Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine
O what a foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood
This is my story, this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long
- Fanny Crosby, Blessed Assurance
In a trial, the testimony of witness can possess a lot of power.. A good witness may not only accurately tell what happened, but also fill in gaps of the story left unanswered by forensic evidence like DNA tests and fingerprints. The reliable witness contributes an accurate account of what happened, as well as insight into how it happened (possibly why).
God writes his story on the hearts of those who believe in him. He trusts us to bear witness to his work in our lives. When sharing your story with people in your life, your words provide persuasive evidence that God is real and he saves those who call upon Jesus. Your stories are powerful because your encounters with God are real.
We know that testimonies of witnesses have dynamic spiritual impact based on Scripture. Many of the most effective witnesses of Jesus Christ recorded in the Bible simply tell the story of how their encounter with Jesus changed their lives (the disciple Peter in 2 Peter 1:16-18; a blind man in John 9:20-25; the disciple John in 1 John 1:1-3). The Apostle Paul told his story often (Acts 26:1-29; Philippians 3:1-8; 1 Corinthians 15:1-10) and offers us a model for the key elements in sharing our own stories. The account Paul gives in Acts 22:1-21 is particularly instructive for us.
“Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense before you.” When they heard that he was addressing them in Aramaic, they became even quieter. He continued, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the law of our ancestors. I was zealous for God, just as all of you are today. (Acts 22:1-3
The first step in being an effective witness is to build common ground. tweet
In this instance, Paul was shares his story with his fellow Jewish countrymen, so he emphasizes their shared experiences and values. He addresses them as “brothers and fathers,” even though many in the crowd had been misinformed about him and had just tried to kill him (see Acts 21:26-35). He also chooses to speak their language, though Paul knew several languages and Greek was the common language that people used where he was. When the people in the temple hear him speaking their language, they pay more attention. Paul then shares his mutual passion for God and admiration for their Jewish ancestors. Gamaliel was the most respected teacher of their time, and announcing that Paul studied under him was like announcing to a group of doctors that you graduated at the top of your class at Harvard Medical School: instant credibility.
I persecuted this Way to the death, arresting and putting both men and women in jail, as both the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify about me. After I received letters from them to the brothers, I traveled to Damascus to arrest those who were there and bring them to Jerusalem to be punished. (Acts 22:4-5)
A successful witness shares personal need for God’s restoration by revealing personal brokenness. tweet
Paul shares his faults at the temple, openly and without excuse. He admits that he persecuted followers of Jesus through intimidation and violence. Sharing shortcomings may seem counterproductive to the task of convincing someone that you’re a trustworthy witness, but consider the effectiveness of a “Before” and “After” photo. We see the progress between photos clearly, and we are persuaded the vast improvements are real. If we have truly encountered Jesus, it means that we have a “Before” picture we need to share.
“As I was traveling and approaching Damascus, about noon an intense light from heaven suddenly flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
“I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’
“He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, the one you are persecuting.’ (Acts 22:6-8)
Testifying about Jesus means telling about when you realized his goodness. tweet
Paul tells the people where he was, what time it was, what he heard, what he saw. Ultimately, he tells the crowd that he encountered Jesus, and the encounter literally changed where Paul was going and why. Suddenly, Paul understood that Jesus was who he said he was, and Paul’s life radically changed. What’s your story? Perhaps your faith formed at such a young age, you don’t remember a specific experience. You may have a story like Paul’s protégeé Timothy, who inherited a legacy of faith (2 Timothy 1:5). In that case, your encounter with Christ is likely a time when you made the choice to follow Jesus above anything else. Regardless of when and how your story might have unfolded, sharing that Jesus changed your life matters.
“The Lord told me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told everything that you have been assigned to do.’ “But I said, ‘Lord, they know that in synagogue after synagogue I had those who believed in you imprisoned and beaten. And when the blood of your witness Stephen was being shed, I stood there giving approval and guarding the clothes of those who killed him.’ (Acts 22:18-20)
Sharing your witness means sharing how your encounter with Jesus impacted your life over time (the “After” photo). Paul, who persecuted followers of Jesus, now chooses to be one of the persecuted for Jesus. Paul’s belief in Jesus provides one of the most compelling evidences of the resurrection of Jesus. Your story of God’s intervention in your life is the most persuasive exhibition of the power of God within your sphere of influence. Reflect on your story. Organize your story. Tell your story often.
- Why is telling your personal story of encountering Jesus so powerful?
- Reflect on your story now. When and how did you meet Jesus? What was an issue you had that Jesus restored? How has your life been changed as a result of that restoration?
- Share your story today with someone close to you. Share a post on social media or add it in the comments below.
Written by: Rasool Berry
Edited by: Christina Utley