We've learned about the need to devote time to both developing and living our personal testimonies. In that lesson, we saw that our testimony can be one of the most effective witnessing tools we have available to us because it shows Christ alive and working even in this day. Even with a testimony in hand, though, we aren't always guaranteed to be successful. Today, we examine what we can do in the face of adversity to our testimony.
Determined To Testify
Laid Out Perfectly
Paul had laid out the testimony of his life and conversion (Acts 22:1-21). In this account of his life, Paul shared an honest depiction of the circumstances of his conversion. He talked about how he had been on the other side of following Christ. He had persecuted and even assisted in the murder of the followers of Christ. This was not some vague or glossed over recounting of events to make himself look good. Paul was brutally honest about his faults and the fallacy with which he lived his life.
He also talked about his conversion in all honesty. He didn't try to tone down or humanize the experience. He had experienced a miraculous encounter with God, and he didn't care if people thought he was crazy for being honest about it. He also was honest that God set him straight and called him out for his faults. This honest take on the way God presented and represented himself before Paul was clear and refreshing. His conversion wasn't just about God accepting him. It was about how God bent and broke him to His will.
Paul didn't make it all about him, either. He let everyone know that it took a man named Ananias to assist him in his conversion. He let them know that even before all of this, a young man named Steven had shown him how to be bold and courageous in God by standing up to his accusers, not with bitterness and rage, but with mercy and grace. Paul's testimony here in Acts 22 clearly isn't an ego trip. It's a practice in humility.
Finally, Paul was open about exactly what God was doing in his life. He hadn't been called out just to be a good follower of Christ. He was commissioned to bring the gospel to the whole world. That meant the Gentiles, a group that his audience-the Jews of Jerusalem-did not think worthy of connection to the Almighty. Paul wasn't concerned about people's bias. He was compelled to report that which Christ had commanded of him.
The Fruits Aren't Always Sweet
Looking back at that testimony, we see a lot of great approaches combined. Paul tells where he came from and doesn't try and make himself look good or excuse his behavior. He gives an honest recitation of his experience with God and how Christ transformed his life, even when it caused some pain to him. He laid out the other people that assisted, inspired and convicted Paul in his conversion and pursuit of Christ. Finally, Paul came out and let the people know exactly what God had planned to do through him. Now that sounds like a great testimony, one we can aspire to emulate in our own lives. However, the reaction Paul got may give pause to some of us.
And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live. (Acts 22:22)
Having heard the awesome, humble and honest story of Paul, they wanted to kill him right there. A story we today take for granted back then inspired such hate and vitriol within this group that they wanted to do to Paul what he had done to so many Christians when he was Saul. That's quite a rejection. In their response we learn a lesson about testimonies: They won't always be accepted.
We hopefully won't face the response that Paul got in Acts 22, but there will be times where we find our testimony rejected. We'll honestly tell of the life we lived before being saved, both good and bad. Remember, Paul made sure they knew that, while he was a bad man, he had it pretty good as a hater of Christians. We'll let them know how God came into our lives and changed us for the good, even when it affected us in a way that some would perceive as a negative. We'll excitedly tell them about the loving people that helped to shew Christ to us along the way, and we'll let them know exactly what Christ is intending to do threw and in us today. After all that investment in telling somebody your story-your intimate moments-they'll shrug you off.
Change The Purpose Of Your Testimony
In this moment, we can back down or abandon our testimony as a failed tool for the Kingdom. Or, we can realize that not everyone is ready or willing to accept Jesus. Paul continued to share his testimony (even to that group). He didn't let failure hold him back from expressing just how awesome and important Christ was to him. We must do the same. We must determine in our hearts and minds that our testimony isn't about the success rate with which our story wins people to God. Our testimony is about giving glory, honor and praise to the Almighty in the presence of others When we proclaim what Christ has done in, through and for us, we have succeeded in testifying of his glory. What others do with that testimony will determine their level of success in life, but that will be on them.
Let's get that mindset ingrained within us. Our testimony is not a results based tool for God. It's a worship tool unto God. When we determine to use our testimony that way, we'll start seeing God's blessings and favor expressed to us. It happened to Paul as God showed him the direction he would soon go, a direction that would lead to a greater harvest of souls than he had ever thought possible (Acts 23:11)
Chris Farris is the author of The Way, a manual detailing how to implement the Beatitudes into your life. He review events and other media and offers other insights into writing and working for the Kingdom of God.