“He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.” Colossians 1:13
All around me I have heard the whispers of a testimony coming up in my soul. It is a longing that I have held onto for longer than I had intended. Unsure of how to go about it, where to begin, what to include, what to leave out, and how to give it the glory of God it is well deserving.
A few months ago I shared my cardboard testimony with some friends at church. It was a small offering, in an intimate setting, with only a handful of ladies, all willing to allow me space to say what I had needed to say, and compassion to do so in the safety and security of friendship and love.
But lately there has been a battle inside my mind, and it feels as though the only victory allowed is one of testimony.
But what does God want me to say? And why does it matter?
We all have a story
Whether you are aware of it or not, we all have a story. Mine happens to have many moments of the Lord’s faithfulness threaded through it. My life has been covered by the grace and mercy of God since my very conception. I know this. Perhaps yours has been as well. And maybe you know it. But, maybe you do not. Not yet.
The thing about our testimony, or our God story, is that each one is as intimate and personal as our relationship with God, but they are all worthy of God’s glory. When told properly these testimonies serve to glorify God and help others who do not know God learn more about Him so they too can come to the knowledge of faith in Him for their own lives.
That is why telling our testimony is so important. The power in the testimony to bring lost souls to Christ is why it matters.
The easiest answer to what God wants us to say: Whatever it is, it must always bring Him glory.
As Paul writes in Colossians, we have been rescued from darkness and transferred to the kingdom of light.
Let us tell of God’s glory in our rescue!
“…but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.” Psalm 139:12 NLT
The darkness is relevant, but it is not the whole story
When our children were young and they began asking where babies come from, I would always say, “From the love of Jesus and mommy and daddy.” This would usually last me until they got to be around first, or second grade and they would notice families splitting up, or pregnancies outside of marriage, and the confusion would cause them to return with even more questions.
Eventually, we worked our way up through the years to puberty and the whole truth would come out. But, I would never sit my toddler down and explain to them the inner workings of marital intercourse and the birthing process.
When we speak to others about the darkness we have been rescued from, it is imperative that we do so in accordance to their level of knowledge and maturity about the world around them. If too much of our story is too dark, the interest of others will turn to what we went through, but not who brought us through.
The darkness is not the glory in the story
While the dark times in our lives are the times when we tend to acknowledge Jesus doing the most work in us, the darkness is not the shiny part of our story. If we stick too much emphasis on the darkness, then the darkness tends to draw the wrong people to the wrong conclusion, and then the darkness wins the glory of the story.
We do this without thinking about the consequences because we are just sharing the more intimate details of our past in a very intimate setting, most likely with a person who is going through something we went through. Our intentions start off well because we want to help this person. Even though it may not be the intention, these conversations can sometimes turn our feelings into a false empathy for the person who is going through something similar.
When this happens, the suffering person ends up hearing only the dark parts of our testimony and not ever hearing the part where Christ rescued us, and we are redeemed, and we do not live that life anymore. We bring more glory to the dark past we were bound by than the glorifying light of Jesus that brought us out.
The darkness is not without God
One particularly important aspect of giving our testimony is to not leave God out of the whole story. Even when our lives are lived in darkness, before God rescues us, we are still seen, we are still known, and we are still loved by God.
We have to convey this message to those who hear our testimonies because we do them and our God a great disservice if we lead others to believe that God is not in the darkness with us.
God is there with us. The Bible is clear that God is with us wherever we go, whatever we do, He is right there. All we have to do is reach out to Him and ask Him for help.
If struggling lost souls do not understand this then they will always believe that God will not help them unless they are redeemed. But how can God redeem a soul if He does not see them in their darkness? And how do we explain how God is with us when we go through dark times now if we do not make it clear that He is with us even in the darkness?
The dark times do not end for saved Christians. We must be careful not to insinuate that God’s rescue leaves us if we enter into darkness again. God is not afraid of our darkness. He will be right there with us as we go through it. He will bring us out of it, and He will redeem it. That is where His glory shines.
“But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9 NLT
The emphasis on the light should be Jesus
The only way to bring God glory in our testimony is by making sure our testimony glorifies God and not ourselves.
While we do so much for ourselves, in our own strength, and with our own tenacity and perseverance, if we do not give the glory to God for all we are able to accomplish and all the trials He brings us through, we are glorifying only ourselves, not God.
