Everyone has a Story

Christians don’t have just one story or testimony; we have many. Our testimonies are stories of God’s power and presence in our lives. Every new day brings fresh stories of God’s goodness and grace.
Years ago I read Rebecca Pippert’s book “Out of the Saltshaker” on witnessing to others about Jesus. She wrote, “Every Christian has a personal story to tell … God has called you to be a very specific, very special person, and your story, your life, is a testimony to God’s goodness, his grace, his forgiveness. So share who you are with people. Let them know you have struggles, but that God has made a difference.”
In the Scriptures, we read about a woman at the well whom Jesus spoke to about salvation. So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?’”   (John 4:28-29)

Your story can be a changed relationship where Jesus has brought forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing between you and an important person in your life. It can be about finding a new purpose in life and that life is not ‘live…die…end of story. It can be how you overcame, with God’s help, living in fear and are now walking in faith and freedom.
Followers of Jesus don’t have one testimony; we have many. Because God is active and working in our lives, we have new stories to tell every day. These stories, or testimonies, recount how God is present and powerful. Every time God works in your life; every time He moves in your circumstances and situation; every time He shows you a new truth and gives you a new understanding – you have another testimony or story to tell. God moves, works, and transforms lives and, as He does, you have more to share about His presence and power in your life. So, your story should always be fresh and current.
In some situations your testimony will be a recounting of how you first became a follower of Jesus. At other times it will be a story about how God is at work in your life today. No matter what kind of testimony your share, there are a number of things you need to remember.
If you have a sense that the door is open to share a testimony, first ask for permission. “Would you mind if I told you a little about a way God has changed my life?” Or, “I’d like to tell you how I first came to have a relationship with Jesus. Would that be alright with you?”
We honour people and show them respect when we allow them to tell us whether they are ready to enter into this new level of conversation.
The longer we follow Jesus and the more time we spend with other Christians, the more sensitive we need to be about our language when we tell our story of faith. We can’t and shouldn’t assume nonbelievers will know what we mean when we refer to sin, redemption, grace, or dozens of other wonderful words. These terms, and others like them, are rich and helpful when believers are talking together. But when we share a testimony with those who are not born again, it is best to assume that others won’t know these terms and to use plain language.
A short testimony is almost always better than a long one. Rather than telling your life story, try sharing just one experience with God or one event that led you to faith. Then you can always ask, “Could I share a little more about my relationship with Jesus?”
This question gives listeners a natural opportunity to enter into the conversation or to let you know that they have heard enough for now. If it looks like a conversation is winding down, make sure they know the door is open to talk at any time.
In his book “Just Walk Across the Room,” Bill Hybels encourages believers to develop the discipline of sharing a brief testimony. He suggests trying to share your story in one hundred words of less. It’s doable!
When the door is open to share a testimony, do it with clarity and boldness, but keep it brief. It could lead to questions and deeper discussion. But be careful not to launch into a fifteen-minute story that feels and sounds like a sermon.
As you tell your story, make sure God is central. A testimony in not so much about us as it is about the presence and power of the God who is alive in us. One way people will see God in this world is through His power manifested in us.
Some Christians may warn you not to tell “strange and fanciful stories” that will freak people out. I agree. But if God has moved in your life in a powerful way, don’t be shy to talk about it. Has Jesus brought you healing? Have you been delivered from an addiction or bad habit? Has the Holy Spirit given you a clear leading? All of these stories can be part of your testimony. People want to know if this God you say is real has power to move in this world. If you have seen His power, tell the story.
Testimonies are about declaring that the presence of Jesus is real. As Christians, we are not playing religion or just going to church events. We have met the living God, the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and Jesus is our closest friend. We can talk with confidence about how we experience the presence of God in our lives, in the hard times and in the good times.
When people hear us affirm God’s power and presence, they know we are serious about our faith. They might not agree with us, but they can’t deny our personal faith is authentic.
When giving your testimony work to present a contrast between who you were and who you are now. In other words, gently state the difference encountering Jesus has made in your life. For example:
From hate-filled and self-centered relationships to loving and caring relationships
From a life without purpose and direction to a life of deep meaning and clear direction
From fear of death to confidence in this life and hope for eternity
Though such a pattern isn’t mandatory for every testimony, it does help people see the difference Jesus can make in a life. If you have experienced a transforming work of God, let it become the focus of one of your testimonies. Here are a few more examples:
From loneliness to a sense of belonging (to God and His family, the Church)
From anxiety to peace
From financial irresponsibility and fear to hard work and financial stability
From selfishness to generosity
From addiction and enslavement to freedom from addictions
The list of options is as diverse as our life experiences.
As we share the story of our life transformation, it is critical that we articulate that Jesus is the source of the change. We could not have brought it about on our own. We don’t want our lost friends and family members to think that the transformation in our lives is the result of going to church or hanging out with a nice new group of people or even getting ‘religious.’ The only power that can changes from the inside out is the work of Jesus. His death on the cross, in our place, and His resurrection in glory are the reason we are becoming new people. We should be careful to express this as we share our stories.
Joy is a universal language. If we talk about God’s work in our lives, the amazing changes we are experiencing, and the relationship we have with Jesus, but do so without joy, we will send the wrong message. Knowing the Father, walking with Jesus, and being filled with the Holy Spirit should bring a flow of joy that is visible and contagious.
This is not to say that we should paste on a fake smile and blurt, “Praise the Lord,” at the end of every sentence. It means the joy of the Lord is evident in our lives, even in the tough times. When the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) is growing in our lives, people will see it. Joy is always part of our story, because we know Jesus, the Author of joy.
In review, we have previously looked at the following points regarding telling your story about what Jesus has done and is doing in your life…
1> Ask for permission and don’t be pushy.                                                                                    2> Use ordinary language.                                                                                                                  3> Start briefly and share more as it becomes appropriate.                                                        4> Highlight God’s presence and power
5> Clearly present the before-and-after pictures
6> Share the source of life transformation
7> Let the joy shine through
A testimony is not a bludgeon we use to pound people into submission. It is a witness to what God is doing in our lives and a gift for others to enjoy. We need to be careful that our testimony does not come across as a speech in which we tell people that we are right and they are wrong, or point out how good we are now and how bad everyone else is who does not know Jesus. Rather, a testimony is a humble declaration that God is moving in our lives and that we are grateful for what He is doing.
Be careful not to get locked into one testimony. Don’t just memorize a scrip and robotically deliver the same words with the same inflection every time you tell your story. Instead, listen to the people around you and discover where they are in life. When you share a testimony, make sure it is relevant for them.
For example, if you are talking with someone who is dealing with loneliness and you have experienced God’s presence in a way that has strengthened you when you have felt alone, share that testimony. But if you are conversing with a spiritual seeker who is wondering if God provides for our needs and takes care of His people, you might tell a very different story – a different part of your testimony. As you walk with Jesus, you will have more and more stories about how a relationship with God transforms various areas of your life.
People love to hear stories, and that’s all a testimony is. In the course of most days you will have opportunities to share organically about the difference your faith in Jesus is making in your life. Pray for these opportunities, notice when the door is open, and then share your stories in a natural way.
The Holy Spirit will infuse what you share with power. Remember, your part is not to change lives or even to have all the answers. But you can talk about the ways God is moving in your life. Your stories might be just what another person needs to hear.