BE AFRAID – BE VERY AFRAID
Purportedly the origination of this phrase, “Be afraid, be very afraid” was the 1986 movie, The Fly with Jeff Goldblum. The phrase has been used by countless comedians, even cartoon characters the likes of Bart Simpson and Tweety Bird. I remember using the phrase one time when it became apparent that the organist was not going to show up for a funeral service. It was time to start the service, the funeral director was prodding for music to start playing. My pastor looked at me and said, “Can’t you play enough to get us through the service?” Well, actually I was there to minister to the family and sing a solo, which I was now deciding would be very nicely done a cappella. Other than that the family only needed some background music while they passed by the coffin, so I figured I could ad lib on a familiar hymn melody enough to get by (chords in the left hand, melody in the right hand – thank you seminary piano class). My response to the pastor? “Be afraid, be very afraid.”
The fact is, though, that there are plenty of occasions in which we may respond to a situation or our circumstances in fear. The response might be unfounded. In the case of church music leaders I think of how we may react when we find that people do not like what we are doing or how we are doing it musically. The thought of those responses may make us afraid. Another situation that may strike fear in us might be when we have to make a proposal to a church committee, or justify a financial or personnel decision we have made. More than once I have headed into a finance or trustee meeting with a predominant thought in my mind of simply, “YIKES!”
This past weekend I had the privilege of teaching in a worship conference at Cedarville University in Ohio. My colleague, ministry counterpart, and friend, Dwayne Lee extended the invitation to do breakouts on worship renewal through congregational singing, and it was a wonderful experience meeting with worship leaders there in the frozen tundra. The keynote speaker was Pastor Ben Mandrell, now former pastor of Englewood in Jackson. It was good to visit a little with Ben, and our fellow Worship Leader, Travis Cottrell who is still serving Englewood, and to hear Ben express his family’s journey in faith to Denver, Colorado, where they will plant a church. Our visits and especially Ben’s last message were an encouragement and inspiration to me. As Ben talked privately as well as in his messages about their family’s journey I thought of situations among our worship ministers here in Tennessee.
In his final message Ben shared from Exodus 3 and 4 about the Lord’s call to Moses. He briefly compared it to the call of Isaiah about which we worship leaders are all so keenly aware. He noted that Isaiah’s response was, “Here am I, send me,” whereas Moses’ initial response was, “Here am I, send somebody else.” The most intense application for me was when Ben talked about being grateful when fear visits us, because it is often in that fear that we are intensely reminded of our complete dependency on the Lord. It brings us to the end of our abilities and there in that crucible of desperation we turn full-faced and yielded to the One Who has all power.
I could not help but think of several of you whose church position has ended, and you are looking for work to feed your family, to sustain your sense of self-worth, to be assured of your calling to ministry, and I wept praying that as you know the fear of those things you would find the Lord’s comfort and assurance, and that He will soon meet your need, even as He enhances your service in His strength. Lord, let it be so! I could not help but weep as well for my own stretches of “being afraid – very afraid,” as I have thought about a trip to Italy with only 5 people fully registered to go as of two months before the deadline. And the questions come:
“What if nobody else signs up?”
“What if I have to cancel after making sure parts of this got in the budget?”
“How will I look if I cannot pull this off?”
“What if I have misread Your will, Lord?”
And I turn to Him in complete surrender knowing I cannot control any of this. He knows that well. The question of “How will I look…” has never been a legitimate one anyway, and in my heart I well know that. And the Spirit reassures. We now have 51 registered to go to Italy and have a couple of others who are to register today.
The times of being afraid are part of the process. It is the Lord’s work! Our part is to say, “Here am I, Lord, send me.” The greatest sign of worship is obedience. Thank you, brothers and sisters, for allowing me to serve alongside you, even when we are afraid, very afraid, because we can help remind one another that God is our refuge and strength!