Defining Testimonies and Explaining Their Power
In my freshman year New Testament Survey class, Professor Newman made the argument that the book of Acts expounds on our main calling as Believers. This calling, he argued, could be found in Acts 1:8, Jesus’ last words on Earth. It reads, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Luke’s book goes on to tell story after story of how the Holy Spirit moved through regular, every-day people to do extraordinary things. Professor Newman believed our calling was to be witnesses to the power of Jesus.
The Latin word for witness is testi. It is from this root where the word testimony is derived. One definition given by the New Oxford American Dictionary (in other words, I googled it) for testimony is “evidence or proof provided by the existence or appearance of something.”
For those in relation with Jesus, your testimony is your life. Who you are, what you say, what you do because of Jesus: these are all evidence of the existence and nature of the one true king. This testimony is the most powerful tool anyone has to spread the Gospel, affect others’ lives, do ministry, bring hope, and inspire love. Hopefully this post can spark a discussion to change the way we think about our testimonies, what they are, where they come from, and how powerful they really can be.
So many people think of their testimony as a one-and-done story of the moment their life was changed by Jesus. Examples might include: before I met Jesus, I was arrogant and selfish. After I met Jesus, I was humbled and began to care for others. This, however, isn’t the full story of your life. You aren’t made perfect the moment you accept Jesus into your life. That moment is really only the beginning of your story. As you go through trials in life and grow closer to Jesus, your testimony is going to change. Really, at the heart of it, your testimony is the story of your life with Jesus. Just as that story continues throughout the rest of your life, marked by ups and downs and everything in between, so too will your testimony. It’s never static, but growing with each new step you take in your faith.
As obvious as this may seem, your testimony is yours. In John 21, Jesus meets his disciples on the beach for breakfast. John shows us one of the most human/personal depictions of Jesus in scripture. He makes fish sandwiches and then proceeds to speak to the disciples individually, challenging and strengthening Peter and encouraging John. The Holy Spirit is one and unified, but speaks to us individually. We each have a unique conversation with him at all times. Your testimony is not a cookie-cutter-3-pronged thesis about the Gospel, but a personal account of what Jesus does in your life, and that is so powerful.
Power Through Jesus
Without Jesus, our testimonies mean nothing, but because of who He is, they are powerful beyond what we can know. ‘Jesus’ is SWAT’s first core value because ‘He is both the means and ends to what we do.’ What does this mean? As SWAT, our entire goal is to point to the power, love, and majesty of Jesus so that students may have life and have it to the full by knowing Jesus. Without Jesus’s presence in our lives and in our testimonies, we have no way of doing this. Jesus gives power to our testimonies because He is a person, He is real. Jesus is not a book character or a myth or a painting or the figure for a major religion, but the Living God. When we testify to Jesus, our testimonies have the power to change lives, because Jesus changes lives. When we testify to anything else we are only wasting our breath.
Your testimony is powerful because it’s insanely accessible for students. This is the case for two reasons. First, your testimony is accessible because it’s concrete. Spiritual truths are often abstract. It’s hard for students to “just understand” how the peace of God overcomes fear and anxiety. But, if you share your testimony with your students, they can see how this looks like in real life. They’ll understand that it’s possible, and they’ll believe it too. Why? Because of your experience.
Secondly, your testimony is accessible because you’re only a few years older than your students. Your testimony can communicate to them that you know exactly what it feels like to be in their shoes and to come out on the other side alive. Life is hard. Sometimes it honestly feels like nothing is ever going to get better. Or, sometimes it feels like everything is perfect. Either way, Jesus is with us. He’s with us through the ups and the downs. He takes us through trials to grow us and it is He alone who brings us to the mountaintops. No matter where students are, they need Jesus in their lives. The best way for you to tell them that is to show them through your own life experiences.
Your testimony is powerful for influencing the lives of not just your students, but everyone around you. That’s because it is your life: your raw, unfiltered, authentic life. It’s the messy stuff of laying on your floor weeping, and the beautiful moments when you feel Jesus’ arms around you. It is your failures and your successes. It is the day by day living of one whose hope is in Christ. Don’t neglect the power of your story. It’s been given to you for a reason.
Small Group Interns - Nic & Sophie