Growing up I recall listening to many amazing testimonies of the great things God had done in the lives of others. Whether it was saving a man from his drug-addicted state, or leading a man from an abusive home to church where he would feel the love of God the Father, I always felt that my testimony was somehow not as great as theirs.
What is so wrong about this thought is that the point of a testimony is not to show the great faith of men and women to believe, it is to show the work of God. When we look back into the Old Testament we are often tempted to lift up the Old Testament saints to focus on their faith and treat them as heroes. If we examine their lives closely, however, we will find that their lives were full of sin, mistakes, and unfaithfulness to God. The reason they are examples of the faith is that they are examples of God’s faithfulness to his people. The reason that we rejoice when desperate men and women come to faith is because God has brought them to himself.
What is surprising is that we often do not show the same rejoicing and surprise when God brings a child raised in the church by Christian parents to Christ. We take for granted those children yet God gives no guarantee that our children who grow up in church will come to him. Not only that, we tend to forget that it takes just as much grace to forgive a five-year-old church attender as it does a fifty-year-old murderer. The spiritual aliveness of both is the same–they are dead in their trespasses and sin.
Another danger of testimonies is the whole idea that the best way to witness is through your testimony because testimonies are the one thing no one can argue with. No one can discount your experience. I beg to differ. The mind is an extremely powerful thing. If it weren’t then all mentally ill patients who see delusions would have to do to stop is just stop. But they can’t. Why? Their minds produce delusions because something is wrong.
In testimonies people do the same thing. When someone who believes in another religion claims to have had an experience with their god, we assume that they are deluded. Why? Because we know their god does not exist. Anyone can argue that your testimony and my testimony are flawed because we are deluded. Nietzsche realized this, Lenin realized this, and countless others understand just how tricky testimony is.
Testimony certainly has a place in witnessing, but it isn’t to prove that God exists or the Christianity is real, its to show how God has impacted your life. My testimony is that of a five year old boy coming to Christ and growing into a man who doesn’t remember live before faith. I am 23 and have 18 years of God’s faithfulness, in spite of my failures, to look back on. When I share my faith I am informed by my experience through the understanding I find in Scripture, but I want to focus on the person I am sharing with. They need to know who God is, and I will share only what helps them to understand that. They need to know what God has done, and that is the work of Christ on the Cross. And they need to know why they need God, and that has to come from them. I can tell them they are a sinner and need a savior, but only God can call them to himself, not me.