Today’s Reading: Galatians 1
A biography always ends with a person, their story, and what they did. A testimony is different. A testimony ends with what God did. God is the star of a testimony. A person is the star of a biography.
The old saints used to say, “No test? Then no testimony.” The test is what gives us the testimony and the story. I grew up always hearing the word testimony. We don’t hear that anymore. It’s a forgotten form of storytelling that needs to be reintroduced. We used to call it “testimony services” in my church when I was growing up. It was in those services we got to hear people’s stories.
The basic plot line to a testimony is this: “It’s bad, really bad. I was at the end of my rope. Jesus stepped in. And this is what He did. He rescued me.”
I grew up in a storytelling family. We would have incredible Christian heroes sit around our table at home and share their stories with us. And if I wasn’t there, I would hear the stories from my parents. I heard how Pennsylvania country preacher David Wilkerson started Teen Challenge in New York City. How converted gang member Nicky Cruz went from killing people to preaching to them. How Sonny Arguinzoni, a notorious New York drug addict, got saved and started a movement of churches worldwide called Victory Outreach. How my dad witnessed miracles when he was evangelist Kathryn Kuhlman’s bodyguard when she was in town and he was off duty with the NYPD. My parents told me about the healings they saw through the ministry of Smith Wigglesworth when he would come to their church, Glad Tidings, in lower Manhattan. I got to hear stories from Paul Yonggi Cho, pastor of the million-member church in Seoul, South Korea, as he sat at our dinner table.
All these stories would inform and inflame. That’s what a testimony does. It sets us on fire and helps us realize how amazing God is.
We’re missing these stories today, especially for our youth. Eugene Peterson calls it “historical amnesia” and has this to say about it:
“Another characteristic of the adolescent that has spread into the larger population is the absence of historical sense. The adolescent, of course, has no history. He or she has a childhood, but no accumulation of experience that transcends personal details and produces a sense of history. His world is highly personal and extremely empirical.
As a consequence, the teenager is incredibly gullible. . . They may know the facts of history and read historical novels by the dozen, but they don’t feel history in their bones. It is not their history. The result is that they begin every problem from scratch. There is no feeling of being part of a living tradition that already has some answers worked out and some procedures worth repeating.”
I’m so happy my parents connected me to the stories of God’s people. It helped me see a much bigger picture than my own small world.
In today’s chapter, Paul tells his testimony. And he also shares how people realized that what happened to him couldn’t have happened unless God stepped in. That this was nothing short of a miracle:
The only thing they heard about me was this: “Our former enemy, who once brutally persecuted us, is now preaching the good news of the faith that he was once obsessed with destroying!” Because of the transformation that took place in my life, they praised God even more! (Galatians 1:23-24, TPT)
Shannon L. Alder once said, “God can deliver you so well that some people won’t believe your testimony.”
Someone said it like this:
God formed man.
Sin deformed him.
Education informs him.
Religion may reform him.
But only Jesus Christ can transform him.
Paul made it to the final “only Jesus Christ can transform him” part. Most people tell their story and stop at the education part. Transformation happens with Jesus not from a university degree.
This is Paul’s testimony: “Our former enemy, who once brutally persecuted us, is now preaching the good news of the faith that he was once obsessed with destroying!” Or to put it another way, Paul was saying, “The people I was persecuting are now on my team. The religion I made fun of has changed my life.”
What a story Paul had. And when he told his story, people were drawn to God not to Paul. That is the mark of a powerful testimony. We hear crazy stuff and realize only God could have gotten them out.
There is something powerful when people tell their stories. In fact, the Bible says that these stories have devil-defeating ability. Listen to Revelation 12:11: “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony” (KJV). The “him” they overcame is Satan. The apostle John is saying something profoundly powerful—that your testimony is right up there with the blood of Jesus in defeating the devil. That will make you think twice about what God has done in you and for you.
Tell your story. The Kingdom wins, people glorify God, and the devil is defeated.