After all, how much of our strength, tenacity, and perseverance did we create? None of it. We did not get the willpower or the drive to do something without God creating it in us when He formed us. We owe Him glory for our very existence. Everything we are and everything we have is because He knitted us together and wired us that way.
If we come out of our testimony looking like the hero then we told it wrong and we need to correct it before we tell it again.
The light is not always revealed before the dark
I used to hear a lot of testimonies start off by telling the ending first, in a way that made it sound as if the rescued Christian were always aware of the choice before them and just did not understand it until after the fact.
Example: “If I had just stayed on the right path, without the detours, I would have found God sooner and it could have saved me so much heartache.”
The assumption here is that the light was always there to choose, one just had to be good enough, or remain in the good graces of God until the relationship developed with Him so He could prevent the mistakes or going through dark times.
This is a challenge to see the error unless we are on the opposite side of this very situation and we fear being inadequate because we neither have the ears to hear or the eyes to see. The eyes of our heart may not have been opened as of yet, and to assume that it has been feels like an accusation that we should know it and see it and hear it, and to not know it, see it, or hear it, means we are deficient.
Of course, we are Christ deficient, but no one wants to hear that in a way that makes us feel ignorant. Glorifying God with our testimony does not mean putting others down and making them feel “less than” without God. We want others to desire a relationship with God for life. If we make them feel like an idiot for not seeing or hearing the voice of God before coming to Him, we turn people away from Him.
The light is the glory of the story
It seems that this should be clear but sometimes it does not always come across this way when we get into our testimony. We shine when we have the light of Jesus in our lives. If we are in any way out of sorts in our walk with God it will come across in our testimony.
We are best able to present a case for Christ in our story when we are one with Christ. Sit down and talk to Jesus. Ask Him to reveal to you even more about the story you walked out together. Ask Him to help you tell your story in a way that glorifies and honors the work He did for you, the ways He has redeemed you, the good life you have with Him now.
And spend a great deal of time on this part when you speak to others about Christ. Spending so much time on the dark part of your story and then barely shaving off a few minutes to give God glory at the end just will not bring people to Christ. Remember that the glory, the honor, and the power of your testimony lies within what God has done for you, and through you. He brought you out, but He is also working through you to do great things for others now. Let that work of the Lord shine!
How do we give our testimony?
Now that we have discussed good form for giving our testimony, I thought it might be helpful for you to see how it might look in person. These are some basic elements I use when giving my testimony:
I was lost
Most of the time I will start with the turning point in my life when I realized how far I had gotten away from God and how dark my life had become. I do not shed much in this layer, only enough to make the point that I was lost.
I acknowledge my sin and what it cost
This is important because it is the sin that is the reason for the darkness, sin is what separates us from God, the light. And the Bible tells us “the wages of sin is death”(Romans 6:23). We have to make sure that anyone we talk to knows that we acknowledge our sin, that it separated us from Christ, and that without Christ we would pay the death penalty for our sin.
Then I tell of the moment that I repented of my sin, returned to Christ, and the great things He did when I returned to Him.
I tell of the feeling of the weight of my burdens being lifted, and the joy of knowing that I was free from sin. I tell of the overwhelming love I experienced by being in right relationship with God. I tell of the gifts of the love I received from my church family.
I also describe how God immediately felt so near, and that even though my circumstances did not change, I was better able to see them, and handle them, with the strength of the Lord.
I try hard not to make a big deal out of the service I joyfully give to the Lord in response to His love for me. But I do tell of the things I have seen, the people whose lives I have witnessed that have been changed, and just some of the ways God has used me to do things like helping to feed families in need, or comfort a friend, or step out in faith to believe in my dreams and actually seeing them come to fruition. Whatever it is, my testimony is for God, so I make sure He shines in all I do.
Every person with whom we share our testimony is an opportunity for Christ to save a lost soul. When we give our testimony to someone else, we should be prepared, and excited, to invite them into the family of God. When I give my testimony to someone who is lost I always invite them in. Usually it is specific to the person I am speaking with, but most of the time it looks something like,
“My testimony is good because I have a good God who loves me. But He loves you too. Would you like me to help you change your story today? God is always willing to open His arms to you and welcome you into His family.”
And there you have it! The testimony of a lost soul now free in Jesus Christ. There is no greater feeling than helping someone come to Christ through the telling of your story. We all have a story. We all have the same opportunities to share our stories and help others come to Christ. All we need is the faith to follow God for our dreams, and we can be used by God to bring salvation to the world and glory to His name.