Do you have a past that you are excited to tell other people about? Maybe you’ve accomplished some pretty interesting things, like winning medals or awards, or getting to be part of an important event. Maybe you got to meet someone important, or visited some far corners of this globe. (I got to listen to an astronaut talk about his adventures, once.)
Or, maybe you have a history that you don’t like to share with others. It could be that some bad things happened to you, or perhaps you did some things that you aren’t proud of (but then again, who hasn’t?). On the other hand, it could be that you don’t like to share details of what you have lived through because you think that it’s just plain boring.
Consider Paul’s instructions to Timothy, in the following verse:
So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.
2 Timothy 1:8 NIV
In the light of the blessings that God has given those of us who follow Him (see 2 Timothy 1:7), there is no reason to be embarrassed about sharing what we know about Jesus Christ. There are times when my wife is probably embarrassed to be seen with me, when I do stupid things or make “dad jokes” in public, but she still loves me. Since Jesus never did anything to be embarrassed about, though, we have nothing about Him to be ashamed of.
But, what is this “testimony” that Paul is talking about? I think that Tim Hawkins (a Christian comedian), in one of his more serious moments, summarizes the meaning of “testimony” well when he said, “Testimony is just a church word. It means your story, if you know Christ.”
Now, maybe you didn’t get saved from a life where you went around getting believers killed (like Paul), or you weren’t reformed from running drugs on the streets of the big city. Maybe you didn’t start with nothing, grow up with a terrible life, and then had it turned around completely after being miraculously saved by Jesus. (Or, maybe you did.) Regardless of the details, though, your personal story of what Jesus has done in your life is important. It has value.
Even if your story starts with something like, “I grew up in a Christian home and accepted Jesus at a young age”, you still have a story. Jesus doesn’t stop working in our lives after we’re saved. How has God been faithful to you over the years? How has He answered your prayers? What did He help you to do for the good of His kingdom? What has He accomplished through you? (Remember, it’s not bragging if you’re genuinely giving God the credit.)
Paul’s story wasn’t just that he was a converted murderer. His story was also about what God continued to do in Paul’s life for decades afterwards: Starting churches. Leading people to salvation in Christ Jesus. Training up other leaders in the church. Evangelizing to the Roman guard. All of this was Paul’s testimony. Even if God’s work through you doesn’t look the same as someone else’s, don’t ever think that you lack a story to tell about God’s work in your life.
In addition, when we consider other people whose lives have been changed for the better by following Jesus, we don’t have to be embarrassed to share their story, as well. Whether we consider people like Paul, Corrie Ten Boom, Dietrich Bonhoffer, or C.S. Lewis – or even friends and family through whom God has shown His life-changing power – we have no reason to be ashamed of what God has done in their lives.
Like Paul, some of these people came out of pretty messed-up worlds, and they may still have have retained some “residual imperfections” (that is, they still make mistakes and often retain bad habits). Their past and their faults might be a little embarrassing. For instance, C.S. Lewis was an ardent atheist before letting God change his life for the better, and even afterwards, I’ve heard that he smoked a lot. Should we be ashamed of his testimony? Not at all. We acknowledge that he was a sinner (just like we were before we accepted Jesus), and that his behavior didn’t become perfect immediately upon accepting Jesus (after all, some vices are difficult to shake). Still, his story – and the messages that God delivered through him – are worthy of sharing with other people.
So, don’t let fear of hardship or suffering stand in your way. Stand up and share your story in Jesus with other people. Tell the great accounts of how God changed other people’s lives for the better, and encourage other people that Jesus can do the same amazing things for them, too.
From Sunday School lesson, prepared for and taught on October 11, 2020.
- Christian Standard, Volume CLV, Number 10, pages 83-84. © 2020 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press Commentary, 1, 2 Timothy & Titus, by C. Michael Moss. Ph. D. College Press Publishing Company, © 1994.