This just in: an incredible testimony! An old lady opened her atlas and began praying for a city not far from Tehran. Years later, an Iranian came to her church. After the service, she dashed over to him. “Where are you from in Iran?” she asked.
He replied, “You won’t have heard of it; it is an insignificant city,” but shared the name of the town.
“I’ve been praying for this city for thirty-four years!” she blurted out through tears.
“Thirty-four years?” the Iranian brother asked incredulously. “I got saved thirty-four years ago and now lead four hundred believers in the city.”
The prayers of one old lady helped birth a congregation of four hundred believers in a Muslim country. Praise the Lord! What an encouragement. This makes me want to pray more. (And I only have fourteen years to go since I’ve be praying for the Muslim world for twenty years.) More importantly, this testimony has been used to release both prayer and workers to the Muslim world.
Testimonies are so vital to us. The Bible is full of testimonies of the grace and power of God. We are encouraged over and over again with records, facts, and faith builders. The more we read, the more faith is released in us.
The more faith we have, the more we can personally testify of Christ so others will be changed. Many people come to Christ because they heard a personal testimony from a friend or neighbor. The Bible says, “All Syria knew of him” (Matthew 4:23-24). The reason for this is that Jesus had been teaching, preaching, and healing the sick. News about him spread as people talked to one another about Christ and testified of what he had done for them.
In our church, we sometimes have a testimony time. The testimonies are mostly on the theme of answered prayer. Dave shared how he got a job and Matt shared how just the right amount of money came in to cover a bill. Other testimonies are from new believers who share how they received Jesus. These testimonies release faith into us and encourage us to start the new week in prayer and with excitement of the power of God.
In the Old Testament, the word “testimony” comes from the root word `uwd (meaning to return, repeat, do again). When we give our testimony, we open the atmosphere for the miracle to be repeated. Testimony carries with it the power of change. If we speak out of our experience in God, we are not just giving information, but are sharing the power of transformation.
Testimonies are important because we get to boast in God, about God. That is why our testimony must be an honest eyewitness accounts of what God has done. If the testimony is exaggerated or made up, it will not carry with it the authority of God. It will not have the effect of changing the circumstances whereby non-believers will want to come to Christ.
I have been with people who start to tell a story of how God saved them out of a terrible life, and no one responded. Why? Because it was a story; it was not factual. It did not bear witness of God in truth. God cannot use your story, but he can and will use your testimony. The Hebrew root word of “testimony” also means to “affirm solemnly, to exhort, or enjoin solemnly.” And because the word also means “to bear witness” (like in a court of law), we understand our testimony must be true. So when you share a testimony, it needs to be an eyewitness account and it must be in the love of God.
Perhaps the most powerful personal testimony is not what we share with words, but rather what we share with our lives. The following story illustrates this well.
Pastor Paul* went to the house of the commander of the Muslim Hezbollah in the area and knocked on the door. His reception was less than civil, but after initial threats the leader asked Paul, “What do you want?”
“I want a cup of tea,” he replied.
He was invited in for tea, such is the duty of hospitality in these countries, and then left. The next week, Paul returned, knocked on the door, again requested a cup of tea, was invited in, drank, and left.
He did this for an entire year. When a tsunami struck, Pastor Paul went to the commander’s house, knocked on the door, and asked him if he would bring all his militant officials to work with his group of pastors in the tsunami-affected area for two weeks. The commander agreed. For two weeks, the Christians and Muslims slept in the same house, ate the same food, and together, helped rebuild the lives of those shattered by the tsunami.
At the evening meal, as the time drew to a close, the commander started crying. “Your love has broken my heart,” he wept. “I have burned your buildings and killed your brothers, and you have responded only with love.”
Over the next two years, Pastor Paul’s congregation grew and needed a bigger building. The only problem was that the Indonesian authorities did not give permission for churches to be built. However, the Hezbollah commander went to the authorities and pleaded with them to grant the Christians permission to build. And permission was granted!
At the civic ceremony which opened the new building, Christian pastors and Muslim militants shared the head table with civic dignitaries. Pastor Paul presented the commander with a book which talked about dialogue instead of fighting as a way Muslims and Christians can relate.
The commander again could not keep back his tears. As this man (whose hands had murdered Christians and commands had caused the burning of numerous churches) stood on the platform with tears running down his face, the “despised” Christian put his arm around his shoulder and stood there, comforting him.
“You have shown us that there is a better way,” said the commander.
Pastor Paul shared the power of transformation through his life. The commander could see the love of God through this man. His deeds were the means of releasing the life-changing power of God in impossible circumstances. And God responded by doing what he loves to do—bring healing and salvation to all who will respond.
Perhaps you are thinking, I don’t have an exciting, powerful testimony. And even if I did, I don’t have the Hezbollah around me to share it with! If you allow God to use you, to let your life speak to others around you, he will make sure your testimony is used. You can do good deeds to your neighbor, asking God to use them. You can share even the little things God did for you in your house group or church. God will use it to release faith in someone else. Whatever you do, your personal testimony will impact others in your area if it points back to Christ in your life.
Be encouraged. Boast in God, about God. Not just with your words, but also with your lifestyle. This will touch your neighbors and cause them to want to know more of Christ in you. As Billy Graham once said, “We are not cisterns made for hoarding, we are channels made for sharing.”