I have been helped by the advice of E. Stanley Jones, a missionary to India who lived during the twentieth century. Something profound happened to him when he preached his very first sermon at his hometown church. He had studied and studied in his sermon preparation, wanting to “argue well for God” when he preached. He memorized his sermon word for word. But, being nervous, he started out with his voice at a rather high pitch and then made a slip of the tongue. A nonsensical word came out of his mouth that he had not planned on saying. At that, a young girl in the congregation visibly lowered her head, struggling not to laugh aloud.
When Jones saw her reaction, his mind went blank—he forgot everything he was going to say. After an awkward silence, he began walking back to his seat, only for the Lord to speak to his heart, asking, “Haven’t I done anything for you?” Jones internally responded, “Yes, of course—you have given me life itself!” Then the Lord prompted him: “Well, why don’t you just say that?” Jones then stopped and went on to describe what God had done in his life. Several of those attending that day were moved by his story, one of whom even dedicated himself to overseas missionary service.
Stanley Jones saw that night as a paradigm change in his conception of what it meant to be a Christian minister. He decided that he did not want to try to be God’s lawyer, arguing for God. No, he reasoned, God is big enough to argue for himself. Rather, Jones began to see himself as a witness, one testifying about the working of God’s grace in an unworthy life.
Every believer has a unique testimony, a unique story of his or her experience with God. I used to think that my testimony was nothing special—that it was kind of boring, actually. I wasn’t saved from a life of crime or addiction to drugs or any such thing; certainly my testimony wasn’t a very dramatic one. But later I realized that every believer’s testimony is dramatic and powerful: It is the story of God’s grace saving a lost sinner, one who was spiritually dead. I now see my testimony as my most powerful tool for evangelism.
Testimonies are effective for many reasons. First, every testimony is unique, like a person’s fingerprints or DNA. Someone might think his or her testimony boring, but that just isn’t true. Every person has had a unique experience with the living God. Moreover, testimonies are true stories—they really happened. Think of the difference between going to a movie that came straight from a screenwriter’s imagination and a film based on a true story—the latter affects us more deeply. Moreover, because our stories are real, they are not easily discredited. I don’t have to memorize lots of Scripture or use a theological chart when I witness; I simply tell my story. It is a story I always have with me, and I can give it in any form—a two-minute version or a two-hour version, whatever the circumstance calls for. You and I have powerful stories, we just need to ask God for wisdom to know how and when to tell them.
REFLECTIONS: Do you think you have a powerful testimony or a bland, boring one? Think about the ways your life is unique to all other lives ever lived. Write out a sketch or brief outline of your life story and memorize it. Ask God to help you see it as a powerful tool that you always have with you, ready to use it whenever He prompts you.
Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you