Spontaneous Testimony

Every Christian has a testimony. Unfortunately, as AnOldSinner has written in the past, some people never think about their testimony, and others really do not have a clue what the word means in the Christian sense. That does not mean a person does not have a testimony, and that does not mean he or she cannot share it. In fact, the lives of some people are their testimony. In other cases, people share their walk verbally without thinking of it as testimony.

This point was driven home the other night while spending time with some fellow believers. We were discussing the previous week’s sermon at our church, and answering questions that were part of a suggested study plan. Our church prides itself on being Monday morning relevant and encouraging growth. Every sermon has study notes that help one focus on the message, and how it can be used to further one’s walk.

On this evening one discussion question triggered an unexpected response from me. I have shared my personal testimony many times over the years, in small groups, in large groups, on mission trips and in writing. Normally, I am a little long winded, and was heavily challenged before my first mission trip.

We were asked to simplify our testimony to the point it could be given in just a couple of minutes. It took a lot of work, but I managed it. I am certain our young interpreter appreciated the brevity. On this evening, something triggered me to give a bullet point testimony that was not what anyone expected, including me. In fact, even though most were aware of my testimony, it was clear some were taken aback by the intensity, brevity and pointed fashion in which it was shared.

The reaction of those listening to me was enlightening. When one gives his or her testimony, the hope is people will not nod off in the middle of it or squirm in their seats. Additionally, one does not want people to pull back as they might from a pariah. Normally, one can expect smiling nods of agreement, and possibly a grimace of understanding over some difficult part of one’s story.

In this case, two people sat up a bit straighter and their eyes opened a bit wider. At one point, one member of the group did give a start because my testimony included the effect of my law enforcement career on my faith. Someone close to her has just started his law enforcement career, and she is concerned about what he might experience. The rest of the group, reacted in ways that fall in between these extremes. At least, that’s what I think happened. I’ll know for certain in a couple of weeks. We’re supposed to get together again. If everyone shows, I’ll know it did not go too far.

The truly amazing part of this incident was I compressed forty plus years of my life into about a minute. My regular interpreter in Brazil would have marveled at the brevity. He might not have been as happy with the fact it was rapid fire and I did not pause for breath in sixty plus seconds.

My point is that one never knows when he or she will be moved to share their testimony. Also, one never knows how one will be moved to share it. Mine was triggered by a relatively benign question about how the world challenges your faith. My prepared answer was short and to the point, but when I opened my mouth, my complete story spilled out, admittedly sans many specific details. Still, the intensity and passion with which I remember speaking made the point clear. I let the world harden my heart and push me into the darkness. God allowed me to struggle there for years before He softened my heart, and called me back to the light.

I suppose my point here, in addition to sharing this experience, is threefold. First, once we know we have a testimony we are not certain what to do with it. Second, once we know what we should do with it, we are often uncertain when and how to share it. Third, as this situation made it clear to me, sometimes the best and most impassioned telling of one’s story is when one is spontaneously moved to do so.

It seems that last point is key. Experience tells me many faithful Christians miss opportunities to tell their story to someone who might need to hear it out of fear. It may be fear of being judged, fear of offending someone, or fear of having to live up to the story one tells. Whatever the fear, it tends to paralyze us, but if we go with the inspiration of the moment and speak from the heart, someone will hear it.

© AnOldSinner – 2017


About S. Eric Jackson

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