Time magazine cover once asked, “What Scares You Most?”
Hundreds of phobias were listed, including fear of mother-in-laws, fear of church, and fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth (my dog has this fear). Number one on the list of fears was—you guessed it—speaking in public.
After the release of my first book, my phone rang. I answered.
“Phil, would you like to speak to our church?”
“Umm,” I stammered. “I would rather crawl across molten metal in a loincloth.”
No, I didn’t say that. But I did say, “I can’t; I get too nervous. My lips quiver. My knees knock. My voice sounds like I’m going through puberty. So don’t ever call this number again.”
The lady laughed as I told her the truth: Public speaking scares me to death.
But the calls continued. “Phil, would you come and speak?”
I told each caller the same thing: “I can’t. My tongue gets swollen. My mind goes blank. What if my kidney explodes?”
My wife was stabbing potatoes at the kitchen sink one night when I told her about the calls and letters.
“Do you remember in the Bible where God used Balaam’s donkey to talk?” she said. “Maybe He could use you.”
So that night I knelt by our bed, opened my hands, and said, “Lord, whatever You want, I’m Yours. If You can use a guy like me, that would be a miracle.”
Three days later, the phone rang.
“Mr. Callaway, our ladies’ group is reading your book and laughing ourselves silly. Would you come make us laugh?”
I grinned and said, “Sure. I can’t preach, but I can make you laugh.”
Back in second grade, I realized people laughed at me. The teacher didn’t, but my fellow students did. Perhaps when God was handing out spiritual gifts, He gave out brightly wrapped packages adorned with words like “teacher,” “preacher,” “encourager,” and “ordained plumber.” Marvelous gifts those. And then He came to mine. The box said “warped mind.” And the angels rejoiced.
As I read the story of Moses, I couldn’t stop smiling. When he stood before a burning bush, he heard God’s call to lead Israel from slavery and winced.
“Wait a minute, Lord,” Moses said. “Not me; I stutter. My knees knock. My lips get stuck together.”
God answered, “That’s OK. I can work with that. What’s in your hand? Lay it down.”
Moses laid down his rod, and God did His part.
This is a profound lesson from the Lord: Give Me what you’ve got. Don’t give Me your excuses; don’t offer Me someone else’s gifts. Give Me what’s in your hand. It may only be a stick, but I can work with it.
When I got up to speak that first time, I was nervous. I think my kidneys hurt a little. But these gracious ladies laughed. One fell off her chair. It was wonderful. And the humor opened a door to tell literally millions of people about Jesus. On the way home, I thanked God for the joy of doing something that terrified me. But when He is in it, everything changes. And I found myself thinking of what I had written in the front of my Bible while I should have been listening to a sermon:
Moses stuttered. Sarah laughed. Jacob wrestled. Abraham lied. Rahab was a prostitute. David liked rooftops. Jonah was down in the mouth. Jeremiah was depressed. Matthew worked for Revenue Canada. Lazarus was dead. Zacchaeus didn’t measure up. I guess You can use me too, Lord.
Today, believe it or not, speaking a hundred times a year is one of the most rewarding things I get to do. Not because I’m so wonderful, but because He is. Not because I’m strong, sharp, or always prepared, but because Christ’s power is made perfect in weakness.
Few things I’ve learned are more profound than this: God continually chooses the most under-qualified to do His work. Because we know we can’t do without Him, and when good things happen, we know exactly who gets the credit.
Is there something rewarding you’re missing out on because of fear? Someone once said, “Fear is the little darkroom where negatives are developed.” So lay it down. You never know what God will turn it into. And when good things happen, never forget who gets the credit.