This week at Women’s Bible Study I taught on the first half of Philippians 3 in which Paul confronts some spiritually toxic religious leaders. They are trying to add stipulations to the Gospel–namely the Jewish law–and Paul is irate. His subsequent response to them is both clever and challenging, and I learned a lot in my research this week. In case you missed my talk, the audio is below:[audio:https://sheworships.com/media/Philippians_4.mp3]
One of the things I mention in my talk that I wanted to highlight on my blog as well is Paul’s testimony. It’s totally different than how we think of testimonies today. Generally when someone is asked to share their testimony at church, it’s because they have a really dramatic story. Before Christ their life was in the gutter, but then they got saved and now they’re completely different. That kind of thing.
Paul’s testimony, on the other hand, doesn’t go that route. If you read Philippians 3:4-6 Paul essentially shares his testimony, but he does so in a surprising way. He describes his life before Christ, but what is striking about his story is that he emphasizes how good he was, not how bad. In fact, his life pre-Jesus was pretty much all that he hoped it would be and more. He was perfectly happy and content. He was on the road to success, and he thought he had a good standing before God.
But then God intervened, opened Paul’s eyes, and the rest is history.
Now I don’t know about you, but I take a lot of comfort in Paul’s testimony because I always thought my testimony was lame. I never had a rebellious phase. I was a good kid who always did what I thought was right. Along the way I heard about Jesus and it sounded right to me, so I began to follow Him.
Not exactly the kind of story that your church will make a video about.
Yet Paul’s testimony reminds us of something very important: EVERY testimony is powerful. You see, we talk about non-Christians as if they’re all miserable and they hate their lives so we need to show them a better way. But that’s simply not true. A lot of non-Christians are perfectly content and happy with their lives. They don’t think they need anything else. To these people, Christianity is merely a lifesaver to those who are drowning–it’s just one more self-help option among many, but not something they really need.
It is for this demographic that “lame” testimonies like mine are important. For those people who believe religion is just an “opiate for the masses,” our lives prove otherwise. Not all of us came to Christ because we’d hit rock bottom. For some of us, we heard the Gospel and knew it was true. That was all it took. And for others, we had everything the world had to offer but we knew that there had to be something more. And then we found Christ.
These are less dramatic stories and they don’t get very much attention, but your testimony is powerful to someone. So own it! Tell you story to people. Why do you follow Jesus? What brought you to him? Your story doesn’t have to be dramatic, but you DO have to have a reason. So don’t be ashamed of the way you became a Christian. If you’re like Paul, then you’re in good company!
Thank you! The lack of “lame testimonies” has bothered me for a long time – especially in youth group growing up. So many people still live without the Lord in their lives because they think they don’t need Him – the self made man. I hope the church and other ministries will rethink the way they present testimonies – using a mix of “dramatic” and “lame” – helping all who are lost see that they need the Lord.
Pastor JD Greear’s 3/21/10 “Believe and Engage” sermon at the Summit Church recently challenged my definition of a testimony. He preached on Revelation 12:1-11, of which verse 11 states: “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” JD explained that this verse explains how God defeats Satan in the end. This included part one: “the blood of the Lamb,” aka through Christ’s death, and part 2: “by the word of their testimony,” aka through His followers spreading that Good News. So.. instead of this testimony being the retelling of my story; it is simply retelling Jesus’ story! Myself being someone who has one of the “dramatic” conversion stories, this message was a eye-opener that I don’t have to spill my heart out to every single person when talking about Jesus. No matter what my life was like before–whether I had extremely visible sin or not-so-visible sin–the sin was/is/will always be in me and Christ has saved me from death from that sin. It’s not about me, or what my sin was or wasn’t–it’s the fact that I am inherently a sinner because I am born of Adam, yet as a sinner I am accepted as a child of God because I am born again in Christ. I think instead of putting the focus on the dramatic/lame (as I have done too many times!), Revelation 12:11 reminds us to put the focus on the “testimony” itself: God loves us SO much that He sent His Son to save each one of us from our sinful selves by dying on the cross so that we can spend eternity with our Creator.
I found your site through the ungrind.org article you wrote. Thank you for this post! As a life-long Christian, I have often felt embarrassed about my “lame” testimony. Thanks for reminding me about the awesome saving grace that God gave me and that my testimony is important too.
Instead of writing my own comment, I could just repeat what Jen said! I found this thru Ungrind, and have a “lame” testimony. I’m learning to own it and be thankful for it, so thank you for the encouragement!
Sharon, I am confused by your categorization of Paul’s testimony as “lame.” This outlook seems to disagree with a future post, “Looking for the Christ-Like Potential,” where you say,
“In chapter 3 of Philippians we get to witness firsthand the dramatic change between Paul “pre-Christ” and Paul “post-Christ.” In verses 4-6 he describes his previous status as the ultimate Jew and persecutor of the church, but in the rest of the chapter we encounter evidence of a dramatic transformation.”
Moreover, I do not understand your description of a “lame testimony,” which you start as “I never had a rebellious phase.” Please hear me, I do not want to discount your walk with the Lord or your ministry for Him. However, I want to point out, as a sister in Christ, that having this attitude of your past is not Biblical. Also, I believe having this attitude towards your testimony can seriously hinder your ministry to nonbelievers.
According to Scripture, we are ALL rebellious towards God from the minute we are born. Sinners. Rebelling against God constantly. Purposely. Literally unable to do the right thing. Impossible to even comprehend God on our own.
