Students in chapel on March 8 laughed as the speaker listed off some unrealistic fears, such as anatidaephobia, “the fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you.” But she did not stop there.
Instead, speaker Sarah Sumner went on to challenge the student body to face the real fears in their lives. In her third year as the Dean of A.W. Tozer Theological Seminary in Redding, Calif., Sumner has had to overcome many fears in her life that have made her into the woman that she is today.
“I think that there is always a fear of admitting the truth of my sins to myself,” Sumner said. “I need to be able to admit the sins that I disapprove of in order to grow more.”
Sumner noted that it is our fear that weighs us down, and that in order for us to grow we need to realize that by living in fear we are not trusting in God.
“Would we be afraid of conflict if we were dead to self as we are supposed to be?” Sumner asked. “It’s ultimately not our fear that drives us to people pleasing, but our selfish ambition that does.”
Admitting that she once had a fear of not being popular, Sumner realizes that following the Lord will eventually have a bigger impact for people than being popular ever will.
“I used to want to be the most famous women’s speaker,” Sumner said. “But I realized that making myself look good doesn’t help others that are in need. I’d much rather help others than have them be impressed by me.”
Taking action to combat her own selfish ambition, Sumner challenged the JBU community to do the same, noting that no one should be “so self-absorbed that it’s keeping people from going to Heaven.”
After addressing the issue of selfish ambition, Sumner said that there are ways to combat it. Praying for your competitors, and creating a “so that they” mentality is one way to do this.
“You should want to make good grades, so that others will have accurate information. You should be in good shape so you can pour your energy into others,” Sumner said. “You should pray for others the way that you would pray for yourself.”
Sumner was an encouragement for a number of students on campus, including freshman Hailee Marcum.
Marcum noted that Sumner was brave for speaking directly to the students and addressing an issue that many people deal with but no one wants to talk about.
“She hit me with the fact that I don’t need to necessarily be less fearful, but that I need help to take away the bad fear,” Marcum said. “God can solve fear, so I know that I need to trust in God’s plan and what He has for my life.”
What stood out most for Marcum was the importance of not fearing our future, but having the faith and patience to wait for God’s perfect timing.
Sumner knows that this generation has the opportunity to make an impact, but knows that it is impossible without trust in the Lord.
“Drink from the wells of God’s love. Pour out the love of God instead of your fears,” Sumner said. “If you find yourself worrying, then you are just passing on your fear. I want to see a generation that is not afraid to say ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘I don’t know.’”
“People are more afraid of not walking by faith than they are of walking by faith,” Sumner said. “We need to practice what we preach, and preach it boldly.”