I went to a funeral last week. It was the latest in three similar funerals I have been to in the last year of so. You see, my granny was one of nine brothers and sisters. They were a family deep rooted in heritage and God. I grew up with large family dinners, playtime with lots of cousins, and great aunts and uncles that had earned respect in nearly every facet of life. I grew up with stories upon stories of their own unique way of doing things, of their strict expectations, and of the fun they had along the way. I guess I never realized what a unique opportunity I had to be born into this family until I started to watch time steal its members away.
As I sat in each funeral for my great uncles and aunt, I learned some things about each one of them and some things I already knew were confirmed. But each one of them had a spectacular testimony. Uncle Stetson’s life told of his strength and ability to love, accept, and help all. Uncle Buddy’s life demonstrated hard working ethics and a love for God and football. Aunt Faye’s life spoke of chocolate layer cakes and service, many, many hours of serving others. Each one of them had a testimony that showed they were entirely grateful for the life they were given. Each one of them worked hard to make the most out of life, long past the retirement age. Each one of them and the way they lived their lives encouraged me, and I am sure others, to live my life a little more alive.
And of course with that and just going to funerals in general, it got me thinking. Oh sure, I told my husband things I did and did not want at my funeral, but I also started thinking about things that would be said at my funeral. What kind of testimony would I leave? Would it be one of strength like Uncle Stetson? Or one of strong convictions like Uncle Buddy? Or one of service like Aunt Faye? Or would I have my own testimony, unique to me, but greatly influenced by my great uncles and aunts and grandparents and parents and countless other people along the way.
I know in years past I have thought of my testimony as dull, normal, just mediocre. I don’t have a tragedy that I had to bounce back from. I never dealt with addiction (especially if we don’t count coffee…). I have great parents. I mean sure I can think of some speed bumps along the way, but as a whole, I have had a pretty awesome life. I never really thought of my testimony as anything anyone would want to hear and definitely not anything anyone would learn from. I know many people feel the same way.
Many people may find shame in their testimony. Or anger and hurt. Or loss. Or regret. Or a hundred other things that make us feel like our story is unworthy of being told. But as I look at the life of my family and as I begin to examine my own life a little more, I realize that my testimony really has very little to do with me. My testimony is not about all the emotions I felt or the difficult moments I overcame, or even the lack thereof. Our testimony is about God and the awesome power, provision, and protection he showed through us. I mean at the end of a football game, no one talks about how great the ball was. Nope, they talk about how great the quarterback was throwing that ball. We are the ball and God is the quarterback. We are just a tool, a piece of equipment that God uses to further his kingdom. But don’t lose hope here, just like people treasure that game ball, God treasures us and wants us to realize the power of our own testimony.
But first you have to recognize your own testimony.
I am sure you have big defining moments in your life where God was definitely present and those moments may direct your testimony, but don’t limit God to those moments. I know when I was five I had something defining happen to me. I have several memories etched into my brain and it was something that changed who I was, even as little girl. It is tempting to let those moments as a five year old define my testimony, and sure, I think God allowed those moments to set many other moments into play, but looking back, that instance is just one small glimpse into my testimony.
And I will be honest, up until I started this blog, I didn’t think a whole lot about my testimony. Just a little over a year ago, I decided to sit down and write it out (and that is the one you will find here on my blog) but even now, I could go back and add and change so many things. I feel like because I have been obedient in starting this blog I am looking at my life through a whole new lens. So many seemingly minor things about my personality make a little better sense now. So many events, big and small, in my life seem to be adding up to where I am now. Please don’t miss this point – MY OBEDIENCE TO GOD AT THIS POINT IN MY LIFE MAKES THE REST OF MY LIFE MAKE SENSE!
But I had to stop and recognize my own testimony. I had to stop looking at myself as this perfectly average girl, with perfectly average looks, and a perfectly average job, and a perfectly average family… and a perfectly average story. I mean goodness, God’s intervention and provision is what has enabled me to be perfectly average. Even now, I realize perfectly average is not a bad thing, but I also recognize that is a worldly definition, not a Godly definition. Many characters of the Bible were perfectly average and God made them stand out in a crowd. God made them unignorable through His awesome power and design.
