Sermons from St Faith's
'Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway'
Fr Dennis Smith, Sunday, 4th
Some years ago a motivational book called ‘Feel
the Fear and Do It Anyway’ was written by
psychologist Susan Jeffers. Unfortunately for
Ezekiel, it wasn’t published at the time he was
around, because he might have found it useful.
He was set the task of prophesying to the exiles
in Babylon, but was warned up front that they
probably wouldn’t want to listen. God told
Ezekiel that he should go and speak to them
anyway. It can’t have been the most enticing of
Our readings today talk about various people
being set a task that makes them vulnerable to
failure. Ezekiel was sent to proclaim God’s word
to a people who were ‘stubborn, impudent and
rebellious’ (NRSV). In our gospel passage, Jesus
sent his disciples out on a mission with
absolutely nothing – not even the bare
essentials for survival. There was the risk they
wouldn’t last out more than a day or two on the
road without food or shelter. In our epistle
reading we hear that Paul wasn’t exactly in the
best of health as he set about the task of
taking the gospel into the Gentile world.
He was afflicted by something he described as a
‘thorn in the flesh’, that was such a hindrance
to his mission that he felt it must have been
sent by Satan.
Even Jesus wasn’t guaranteed success. The people
of his home town weren’t the only ones who found
his message and behaviour unacceptable. The
cross is proof of that.
I’m sure that we too, in the church, often feel
we’re called to be servants of Christ in a world
that doesn’t want to know us, and that we’re
still struggling in our weakness, like Paul. No
doubt we feel we lack adequate resources, like
the twelve who were sent out with nothing to
fall back on other than their partner and their
faith in Jesus.
What’s interesting is that although the people
in these passages must have felt they had been
given a difficult task, they went ahead and got
on with it anyway. None of them protests that
the task is beyond them.
We might well think, wouldn’t it be wonderful to
have that kind of confidence, to be able to
overcome our apprehensions and take the risk of
doing bold things for God? Alternatively, if
what we want is to feel safe and secure, the
best way is to stick to what we know, avoid
trying anything different or new, and resist all
This doesn’t sound like a description of a
vibrant, healthy church though, does it? It
isn’t a description that would fit Jesus of any
of the prophets and apostles.
When Jesus sent out the twelve on their mission,
he didn’t promise them that they’d enjoy
fantastic success and come back triumphant. They
had to set out not knowing what the outcome
would be. Perhaps Jesus himself didn’t know for
sure. The reaction he got from the people of his
home town was certainly not what he’d
anticipated. He was quite taken aback by it.
Ezekiel wasn’t promised that his mission would
be successful either – in fact, he was told to
expect the very opposite. For people like
Ezekiel, Paul, Jesus, the apostles and the
prophets, success or failure wasn’t the issue.
Doing the will of God was the issue.
They focussed on the task itself and allowed
themselves to be vulnerable to failure for God’s
sake. Let’s look at what Jesus does when his
home town rejects him. He moves on to somewhere
Look at what he tells his disciples to do if no
one will listen to them: shake the dust off your
feet and try somewhere else. In other words,
don’t worry about it.
Look at how Paul deals with his “thorn in the
flesh” that won’t go away; he sees it as a way
of giving even greater glory to God.
Now there’s a perfect example of a win/win
attitude of mind. If God will grant Paul healing
from his affliction, that’s good too, because it
will prove that Paul isn’t working under his own
Motivational books like the one by Susan
Jeffers recommend strategies like this win/win
pattern of thinking, but as people of faith
we’ve something in addition, that has real power
to transform, encourage and renew us.
Ezekiel says that a spirit entered into him and
set him on his feet. People who are inspired and
empowered by God’s Spirit are full of trust in
God. They have confidence in God’s wisdom and
goodness, and so are helped to overcome the
fears that would otherwise try to stifle them.
Perhaps the secret to finding the confidence to
do bold things for God is to have faith that if
we do it for the right reasons, the outcome will
be what God desires.
It might not fit in with what we had planned or
envisaged, but if we’re motivated by Christian
love and a readiness to proclaim the gospel,
then perhaps that in itself is the most
important thing. We can have no way of knowing
what the longer term outcomes might be.
Ezekiel couldn’t have known that his words,
which his contemporaries might choose to ignore,
would be preserved as holy scripture and would
be read by many generations to come. Paul had no
way of knowing how important his letters would
become for Christians of a far-distant future in
every corner of the globe. We never really know
how God might use what we offer to God.
Another theme running through our gospel and Old
Testament readings today is this: the very
people we might expect to be most receptive to
the message of the prophets and the apostles
often turn out to be those who are most
resistant to hearing God’s word.
The prophet Ezekiel wasn’t sent to speak to
pagans or foreigners, but to God’s own people
who were with him in exile in Babylon, yet he
was warned even before he started that was going
to be an uphill battle.
Today’s Psalm expresses exactly where they
needed to be in their thinking, but getting
there was going to take a while.
In our gospel passage, Jesus wasn’t speaking to
pagans or foreigners, either. He was in his
local synagogue in his own home town, amongst
people who had been his neighbours and family
We might have expected them to be full of
encouragement and support for this rabbi who was
one of their own, but instead they couldn’t be
open to receive from him because they thought
they knew everything about him.
As members of Christ’s Church today, we are the
people who claim to be God’s own people, who
know Jesus as a personal friend. Let’s pray that
we’ll never be too stubborn to receive fresh
guidance from him, or be so arrogant as to
believe we know all there is to know about him.
In fact, if we don’ find the company of Jesus
challenging and unsettling from time to time,
the chances are that we don’t know him so well
Can we, like Paul, let God’s grace be sufficient
for us, and rather than worrying about all the
ways in which we could fail in our mission, let
the power of Christ dwell in us?
With God’s help we can “Feel the Fear and Do It