The dimmed lights. The chair. “I’ve started so I’ll finish”. I don’t need to add Magnus Magnusson or even John Humphrys to reveal that the subject in question is Mastermind. For a generation, or two or three, it was and perhaps is the greatest, most challenging of all quiz shows.
What you might not know about Mastermind is how it came to be.
It was the brainchild of Bill Wright. Wright had been a gunner on an RAF bomber in the second world war. His plane was shot down and he was taken prisoner. Part of his experience as a prisoner of war was interrogation. Interrogation in a darkened room. The interrogation began with three questions seeking his name, rank and number.
Not surprisingly the experience left its scars on the airman. Recurring nightmares of sitting in a darkened room being asked to provide his name rank and number continued into the post war years.
One day the story goes, Wright had an idea, an idea to turn his nightmare into a quiz show. The darkened room would remain. The intimidating interrogator would remain. But instead of being asked for name rank and number, the contestants would be asked for their name, occupation and specialist subject. The BBC liked the idea and Mastermind was born.
Not everyone is able to turn their fear into a successful quiz show. The Mastermind story is, however, a reminder that fear can be turned to our advantage. In fact, the gospels give the distinct impression that when fear is around it is frequently a sign that God wants to or is about to do something. The fear is evidence of His closeness not an indication of His absence (Matthew 10.28, 31, 14.27, 17.7, 28.10; Luke 5.10, 8.50, 12.32).
How do we apply that to our lives in practical terms?
Firstly, you can feel afraid because you feel unworthy.
When Simon Peter and his friends brought in a miraculous haul of fish because they obeyed Jesus’ command, Simon Peter’s reaction was perhaps not one we would expect: “Go away Jesus – I’m too sinful to be associated with you”.
Jesus’ response? “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”
Don’t let the fear of your own weakness keep you from the mission to which Jesus calls you.
Secondly, you can feel afraid when you face opposition.
When Jesus sent His disciples out on mission, He knew that they would face opposition.
How did He teach them to handle the fear of opposition? Fear God more than people (Matthew 10.28). And remember that your heavenly Father will look after you (Matthew 10.29-31).
Thirdly, you can feel afraid when your future seems uncertain.
The story of the disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee in stormy weather while Jesus slept is well known. Jesus stills the storm and then asks them why they were afraid. They were no doubt afraid because they thought they didn’t have a future! But when Jesus is in your boat you always have a future. He’s started His work in you. And He’ll finish it.