Look at Paul. Look at the way God changed Paul. He caused Paul to do a complete 180, but even then Paul did not have a gloriously easy life of spreading the gospel. He was imprisoned many times, shipwrecked, and snake bit. But in Philippians 1:12 Paul tells us, “I want you to know, brothers, that what happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” And the same is true for us. Whether we have had big devastating things happen in our life or little easy things, it doesn’t matter. What God allows to happen in our lives all serves to advance the gospel, but we have to stop and look at our life in that way. We have to stop and see our life through God’s lens and start to realize how each of those moments drew us closer to Him and advanced His story, not just ours.
And then we have to recognize the power of our testimony.
Because our testimony is more about God and less about us, we have to realize that it is powerful. We cannot let our own insecurities or lack of faith diminish the power of our testimony. Look at what it says in Revelations 2:11. “And they have conquered him by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony.” Now, I am not going to sit here and tell you I have all of Revelations figured out, but I will tell you that according to this scripture the saints had a powerful testimony. They defeated the dragon with the blood of the lamb – where the power comes from – and their testimony – how that power is being used. In other words, when we recognize God’s power and the power He gives our testimony, it can and should be used to defeat Satan.
In Mark, when Jesus healed the demon possessed man, the man wanted to follow Jesus and become a disciple. But Jesus told him no. At first, you may wonder why Jesus would turn away followers. It seems a little harsh, but look at what Jesus told him. “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he had mercy on you.” Jesus wanted the man to go and share his testimony. Jesus realized the power of this man’s testimony and he also recognized how much good the demon possessed man could do on his own, sharing his testimony. He didn’t have to go with Jesus to do good. Jesus had given him a powerful testimony to share on his own. And in verse 20 of chapter five, it says, “everyone marveled” at his testimony.
Of course your situation is different from this man’s in Mark, but the Lord has helped all of us overcome our personal demons. He has enabled us to defeat the devil in our own lives, and I know sometimes you may think that story is not so spectacular, but trust me, that story has all the power it needs and more when Jesus is apart of it.
Finally, you have to pay attention.
Earlier I talked about an instance that happened to me as a little girl. For many years that was a defining moment in my testimony. I also said I had never actually written my testimony down until about a year ago, and even though a year has barely passed since I penned those words, that is only a small part of my testimony now. God has done so much in the past year and definitely since I was a little girl, that I feel like my previous testimony pales in comparison to my current testimony. And I hope a year from now, or a month from now, or even just a week from now that I will be able to repeat these words because God has continued to do a good work in me.
But you know, He has always been doing a good work in me – when I let him – He has always been working to build my testimony. I just wasn’t always paying attention, and now that I am paying closer attention, all I can say is WOW! I am able to see Jesus in all the small things we think He isn’t paying attention to. I get to see Jesus work out details of my life that I may have considered unimportant. I get to see Jesus give me support and encouragement right when I need it, and because I am paying attention, I recognize that it is Him, that it is not coincidence or luck. Through prayer and a growing relationship with Him, I also have a growing testimony, one that is ever changing and always improving. I can speak to how He has stepped in and changed my life in every stage of my life, from protection when I was having children, to provision while building our house, to power that gets me through the daily grind. When I started to recognize what God was doing in my life, He started to show me more and more. When I started to trust God with more of my life, He proved Himself trustworthy with my entire life. But I had to refocus and pay attention to God.
So I encourage you to take a closer look at your life and your walk with Jesus. I encourage you to sit down and write out your testimony. Start from the beginning and record all the ups and downs and all the places in between where God has been present. I am guessing you will be surprised. I know I was. I realized several areas in my life God had rescued me from, but I had never slowed down long enough to recognize it was Him. And then, start paying attention. In all honesty, we have a daily testimony. Daily, Jesus uses His power to get us through and when we start recognizing that, He will show us how those daily testimonies build to a powerful testimony of a life lived for Christ.