Over the years I listened to more than a few testimonies. In Christian circles these are simply stories about what God did in our lives.
A while back, as in a long time ago before we had running water and electricity, I had a job as a Family Worker. This meant that Fridays were court days. I would testify to a family’s ability to care for their own children. This was not as much fun as one would think.
The connection is not that being a Christian preacher is way more fun. The connection is that both require one thing to be credible and valid. Both require the truth.
Jesus said the truth will set you free. In court, no matter how hurtful the consequences of my testimony were to the parents, I had to tell the truth. If I didn’t tell the truth and the judge made a decision even partly based on what I said the family could be torn apart or a child could be put in harm’s way. Telling the truth set me free from guilt and doubt.
So you see I was giving my testimony in court. It was a legal proceeding with dire consequences for not telling the truth.
The same is true when we give our testimony outside of the court room. Testimony is after all a formal written or spoken statement or is evidence or proof provided by the existence or appearance of something. Testimony by its very nature is the truth.
Now bringing it into the Christian sense, it is a public recounting of a religious conversion or experience.
I have heard people claim outrageous things on the witness stand. It is often easier to remember the truth than to remember a lie and many times these false witnesses would be tripped up by their own words. They had no testimony, just made up stories.
I was once cross-examined by a very determined young lawyer. She questioned my professional credibility and judgement. I was able to maintain my credibility because the proof was there. My judgement was sound although she might have gotten some traction there had she stuck with a chat about my conclusions. Because she tried to attack my truth and not my conclusions, the judge quickly lost patience with her. Truth does indeed set you free.
Whether inside the court room or outside the entire legal system; the truth is the foundation of any solid testimony. Perhaps one of the best testimonies was by a reformed thug.
“I was bad. I met God. Now I am not so bad.”
He said in thirty seconds what I would have taken thirty minutes to say!
There are some temptations to spice up our testimony and there is fear that our testimony is not valid.
I asked two women to share their testimony at a ministry event I lead. The first one to share was pretty normal. No drugs, no alcohol, just a quiet life. Then she met Jesus and her quiet life took on a deeper more meaningful significance. She felt her testimony had little value since it was not an exciting story to tell. I reminded her that there are more people who can relate to her story than my story of dramatic mistakes and miracles. Her story would help many understand that they don’t need to be down and out to need a Savior. What mattered was the authentic truth in her testimony.
The second woman even scared me! Both of their testimonies are valid. They are valid only because they are true. So avoid the temptation to embellish your testimony. And do not think your story has no value if it is does not include drugs, sex, and rock’n’roll.
Another temptation is to make us the center of the story. The idea is not to bring glory to ourselves but to the Lord. Sure we are a major part of our story but a testimony ought to bring attention to what God did in our lives or how he changed our hearts or circumstances. We’re not the star, God is.
Every Christian has a testimony. Just like every Christian is different and comes from a different place in their lives, every testimony is different. Whenever I am asked to share my testimony I accept it with enthusiasm. I love to speak publicly especially if it is about God!
The biggest rule of thumb in sharing your testimony is to ask yourself the question: “Whose story is it anyway?”