If you’ve ever cleaned out any storage area in your house, you know there are times that you find something valuable that you had forgotten you possessed. You expected to find junk and instead found something useful. The same is true when cleaning out the closets in our personal lives; we happen to unpack something that can be very useful in advancing the Kingdom of God.
If I asked you to share your testimony, what would you share? If you’re like me, you would assume I was asking you to share your salvation experience. I have known many believers who feel their testimonies are “unimpressive” because they were saved at a young age, and there “isn’t much to tell.” My wife has given some incredible insight to those who think this way. She has told numerous people over the years, “Your testimony is that God has the power to deliver you from the evil that so many people embrace. In a world where ‘everybody’s doing it’ you were protected by God’s grace. You can give hope to other young people who have given their lives to Christ and are feeling the pull of peer pressure, reminding them that God’s grace is powerful enough to keep them from making some very regrettable decisions.” (Carrie’s practical insight never ceases to amaze me. Anything practical you read from me has most likely grown from a seed planted in my mind by her.)
My goal today is to help you start to identify your testimony and take the necessary steps to begin sharing it. The key will be understanding this simple truth -everyone has a testimony, and it doesn’t end at conversion. Your testimony is what God has done and is doing in your life.
The word translated testimony in the New Testament simply means a witness, a record, or a report. In that case, we could even go so far as to say -everyone has testimonies -because God doesn’t stop working in our lives after we are saved. Your testimony is the report of how God has worked in your life whether at the time of your conversion or after. Furthermore, it could even apply to how he was working prior to your conversion. We then share these “testimonies” to edify, encourage, or evangelize depending on the need before us. My point is that we shouldn’t limit our testimonies to one event when God has done so much in our lives.
We often hear a salvation testimony from someone who was very evil prior to his conversion. He was very self-centered, an absent father, a notorious playboy, a schemer, an adulterer, a murderer, and so on, but God got ahold of his heart, and he put his faith in Christ, and his life has never been the same -an “awesome testimony.” When he shares his testimony, we stand amazed at the grace of God, and we would be hard-pressed to find someone who looked down on him. Why? Because, subconsciously, we believe he had an excuse for behaving the way he did; he wasn’t saved. This testimony reaches many lost people who think they are “too bad” to be saved.
Let’s take that same testimony and place the conversion prior to his evil deeds. Suddenly, we think to ourselves, “How could a believer behave like that?” Even though we still witness the amazing grace of God in his life, we aren’t as impressed with his testimony. Would you be less critical if I reminded you this is the testimony of the individual about whom God said, “I have found…a man after my own heart, who will do all my will…”? -Acts 13:22 (ESV) That’s right, David.
You would be lost if I asked you to find King David’s “conversion” in Scripture. Does this mean that David’s “testimony” is not in the Bible? Of course not. Untold numbers of people have found hope, healing, and strength from the testimony of God’s grace in David’s life. His testimony, in a nutshell, would be, “I was a good kid when I put my faith in God, but after I did, I messed up big time. I behaved more ungodly after my conversion than I ever did before.” You see, David’s testimony encourages and edifies believers. It testifies of God’s incomparable mercy, and his willingness to use the most broken people. It also serves as a strong warning that we are all capable of the most unimaginable sins when we allow ourselves to succumb to temptation.
Consider this: God didn’t anoint David and call him a man after his own heart because he had no idea David was going to make a mess of his life. Moses was not appointed to be the leader of Israel, because God mistakenly believed he would exemplify perfect obedience throughout his ministry. God didn’t commission Jonah to go to Nineveh because he thought Jonah would obey immediately, or even because he saw a heart of love and compassion in Jonah. Jesus didn’t call the apostles to follow him because he thought they would remain faithful to the end. He didn’t allow Peter to be the leader of the apostles because he was convinced Peter would never deny him.
As we read the various stories of people God uses, we have to wonder, “What was God thinking? Why would he use someone like that?” However, I find great hope knowing, if God can use someone like that, he can surely use me. God isn’t caught off guard by our sins and severe misconduct. He isn’t disillusioned by the terrible choices we make after our conversions. He didn’t save us because he thought we would live perfectly afterwards. He didn’t save us for any other reason than his unconditional love and grace.
He didn’t just save us from our past sins; he saved us from all our sins. He knew, years ago, when he saved you that you would find yourself in sins you never thought you would. The amazing thing about God’s grace is that it isn’t just a payment applied to our accounts at conversion. It is working in our lives from the moment we put our faith in Jesus Christ until the day we see him face-to-face.
Paul says in Titus 2:11-12, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” (ESV) Being a father of 3 children has taught me a lesson in training -kids almost never pick up on instruction the first time. Training requires consistent and repeated instruction; it is a rigorous process of successes and failures, good days and bad days, perfect obedience and defiant rebellion. Grace’s training in godliness goes through the same rigorous process. However, it is there to stabilize us when our faith begins to falter. It is there to pick us up when we fall. It is there to carry and sustain us when we are too weak to go on. It is there to discipline and forgive when we fall into sin. This is the testimony of God’s grace in your life.
Your testimony reaches far beyond your conversion. Every day of your walk with God is a new page in the story of your testimony. However, opening these closets requires putting ourselves in a very vulnerable position, and that tends to be our biggest hurdle. We want to share our testimonies but not at the expense of our dignity and carefully maintained façade.
This is where shame comes into play. Next time I want to discuss how shame plays such a major role in hindering us from sharing our testimonies. We have to break free from shame before our testimonies will ever help others. We can only begin this process when we understand God is not ashamed of us but proud to call us his children.
If you were unable to listen to the message by Chip Ingram I referenced in my last post click here to listen. It is an excellent message on overcoming shame and allowing God to use our failures and brokenness as testimonies for him.
I look forward to hearing your comments, and be sure to share this with someone who needs to hear it. Until next time, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” -Matthew 5:16 (ESV)