For several years, I have taught Perspectives classes two to four times per year. “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement” is an inspiring course for Christian laypeople that gives a challenging view of our world and where we are in reaching the unreached for Christ. I especially love teaching the lesson about “Incarnational Love.” But as much as I love this ministry, I have struggled with fear and worry leading up to the class. Having taught it so many times, I had the PowerPoint down pat, but each time the date drew near, I would feel anxiety building inside me. My thoughts would go like this: “How will I do this time? How will the students rate me?” And the clincher— “Will I be asked to teach this class again? If not, why not?” Each time I felt the anxiety growing, I would pray and pray that the Lord would take it away and replace it with peace. Often, the anxiety wouldn’t go away until I was actually teaching the class. Sometimes after a class, the coordinator would give me a stack of appreciative thank you notes from students—but then I wasn’t invited back, and I always wondered what I’d done wrong.
Remembering the Lord of My Ministry
Last spring was overwhelming, as I had four classes scheduled in faraway cities like Duluth, Minnesota and Fort Dodge, Iowa. The classes were timed quite close together and I was getting anxious again! Why did I take on so many classes? How could I manage traveling so far—driving four or five hours, teaching a three-hour class, and driving home the next day? The Lord began reasoning with me in my heart. I knew I needed to surrender this to him. I think sometimes I cling to a ministry, or even a person, out of pride or as a matter of identity. As a missionary, I can be tempted to base my identity on the type of ministry I am involved in, rather than my position as a child of God. But the Lord wants me to release these cares and to love Him first with all my heart (Matthew 22:37). Just as He always has in the past, I knew that the Lord would take care of everything and I needn’t worry—but I still did.
Fighting Fear and Pride
I realized that I was much more concerned about my reputation than God’s! My sin was stealing His glory for myself and fearing people. Another sin was my need to be in control of the situation, rather than trusting that God is in control. I was convicted by Paul’s humility in 2 Corinthians 12:6. He didn’t want anyone to think more highly of him than they should, because he wanted God to receive the glory due to Him. That’s exactly the verse I needed! I needed to hand it all back to God— “my” ministry was really His to begin with. Handing it over to Him meant, first of all, that I needed to confess my worries and fears as sin. I had to pray that He would take all of it and accomplish His will through me for His glory; He cares so deeply for these students, and it is by His power, not mine, that I am able to minister to them.
Confidence in My Deliverer
Finding out that Jesus not only delivers me from those sins, but also helps me to do the tasks he’s asking me to do has given me great confidence in Him. I had to confess my anxiety and fear to the Lord as sin, believe that he would help me and dispel the fear, and simply praise Him. This ministry is not about me, but about Him—and He is big enough to handle it! As I thanked and praised Him for this, putting my trust in Him, I was amazed at the deep peace that He gave me. I remembered that God is my Deliverer. He rescues me from my sin, forgives me, and encourages me to press on. This doesn’t happen all at once and, of course, I get anxious again and again—but the more I remind myself of His promises, the easier it gets. He says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). In Christ, I can confidently say, “the Lord is my Helper; I will not fear what man can do to me” (Heb 13:6).
Moving Forward in Faith
Because of COVID-19, my classes were changed to Zoom classes and I didn’t have to travel so far or lecture for so long. God was gracious to me in lifting some of my burdens, but my fear and anxiety also lessened as I was reassured that my God is with me, and I have no need to fear. What I’ve found in the past was true this time, too: God would work through me despite all my fears; He would strengthen me and give me courage. God showed me once again that His “grace is sufficient, because his power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). I know that apart from Him, all I can bring is my own weakness. Recognizing this means that now the Lord can get all the glory, and I’m so happy to give it to Him! Now, when I’m tempted to be anxious over an event I’m leading, I pray these verses from 2 Corinthians 12 back to Him and tell Him I’m trusting Him to take over. I still get anxious, but not as much as before. I know God can be totally trusted to deal with my fears as I confess them, praise Him for what He’s doing, and just move ahead.