Definition of a Testimony
We hear this word testimony tossed around a lot in Christian circles. But what does it really mean to have a testimony? I have come to define a testimony (in its Christian context) as a person’s encounter with the grace of God.
Testimony is really a legal word. When a witness testifies in a court of law they are giving a testimony which will be used to either prove or disprove the matter under questioning in the court. In this sense a Christian can be defined as a witness who testifies to the reality of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. Therefore, their testimony will center around that original moment in their lives when they first encountered the grace of God and their proceeding encouters with the grace of God after that.
The Reason for Giving the Word Testimony a Concrete Christian Definition
The first reason is stated partially in the opening paragraph. We Christians use this word a lot. But even though we use it so much we only have a vague idea of what it is. It’s our story about how we came to know Christ. It’s our story about how we are growing in Christ. It’s our story about all the things that God has done in our lives through Christ. It is us bearing witness, testifying, to why we believe, to who God is to us, and to how He has worked in our lives.
All of these things are things that center around our encounter with the grace of God. Starting with our first encounter and continuing with those that followed. Seems pretty simple enough right? But most believers have never heard a definition of the word put in simple terms. So when they’re asked to share their testimony they often find their selves at a loss for words. They don’t know where to begin or how to proceed once they find a starting point. I think it is one of those things we have kind of taken for granted by assuming all Christians have a clear cut idea of what a testimony is.
The second reason is from my own personal experience. Not every Christian has a story like mine. Those that don’t usually feel like they don’t have a testimony at all. Sometimes they even feel like less of a Christian. Those that do have a story like mine are usually put on a pedastool.
I know this because I experience it all the time when I’m sharing my story with people who have never been through the things I’ve been through. This is all wrong.
First of all, I personally don’t want to be put on a pedastool simply because of the things I’ve been through. Secondly, no believer should feel like they have less of a grand story because they didn’t experience the things people like me did. To be touched by the grace of God is the grandest story of all. The details don’t make it any less, nor any more, grand.
This is the main reason I have come to define the word testimony as a person’s encounter with the grace of God. Regardless of what kind of story you have, before that moment in our lives we were all dead in our trespasses and sins, following after the god of this world, enslaved to our sin and blind to the glory of God.
Rejoice in Your Story!
How grand of a thing it is to reflect back on that moment when God brought us into a new reality, showed us His purpose for our lives, revealed Himself to us and poured out His love on us. Why should that moment be any less grand because the details of your story are not like the details of mine? It shouldn’t. Rejoice in the story God has given you. Don’t let that moment when you encountered the grace of God be any less grand than what it really is just because your story is different.
– Joseph Sterling
Questions for reflection:
1. Do you remember that moment in your life when you had your first encounter with the grace of God and came to believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ?
2. How did that moment change your life?
3. Can you think of subsequent moments after that when you had other encounters with the grace of God that changed your life?
4. How did those subsequent encounters change your life?
5. Do you see how these things make for a grand story in your life bearing witness to the glory of God in the grace of Christ regardless of the details?
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