Do You Need A Great Testimony for God to Use You?
As a young boy growing up in a Christian home, I never remember not believing in Jesus. My parents tell me I “accepted Jesus into my heart” at about five years old, but I have no recollection of it.
And yet for whatever reason, I often felt that I would need a “great” testimony of some sort before God could really use me to make a difference. No one told me this, as far as I can recall. I just remember believing it.
Maybe it came from growing up in the evangelical Christian subculture of camps, conferences, and churches. I have heard hundreds of testimonies of people coming to Christ while in prison, on the battle field, or while in a gang. I have heard stories of physical healings, escape from demonic possession, and of missionaries receiving exact lump sums of money they needed to survive. I remember thinking that if God was going to use me, as he seemed to be doing with these people, He would have to do something radical in my life first.
On the other hand, maybe the belief came from having a father, Josh McDowell, who has a powerful personal testimony. He set out to historically disprove the Christian faith, but when he discovered the evidence for Christianity, and personally encountered the love of God, he came to faith. As a result, he was able to forgive his alcoholic father and see him come to Christ. The evidence for Christianity is certainly considerable, as we both document in the updated Evidence that Demands a Verdict. But it is his personal testimony that has drawn so many people to consider the claims of Christ.
Regardless of where my belief came from, I now see things differently. I am more convinced than ever that people don’t need “great” testimonies to be used by God. We ought to continue to share great testimonies. After all, they remind us of God’s power and presence. They help personalize the gospel. But ultimately, testimonies are pointers to the gospel, which is the truth that brings transformation. Powerful testimony or not, we can all share the transforming message of the gospel.
You may have noticed that I put the word great in quotations. The reason is simple: As Christians, we tend to share, highlight, and elevate dramatic stories of transformation. These kinds of stories get the press. And they should. They motivate us and remind us that God is active.
But in highlighting dramatic stories, we often miss the “regular” stories of faithfulness. And we miss something even more important—everyone has an important story that can encourage someone else. That’s right, you have a story someone needs to hear.
When people ask me to share my testimony, I often share my season of doubt. As a late teen, I told my dad I wanted to know truth, but that I wasn’t sure I believed Christianity was true. Ironically, now that I am an apologist for the faith, I find that my story is an encouragement to other people—and especially to young people who struggle with their faith (and to their parents). And so, I share it when I can. But I am also careful not to overdramatize it since it is merely one part of my journey.
My guess is that the same is true for you. You may have a “great” testimony. Or you may not. Regardless, you have experiences along your journey that can encourage others. You may have a dramatic story of coming to faith. Or it may be “ordinary.” But here’s the bottom line: your story matters. And people need to hear it. Are you willing to share it?
If so, trust me, God can use you.
Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.