The Most Important Thing about Your Testimony…
…is that it is not about you. Most Christian testimonies—pattered after many found in Scripture—have two primary parts. There is the “this is where I was” part and then there is the “this is who I am now after encountering Christ” part. In general, it is thought that the more stark the contrast between “then” and “now” the more powerful the testimony. In truth, the power does not come from you or your story. The power of a testimony of faith comes from the true protagonist of it all—the Holy Spirit who has brought you (and your hearers) into an encounter with Christ.
In fact, the word “testimony” in the New Testament in the context of proclamation is universally used as a testimony about Christ (1 Cor. 1:6); the testimony of God (1 Cor. 2:1; 1 John 5:9); or the testimony about our Lord (2 Tim. 1:8), etc. The most important part about giving a testimony of faith is that, in the end, the story you tell is simply Jesus’ story. It is a death and resurrection story. All our stories of faith are stories that went the way of the cross and followed Jesus through the grave by dying to self and found ourselves raised anew with him in His resurrection.
If you are telling the story of how you came to faith in Jesus, make sure that it He who gets the glory in the end. This means more than attributing the second half of your testimony to God’s work in you through the Holy Spirit. It also means recognizing how God was at work in your life during the first part too. Remember, your testimony is a death and resurrection story. The first part of your testimony is a part of the death, it’s the part of the story that leads to the cross.
When I hear someone tell their testimony I’m always tempted to try and size myself up. How does my story compare to theirs? The problem with this attitude—and I must hold myself to account here—is that I’m presuming it is “my story” and “my testimony.”
If I fall into the trap of “comparing” my testimony to someone else’s I am inevitably making it all about me. I once entered a weight loss competition. I took “before” and “after” photos. I dedicated myself to my program for 90 days, even adding in a few extra workouts when I had the chance. I watched my diet like a hawk. I had great results! I was happy, and I thought I might win. And then, I saw the competition. That other guy had more to lose to begin with! I found myself actually wishing I had gained more weight before I had started so that my transformation would seem more impressive!
In the end, I felt like I had lost. Then, someone reminded me about how much weight I had lost. They reminded me about how much I had changed, and how happy I was with my results until I started comparing myself to other people. While no one imagines that a Christian testimony is a “competition,” we are still tempted to try and compare our stories to others. We may be tempted to grow jealous of how powerful someone else’s story is.
This line of thinking is dangerous. The value of your testimony is not in its dramatic effect. In fact, if you have a less-dramatic testimony it may be more impactful to some people who do not relate to those who have had dark and desperate pasts. The value of the testimony is in how effectively it communicates the most valuable truth of all—the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Once again, you are not the protagonist in your testimony. The Lord is the protagonist, who affects change in your life through the Holy Spirit.
Our stories are always nothing more than a re-telling of His story. Certainly, we have unique backgrounds. We have different struggles, different pasts, full of different sins. The way God has chosen to reveal Himself to us may come in different forms or contexts. Still, if you listen carefully, every Christian testimony is simply another way of re-telling the greatest story ever told: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.