Monday, August 15, 2011

Brother, Can I Get A Testimony?

I don’t know many things. I don’t know much about science or history, I don’t know much about biology or archaeology. To be fair, I don’t know much about theology. All too often have I expected myself to have a perfect defense for any theological argument I could get into; likewise have I expected the same of others. But so often, all we have to rely on is our own experience with God.

The Story of a Simple Man

I had heard a story of a man who was not the kind of man I would strive to be. He was a mature man who slept with girls who had barely turned 18. He was an alcoholic and got drunk almost every night. He was emotionally abusive to his children and ex-wife, and he shut himself away from his family. Then he found salvation and his life turned around. He never touched alcohol again. He frequently tried to reestablish connections with his ex-wife and his children, but was unsuccessful. He finally got a chance to meet with his immediate family, all nonbelievers. When they talked to him, they began to mock him for giving his live to Christ. He was not a theologian. He was not schooled. He had only been going to church for a couple weeks. These were well-educated people in his family that all had reasons to not believe in God.

The Beautiful Power of Testimony

But the point of the story is not simply the example this man gave – it is much more profound than that. As the story goes, this man’s family began to make more fun of him because he didn’t know facts about Jesus’ life. He didn’t know that Jesus only lived 33 years. He didn’t know that Jesus only spent three years in ministry. He didn’t know that Jesus fasted for 40 days in the desert. He just dimply didn’t know about Jesus’ life. But that’s not what stopped his family dead in their tracks. When they were hurling all these insult at this man, he stopped to think for a moment and simply responded, “You know…I don’t know anything about Jesus. But I do know what He’s done to me.”

This is the beauty of testimony. You can have all the theology in the world to back up your points, but if there is no heart in it, and there is no personal change in it…what’s the point? Consider the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:7-26. It says, “A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?’ (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come here.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am he.’

So here we have a Samaritan woman who basically knows nothing of God. She is a sinner and has had five husbands, and she is shacking up with her boyfriend. She’s just a woman getting by on her life without God. Then Jesus comes in and stops her. He reveals her past to her. She has no knowledge of this man who has just told her about her life. She didn’t even know his name. All she knows is that he knew how sinful she was, and this Jew came to spend time talking to a Samaritan…so she goes and shouts, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” And we’re told that all in the town came to Jesus.

What You Have Is Your Own, Personal Testimony

So what’s the point? “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony: ‘He told me all that I ever did.’” It’s not about getting a perfect testimony. It’s not about detailing your theology to a point. You know what it’s about? “This is what He’s done to me.” That’s the point of your testimony. Not just to share it among other believers so that they can know you better. Of course it’s good for fellowship, but that’s not the point of it all! The point is that God gave YOU a testimony. If you get knowledge, then great. If you get revelation, then great. But what you have is your own, personal testimony. You have what Christ has done to you and through you. And that is what will show people the true power of God. Not your arguments.



  1. Testimony has got to be the least reliable of any form of evidence. You can find lots of heartfelt testimony of people who deeply believe they've witnessed UFO's or aliens, but that doesnt mean their testimony is accurate.

  2. I think you're right, to an extent. The caveat is that if the witness is credible (i.e. not some farmer with a mental disease and a history of UFO sightings) then that often gives people more reason to listen to their testimony. Also, if they've experienced a sudden dramatic personal change as a result of knowing Christ, that carries some weight too.


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