[Note: This blog entry is the text of a speech given at the UCG Portland Spokesmen’s Club on November 10, 2013.]
For a variety of reasons that I would rather not discuss, I have lived my entire life as a student of and a suffer of intense and rather unpleasant fears. In turn, I have seen myself as the cause for intense fears and concerns in others at various times in my life. As someone who has worked very hard and for a long time to overcome my own crippling fears and anxieties, I have a great deal of interest in the sort of fears suffered by my fellow human beings. Interestingly enough, in researching what fears are the most common among the general population, I found that most of the information about fears came from websites like Forbes.com and TheRichest.com  which deal with the interests of the wealthy. Such websites gave much different listings for the most common fears. According to a survey published on August 28, 2012 by the National Institute of Health , though, the three most common fears are the fears of public speaking, death, and spiders. I would like to talk about these fears today.
According to the a survey by the National Institute of Health last year, the most common fear, felt by 74% of the American population, is the fear of public speaking. Why is public speaking such a common fear among people when, in practice, most people are generally fond of hearing others speak about areas they are knowledgeable in? A large part of the fear of public speaking relates to a related group of social phobias, including a fear of making mistakes around one’s peers, a fear of ridicule, and nervousness that results from receiving a great deal of attention. I suppose in my own personal case, I was fortunate that I made my first public speaking efforts in appreciative efforts, including a speech as a ten year old boy on Veteran’s Day  to an appreciative audience of senior citizens in the part of Florida where I grew up. I learned how to enjoy speaking in public before I was old enough to be afraid of it. Many people are not so fortunate.
According to that same survey, the second most common fear, felt by 68% of the American population, is the fear of death. It is no mystery that death is a common fear. What is surprising is that more people do not fear death, given that one of the few certainties of our lives is that they will eventually end. There are, of course, some people, such as Dr. Harari, a historian at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who believe that science will solve the problem of death within the next few decades. There are others, of course, who are young enough and healthy enough and optimistic enough to have no fear of death. Yet for most of us, death is our ultimate enemy, the negation of our hopes and longings and plans for the future. We ought to consider ourselves fortunate that in Christ, death loses its sting and its victory, and that we who believe in God and follow His ways have the hope of eternal life. Likewise, we ought to consider that according to Matthew 10:28 and Luke 12:4 that we ought not to fear those who can kill the body and not the spirit, but rather respect the God who can destroy both.
According to the NIH survey, the third most common fear is the fear of spiders, felt by about 30% of the American population. Intellectually, many spiders are in fact friendly to mankind, seeing as they eat flies and other insects, even if it is often desirable to clean houses and other buildings to keep them from building their webs where people like to congregate together. Even so, many people fear spiders as representatives of other creepy crawly creatures like snakes and bugs as a whole. The fact that spiders are seemingly more clever than other insects may work against them by making them seem more threatening apart from their venom and the tangles of their webs. The Bible speaks in praise of spiders in Proverbs 30:28, showing that by skill in grasping that spiders have, they make their home in king’s palaces.
In closing, today I would to make some brief comments on how we are to deal with the fear that constantly surrounds us. For one, as believers in God, we are solemnly commanded to live through faith and the power of a sound mind and not be governed by fear. By replacing fears with faith in God and understanding, we can live lives of less anxiety than we would otherwise have. We need not be afraid of public speaking, or death, or spiders, or anything else. We all are aware of the fact that our lives are full of great difficulties and occasional disasters and crises, but let us live in the knowledge that God is more powerful than anything that threatens us, and that we can draw encouragement from the fact that we do not live our lives in isolation, but with the love and care of our fellow brethren as well.