we pick up our Bible reading for this morning. If you would please rise for the reading of the Word from the book of Esther, chapter 4, verses 1-14. Esther 4:1-14. Hear now the Word of God.
1 When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly. 2 But he went only as far as the king’s gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it. 3 In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes.
4 When Esther’s eunuchs and female attendants came and told her about Mordecai, she was in great distress. She sent clothes for him to put on instead of his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. 5 Then Esther summoned Hathak, one of the king’s eunuchs assigned to attend her, and ordered him to find out what was troubling Mordecai and why.
6 So Hathak went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate. 7 Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews. 8 He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict for their annihilation, which had been published in Susa, to show to Esther and explain it to her, and he told him to instruct her to go into the king’s presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people.
9 Hathak went back and reported to Esther what Mordecai had said. 10 Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, 11 “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.”
12 When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
“And who knows but that you have come to your…position for such a time as this?”
We often wonder why we are created; what purpose do we serve. It’s one of the questions we are wired with. But what if one of those reasons is for something that frightens us? What if we are called as Mordecai is telling Esther she might be called – for such a time as this? Esther is afraid. And she has every right to be. I would be. Probably most of us would. Anyone who comes before the king without an invitation, INCLUDING his wives can be executed right there on the spot. There isn’t even a guarantee the king will hear your petition. He might just tell his guards to kill you. That’s how scary it was to go before the king. If there was ever a justification for a fear of public speaking, maybe this is where it started. But sometimes, God puts you in the right place at the right time and hopes you do the right thing. Sometimes, God puts you in the right place at the right time and hopes you do the right thing. Now if you know the rest of the story, you know that Esther summons up the courage to talk to the King and when she does she is able to confront Haman with the truth about his edict and how it will kill her and all her people. The King, who truly loves Esther, recognizes Haman’s actions for what they are, the hatred of one man against an entire race, and orders Haman killed and his edict overturned and Esther saves her people.
If our faith is to mean anything we must be willing to share it.
If our faith is to mean anything we must be willing to share it. We must be willing to exit our comfort zone, overcome our fears, and share our love of God with others. I’ve had people tell me before that they believe faith is a private matter and they don’t feel comfortable imposing their beliefs on others. I even once had a couple leave the church I was serving because she said we were becoming “too evangelistic.” It’s not like we were carrying billboards or wearing those posterboard sandwiches around town. But she didn’t like one of the ministries we did where we did nice things for people just out of the love of God. We gave out candy at a youth parade. We gave out water bottles on a hot summer day at a local fair for free. We bought random people scoops of ice cream when the weather was over 90 degrees. And we bought down the price of gas by a quarter per gallon for an hour at a local gas station to give some people a break. And she thought these things were “too evangelistic.” She even said to me that faith was something private and she didn’t want to be a part of a church that didn’t understand that. The thing is, faith may be personal, but it’s not private. Faith is personal not private. That was something Andy Stanley said once in a sermon and it just stuck with me. What he meant by that was that while each of us has a personal journey of faith with God, we were never meant to keep that faith journey a secret. God uses us in our unique circumstances to prepare us to be a witness to others as only we know how. Faith is personal, but not private.
Think of it this way: Is it imposing your beliefs on others when you help them?
When I tell my daughter not to touch the stove, am I imposing my beliefs on her? Or am I telling her vital information she needs to know? We wouldn’t normally think of things like that as “imposing our beliefs.” In fact, if we didn’t do it, people would consider us horrible parents. Most of us tell our kids not to drink or smoke. We tell them not to do drugs. Is that imposing our beliefs? The difference is we believe these things to be true. We believe that touching a hot stove will hurt our children. We believe that a life of drugs and smoking will harm their bodies. Is it any different really when we believe that a life with God will make them happier, better people? We are only imposing our beliefs when other options are equally valid and a choice either way would not harm them or hurt them, but if we believe in Christ as Lord and Savior, don’t we have a responsibility to share that information? It’s not because we want to impose on them. It’s because we love them and want to see them live fruitful, satisfied, happy lives that we share with them the love of Christ. So why are we so embarrassed and filled with anxiety when it comes to sharing our faith?
It’s hard. It can be difficult. And sometimes we worry about rejection.
But we need to realize that when we share our faith it’s also because it’s a necessity. How are people supposed to find out about the love of Christ when nobody tells them? Think about all the people in the world who don’t know about Jesus? It’s probably more than you realize. Think about the people who say their Christian and then act in unchristian like ways. Do they really know what it means? Belief in God is down in the United States. In the most recent Harris poll, only 74% say they believe in God, down 8% from just 4 years ago. Only 68% believe in Heaven, down 7%. Only 65% believe that Jesus was resurrected. Only 64% believe the soul survives after death. We assume that people have it in their mind that there is an eternal future they need to prepare for, but they don’t even go this far. It’s not a matter of “which” belief they have. It’s a matter of belief. Period. These numbers are all in decline and it’s because of two things. One, we don’t act like a group of people who are transformed by God. And two, we don’t share how God affects our life. You have a story to tell. It’s your story and no one else can tell it. We have to overcome our fears and be willing to share the Word of God, because it’s even more than a matter of life and death. Who knows? Maybe God created you for just such a time as this! In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.