If you’re anything like me, the first image to enter your mind when someone says you ought to give your “testimony”, is standing in front of a large group of people, your palms sweaty and voice trembling as you tell a story that may or may not actually be that interesting. “Real” testimonies involve dramatic change: “I was once a drug-dealing, womanizing, alcoholic member of the Hell’s Angels. Then Jesus changed me and I deal in the gospel, love my daughters, don’t drink, and run a mile from motorcyclists.” My testimony isn’t at all like that, so it surely isn’t something that anyone is going to want to hear! Right?
Wrong! One of the wonders of God’s work is that it looks different in each one of us – and for good reason. You can bet that the person who thinks that they’re living a pretty decent life isn’t going to be as deeply affected by the story of the reformed biker as they will by the testimony of the church kid who discovered that they need Jesus too! While your “God Story” might not be that dramatic, you can bet that it has a special place in bringing others to Christ.
So what exactly is a testimony? The word frequently translated as “testimony” in our English Bibles actually comes from the Greek term “marturio” from which we get “martyr”. Biblically speaking, these weren’t just people who died for Christ. In fact, once they’d died, in a strict sense, their active “marturio” had ended. To be a “martyr” was to demonstrate Christ’s activity in their daily lives and not just to demonstrate it, but to speak of it. It was a distinct, formal confirmation of Christ’s value. Webster’s Dictionary gives us a very similar picture, defining a testimony as “evidence” or “an oral or written statement made under oath”. A “testimonial” is “a statement concerning the character of a person or value of a thing”.
When I first read this, I was rather taken aback. Following that line of thinking, a Christian testimony becomes any evidence concerning the character of Christ or His value in our lives. A testimony isn’t just a list of bad things that we did in the past and it doesn’t always revolve around the tale of how we met Christ.
This revelation was particularly valuable to me since I was saved at the age of six. My testimony in the sense of “How I came to Jesus” is really pretty uninteresting. I heard a sermon, realized that I had broken God’s rules, and that I needed Him to put things right. End of story. If you recognize that a testimony is a statement about the character or value of Christ in your life, however, most of us find that our testimony totally rocks.
For example, my testimony now looks a little bit like this:
I was saved on October 31, 1989. While most people recognize this day as Halloween, a few others know it as “Reformation Day” – the anniversary of the day that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral. Within a month, two things had become apparent:
The first was that God had gifted me as an evangelist. I didn’t care how old you were or what your life looked like, you needed to hear about Jesus and I was going to tell you. (I think this made my parents a little nervous at first.)
The second was that God had gifted me with the written word. My First Grade teacher gave everyone in my class a single piece of paper and asked us to write a Christmas story. When we were finished, we could return to the front for another piece of paper and write a second story. I returned 19 times and, when I’d finished, I hadn’t written 20 Christmas stories, but 1 – the life of Christ from birth to resurrection. I remember being asked why I hadn’t ended with the Wise Men. The answer? The story didn’t end there! And it hasn’t ended yet!
Clearly there isn’t much to tell about my life before Jesus saved me, but there’s certainly plenty of interest that can be communicated about my life after that blessed encounter. And you can rest assured that your life is the source of a few decent “God Stories” too! Next week, we’ll take a look at some of the different testimonies presented to us within the pages of Scripture and what those stories have to teach us about how we tell our own. Meanwhile, why not share your “God Story” (dramatic or otherwise) in the comment box below?