Take the baton!

baton pass

When giving your testimony, be careful if you are tempted to leave something out of your story. You never know what element of your story might connect with someone else. Especially don’t leave out the “bad/hard stuff.” When we talk openly about our sin, as well as the times when we have been sinned against, people are drawn to us. There is something powerful about the transparency and vulnerability we exhibit when we share our stories. That’s because every Christian is a broken person who is in the process of being healed by Jesus. The abuse I suffered as a boy is part of my story—I was emotionally abused by my father and sexually abused by an older family friend. Part of me very much wants to edit those parts out of my story, hiding them from others. But when I find the courage to share my own struggles, my transparency draws other people not only to me, but also to Jesus. I love the “full circle” dynamic shown in 2 Cor. 1:3–4:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

Of course, the best-case scenario for witnessing is when someone asks you to explain yourself. I call it the million-dollar question: Why? When we live in such a way that our words and deeds get someone’s attention, our behavior creates the ultimate context for powerful witness. When someone asks, “Why were you so nice to me?” or “Why don’t you swear and tell dirty stories like everyone else?” a door is open for our testimony. We can open the door even farther by responding, “Do you really want to know why?” When they say that they do, then we tell them our story—and Jesus’s story. Accept the challenge to live your life in such a way that it demands an explanation.

The word evangelism has gotten a bad rap among both believers and nonbelievers. Many associate the word with high-pressure salesmanship, cramming Jesus down someone’s throat. But the word actually means to “announce good news.” I sometimes ask myself, why I am tempted to keep the best news in the world to myself?  Good news is meant to be shared. A witness simply relates what he or she has seen or experienced. You are a witness to what the Lord has done in your life, and no one can testify about that better than you can! Some people among your circle of influence are more open to your witness than they would be to testimony given by Billy Graham, Rick Warren, or Mother Teresa. Why? Because your friends don’t know them; they know you.

God is building a family who will live with him forever, and he wants to include as many people in it as possible, from every language and ethnic group in the world. How amazing to think that God is giving us a part in writing his grand story of the ages! Paul says that you and I are “God’s ambassadors”: God is making his appeal to the world through us. Think about Jesus’s words in Acts 1:8, when he says that we will be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria—and to the ends of the Earth.  When Jesus walked the earth, he went to Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria—but not to the ends of the earth—that’s when he handed off the baton to his disciples so they would continue his mission to the ends of the earth.  I remember running on a relay team in Jr. High track and how important the baton pass was to winning the race.  The early disciples took the baton from Jesus and it has been passed from generation to generation down to us.  It is our turn now.  We get to continue the mission of Jesus on Earth. Life is too short to keep Jesus to ourselves!

REFLECTIONS: Are there hard parts of your life story that you have been tempted to leave out when giving your testimony.  Ask God to give you courage to include them next time.  Be ready to share your testimony the next time someone asks you the million dollar question—why?

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect

1 Peter 3:15

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