Now.. enter your explanation of God’s work in Paul’s life: “And then God intervened, and opened Paul’s eyes.” No offense, but THIS IS NOT LAME. Our Heavenly Father supernaturally lifted his spiritual blindness to reconcile his child to Himself for eternity!
Then, “the rest is history”? We cannot sweep “the rest” under the rug. The rest is HIS STORY, in Paul’s life and in all of ours. All we have done is reject God like mindless sheep, yet our Shepherd has reached out and saved us from life and eternity with Satan! The God of the universe humbled Himself to become fully human and completely understands our suffering because He experienced it in Christ! While on this earth, we will never stop sinning against our Father, yet we will never lose His love and forgiveness because of Christ’s all-encompassing sacrifice! Jesus’ blood provides the gift of repentance, a bridge for broken, imperfect humans to the one perfect and holy God! The Almighty God is literally dwelling in us through His Holy Spirit, His power doing in us what we cannot–overcoming our sins for us and constantly redeeming us! We deserve eternal hell, but because of God’s crazy love for us, we are guaranteed eternity in our real home, Heaven, finally and fully reunited with our Maker! I repeat, THIS IS NOT LAME. This is the Good News that hearts are crying out to hear.
To all the women out there who think they fall into this so-called “lame” category: we serve a BIG God who gives us AMAZING grace. God does not do lame work. He does dramatic, tremendously powerful, mind-boggling, out-of-this-world work. And He is doing this work in each one of your lives. Believe it and start telling others about it!
Without the King walking on this earth anymore, God supernaturally uses His people as tools to spread His Kingdom–aka when we do the natural, it opens the door for Him to do the super. Our “natural” can simply be humbly sharing how God is truly, powerfully, and mercifully redeeming us every single day. This is the Gospel. This is our dramatic testimony.
When we start believing in His “super” and start getting excited to tell people about the ONLY Truth that dramatically saved us–not about just another thing in this world that can “sound right along the way”–people might start listening.
Lord willing, they might even start believing, too. 🙂
Thanks for your thoughts, Elizabeth. I think it’s important to note that my use of the word “lame” was tongue and cheek. I can understand how the post would be confusing if you thought I was being sincere in labeling my own testimony as lame. You are right–no testimony is lame–every time someone responds to the grace of God with faith in Christ and receives salvation through Him, no matter the circumstances, it is a miracle!
My use of the word “lame” reflects the church’s lack of celebration of these seemingly less dramatic stories. As I mentioned, you never see a church video in which they showcase a person led a fairly average life and came to Christ. As a result, many of us are tempted to think that our testimonies are not that good.
What’s more, as you mentioned every person is indeed rebellious before God, but for those of us who became Christians when we were children, I have little memory of that time of my life to recount. Unlike other Christians who can describe perilous journeys before meeting Christ, I simply cannot. Again, from the outside world such an “average” life does not seem to lend itself to good story-telling, which again is why we are not encouraged to share it.
Yet Paul’s example reminds us that every testimony has power and every testimony testifies to the awesome work of God! In closing, I think you and I agree. The entire point of this post was to encourage women to share their testimonies and resist the temptation to believe it’s “lame” simply because it’s not the kind of testimony that gets a lot of fanfare. As you said, no testimony is truly lame, and that was the driving message of this post.
Thanks for your response 🙂
I understand your message to go out and share, but I am still left wanting more. I don’t mean to harp but I think there is a different bottom line to drive home that’s important to get out there. Because honestly, I don’t want to be encouraged to go out and share stories I’m afraid sound lame. If you don’t think your story is worth telling, I would challenge you to stop and think about that. Why isn’t it? Maybe instead of changing our opinion of the testimony, we need to change the testimony all together. I believe the Holy Spirit gives us compelling stories that we can’t wait to share and can’t help but get “fanfare.” Instead of accepting that we won’t be in the church video, I would love to see you challenge women to aspire to be on that video! If we don’t have exciting stories to tell, I think we need to run to His Word immediately so that the Holy Spirit can do some dramatic work in our lives worth sharing!
I want to see you tell women that regardless of their memories, they CAN describe their perilous journeys before meeting Christ. They can because He has told us. His Word is all we need for a complete understanding of our sinful selves. God’s understanding of our sin should unite all of our worldly understandings or lack of understanding of our sin.
I want to hear you tell women that even though they don’t have pre-Christ memories of sin, they have post-Christ memories of sin. Christians still live in the same sinful, broken bodies that nonbelievers have! So constantly experiencing His redeeming grace should give us all tons of exciting testimonies no matter how we came to Christ originally.
Most of all, I want to hear you tell women that a “fairly average life doesn’t lend itself to good story-telling” because it lacks an acknowledgement of their own sin. Such oversight is exactly what perpetuates the stereotype of the unattainable “good” Christian that the outside world has. Sadly, that view actually continues inside the church, as well.
Think about it. Who is really “not encouraging” us to share? Is this the church or is this Satan? As believers, myself included, we can be so afraid to talk about our sin. But by confessing our sin, we unite ourselves in His grace. We need that unity and nonbelievers need to see that unity. We have to start speaking with the humility, gratitude, and power in our voices that comes from realizing we are enormously broken sinners and we desperately need and rely on Christ. No ifs, ands, or buts! That’s what churches make videos about.