If You Don’t Have a Dramatic Testimony
Everyone loves to hear an old-fashioned, rip-roaring, “glory!” conversion testimony.
You know the kind I’m talking about. The dude who was a member of the Crips, a meth dealer, and a mob hit man before he found Jesus. Or the girl who grew up in a Christian home, then got involved in drugs, then got pregnant, then joined a biker gang, then got saved. Or the hardcore atheist who hit rock-bottom, had some sort of existential crisis, and then found Jesus in the most unlikely of places.
Every good testimony involves finding Jesus in the most unlikely of places, like a homeless shelter, or a working banana plantation, or a bowling alley. Every good testimony also involves a grandmother who prayed every day or a mother who never gave up hope. A really good testimony will include running from the cops and/or beating up a Christian who shared the gospel.
When You’re Not That Guy
But many of us don’t have a particularly gripping testimony. I grew up in a Christian home with a wonderful mom and dad. My dad read the Bible to us every morning before breakfast. I was the kid who won the Bible trivia contests in Sunday School. I never did drugs. I didn’t have premarital sex. I didn’t run around with the bad crowd. I never served time in a juvenile detention center. I didn’t get into fights (although one time I tried to pick a fight with a really small kid who was annoying me, but that’s a different story).
I wasn’t an angry kid who listened to Rage Against the Machine and drew the anarchy symbol on his Chuck Taylors. I listened to dcTalk and Michael W. Smith (“Secret Ambition” was one of the greatest Christian songs of all time). My childhood and teenage years were relatively drama free.
Saved from Sex and Drugs — At Age Six
As I’ve gotten older and interacted with more people, I’ve come to realize what a blessing it is to not have an interesting testimony. See, here’s the thing: Testimonies don’t happen in a vacuum. It’s a wonderful thing when God saves a person out of a life of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll, and I love hearing people tell those kinds of stories. But the consequences of sin don’t suddenly disappear once Jesus comes into your life. We all carry around the baggage of our past.
Former drug addicts still have to deal with all the temptations and cravings and health problems that come with addiction. Those who have slept with multiple partners carry the memories and feelings of those partners into the marriage bed. Former gang members have to come face to face with the people they hurt. Women who have had abortions carry that weight for their entire lives.
I’m not in any way saying I’m better than someone who committed lots of blatant sin. I need Jesus just as much as everyone else. The Pharisees and the prostitutes both desperately needed Jesus. Ghetto kids and pastors’ kids are on level ground when it comes to Jesus.
What I am saying is that I’m grateful God saved me when I was young. I’m grateful God spared me from some of the more blatant, outward sins. I’m grateful I don’t have to daily deal with the consequences of certain past sins. I’m grateful that my relationship with my wife isn’t marred by memories of past relationships. I’m grateful I don’t have to tell my kids about all the awful things I did before God saved me.
Grateful That God Spared You
The wonderful thing about Jesus is that he saves all kinds of people. He saves the rich and poor, the cool and the outcast, the lawyer and the loser. Jesus doesn’t show favoritism when it comes to dispensing grace.
My dad was a child of the free-love, free drugs era of the 1960s. I was a child of the homeschooling, evangelical movement of the 1990s. My dad wanted to be like the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. I wanted to be like Audio Adrenaline and Toby Mac. My dad smoked his fair share of dope. I smoked my fair share of those candy cigarettes. And yet, God saved us both. God works within an economy of grace, not a meritocracy.
Don’t be disappointed that you don’t have a gripping, over-the-top testimony. Don’t feel like you somehow missed out. Will you get to tell your story in front of large audiences? Probably not. But that’s a good thing. Be grateful that God spared you from the heart-breaking, soul-wrenching consequences of some sins. Be grateful that God saved you before you could wreck your life. Be grateful that you’re not carrying years of baggage around with you.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to find an ashtray for this candy cigarette.
John Piper’s Testimony (APJ 158)
Jesus, You’re the Greatest Joy (interview with Christy Nockels)
The Story of Ian & Larissa (video)
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