Testimonies are really big down here. Whenever there is a special guest or a ceremony, someone feels obligated to share their story with everyone. Most tell stories of addictions, or experiencing a terrible accident or illness when they find Christ. It kind of made me wonder. Is it a requirement to have such a testimony to say I am a good Christian? Do I lose my born-again status if I haven’t experienced homelessness, physical or emotional pain or maybe even jail?
When a pastor asked me, “So what is your testimony?” the question stumped me. He tried to coach me along but I couldn’t come up with anything. “Well, when was your born-again moment?” he asked. But I can recall many moments when I felt called or revitalized in my faith. I don’t have one clear-cut moment of truth. I kind of stumbled in.
Did I miss my moment? Surely I’ve had low-points. I’ve been broke. I’ve lost loved ones; found myself in drunken stupors; been unemployed; had broken relationships. I was even told I had cancer once.
But everything has always turned out alright. I have truly lived a blessed life!
So I sometimes worry that there is still a “rock-bottom” episode of my life ahead of me. I used to fear the thought, but I have been blessed by the grace of God with an intimate relationship with Jesus. The Holy Spirit builds me up. I trust that if a rock-bottom moment is still to come; Jesus will get me through it. I am as blessed as Joseph, who was gifted with the prophetic dream that his brothers and father would someday bow before him. His faith that the dream was a vision from God surely helped get him through his moment at the bottom of the well and in prison.
But that’s not the way it’s supposed to work, is it? I was a binge drinker. I survived a serious car accident without a scratch. An ER doctor once told me I appeared to be dead, based on lab tests. My car was shot at (and hit) one night. My young daughter got hit by a speeding car. I had HIV patients bleed on me before anyone understood what that meant. An angry softball player threw an aluminum bat at my head. Surely, SOMEthing was meant to happen to me; to push me to the brink of death or throw me to the depths called rock-bottom. That’s how we’re supposed to find God. Right?
Of course not.
I am very happy and blessed that Jesus invited me to follow Him without making me suffer much first. The fact is that most of us have dozens of chances to hear what Christ did for us and make the choice to follow him during our lives. Our parents or a friend introduce us to a church. We hear someone at work or school talking about their faith. We happen upon a passionate minister while flipping through radio or television channels.
Maybe all the religious fighting reported by the news makes us want to learn about faiths and beliefs. Maybe, we just want to know why we are here. Maybe, we feel a void. Whatever makes us seek out God, it is great and true that most of us can do so without needing to experience tragedy.
Unfortunately, many believe that hitting rock bottom will happen to all of us eventually, and that is when we should turn to Christ. Of course that only works if you survive what throws you to the ground. When things are going well, it is easy to say we don’t need God. A young woman recently told me, “I know God is there. I know he is responsible for everything. I am happy that my life is the way it is. I trust that when my life turns bad, He’ll still be there where I can find Him.”
It’s difficult to argue with that. Of course God will always be there for us when we need Him. But if we acknowledge that God is responsible for our lives, why wouldn’t we want to say, “Thank you” and praise His work when things are going okay? The notion that we should routinely say, “I love you” to family and friends in case we don’t get the chance again; does that not apply to God as well?
What if I got so drunk one night that I wound up accidentally killing myself? What if that bullet were a bit higher? What if that bat was tossed a few inches to the right? What if any number of everyday incidents killed me before I had the chance to accept Jesus? What if a tragedy like losing a daughter or catching a fatal disease opened the door for Satan to convince me it was God’s fault. What if I refused to open the door when Jesus knocked?
I worry about people who are struck down suddenly. Did they have the chance to know Jesus? Was God in their heart? Did I miss a chance to introduce them?
This is why testimonies are important- if you know what a testimony truly is. A testimony is not about surviving a tragedy. A testimony is not about recovering from depression or illness or addiction. Our testimony isn’t even about how we found and accepted Christ. Our testimony really is….us; ourselves; our lives today.
Because whether God directed us through the fires of hell, or if we have been blessed with a path around them, we all have Jesus in our lives. Our testimony is why that makes us different; about how we feel walking with Jesus. It’s about forgiveness, faith, our promised future. Above all, it is about love.
Our testimony is simple. “My life was pretty tolerable (or not). Then God came into my life. Now my life is better, and the best is yet to come.” That’s our testimony in a nutshell. People see, hear, and feel our testimony every day. It’s how we live. So let’s portray our testimony in the best light. Remember to show God’s love in everything we do, everything we say, everything.
Love one another!