My sister, Rachel, and I are about as different as two people can be. Rachel is very extroverted, recharged by her time spent with others and adept at handling small talk with exuberance and poise. I, however, am immensely introverted, thrilled by the thought of a quiet, uninterrupted afternoon to write or read and naturally introspective. Sometimes I wish things were the other way around, but in general, I’m thankful that Christ designed us in the way that he did.
Why am I thankful? Well, although Rachel is two years younger than I am, I have looked up to her and learned from her example for several years. It’s not that I don’t like who I am or am seeking to become exactly like her. Rather, because Rachel and I are so different, we’re each able to examine and implement the godly qualities that the other exhibits. And, usually, the qualities that we try to implement are not those that we naturally possess. So, it’s a good thing we’re so different because, otherwise, we wouldn’t have nearly as many chances to grow.
For example, Rachel has told me that she admires the fact that I can speak truth, sharing my genuine opinion when I think it’s necessary. She has admitted that she speaks too quickly, without thinking it through, and occasionally talks in a way that doesn’t describe her true feelings so she can avoid hurting others’ feelings. I don’t think that’s always a bad thing, but it has gotten her into trouble a few times. In the same way, though, I know I’ve offended some people when I’ve spoken too honestly.
I, on the other hand, admire Rachel’s tendency to share what God has been teaching her with passion. Many times, she will send me a text message with a Bible verse and her thoughts on it, or will simply walk up to me and ask if we can discuss what she is learning from God through Scripture, everyday life, and other Christians. Rachel even makes the effort to ask others about their walk with God—and she truly wants to know. Seeing as she and I share a room, there are times when I wish she would wait to talk to me until the morning (which I’ve laughingly told her before), but our conversations often ignite a fire within me, leading me to greater affection for Christ, stronger respect for my sister, and a desire to know God in a deeper, more powerful way.
This quality that Rachel has of declaring God’s work in her life to other Christians is not one that comes naturally to me. I usually journal about what I’m learning and keep it to myself, but now, after examining Rachel and her lifestyle, I’m learning that telling others about the evidence of God’s deeds and grace in my life is important—maybe even vital—for my growth, as well as for other believers.
Let’s see what the Bible has to say about this, starting with a passage from the book of Psalms.
But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.
And consider these verses from Acts, spoken by Paul when he discussed his future in Jerusalem.
[In] every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.
Now, some might feel that these verses apply more to the subject of evangelism, specifically for the sake of others’ salvation in Christ. In response to that, I should note that I’m primarily writing about Christian-to-Christian discussion in this post, but this is not to degrade the need for evangelism, for I know that every believer is called to spread the aroma of Christ, as I’ve written before. Additionally, I would point to this passage from 1 Chronicles:
Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
1 Chronicles 16:23-24
By reading these verses, I do not believe that testifying to God’s deeds should stop with unbelievers. It should also extend to Christians, for we, too, are living “among the nations” and are included in “all peoples” just as unbelievers are. Plus, even we need a reminder of God’s goodness and perfection every once in a while, and, in my experience, those reminders often come from other Christians—from we who have experienced God’s grace most radically. This can be seen in the Bible, as well, such as when Nathan came to David in 1 Samuel 12, reminding him of both God’s hatred for sin and his complete forgiveness. And just take a look at Paul’s letters! That guy was so wise, and he packed his many letters to churches with all kinds of reminders about Christ and his Body. All in all, then, I would definitely say that testifying to God’s work is something that we as Christians should do for one another.
So how does sharing about God’s work in our lives (and, equally important, asking others to share) help us to grow? To illustrate, allow me to introduce you to Prince Raoden.
Raoden is a lead character in the book Elantris who is struck by the Shaod, or the Transformation. The Shaod once transformed people into godlike figures called Elantrians, who possessed magical abilities and were sent to the elaborately beautiful city of Elantris to live in luxury. Now, for reasons unknown, the Shaod transforms its victims into undead creatures who are shunned and balding, whose skin is patched and hideous, and who are declared dead by those who knew them. Still, they are sent to Elantris, which is where Raoden discovers a city that is coated in sludge and filled with many hurting and hopeless citizens who either wander the streets or join one of several factions. He also learns that he has no heartbeat, no body heat, and has lost the ability to heal, living in eternal pain from even such tiny wounds as a scratch until it proves too great, leading many Elantrians to insanity. So, yeah. Things are looking pretty bad for the former prince.
But Raoden is an optimistic man, one with the natural ability to lead and inspire those around him, and he slowly starts to reshape the hopelessness found in the city, sharing his vision of a more cheerful and unified Elantris. Even Galladon—his closest, most pessimistic, and usually grumpy Elantrian friend—begins to look on the bright side of things as Raoden speaks of hope and rebuilds the community both mentally and physically by creating a new, cleaner part of town: New Elantris. Sadly, Raoden and his companions are often faced with strife, such as when Raoden nearly gets his friends killed and grows discouraged after unfruitful negotiation efforts with a faction leader. But check out this development in Galladon here, found about halfway through the book:
“I’ve failed [our friends],” he said quietly.
Galladon shook his head. “We can’t always get what we want on the first try. Kolo [agreed]? You’ll find a way—I would never have thought you’d get this far.”*
And here, soon after, when Raoden and Galladon walk through the now uninhabited streets of New Elantris after events take a turn for the worse:
“Sad. Kolo?” Galladon regarded the now clean, but empty, houses.
“Yes,” Raoden said. “It had potential, if only for a week.”
“We’ll get there again, sule [friend],” Galladon said.*
Did you catch that? In both cases, Galladon is unconsciously optimistic because of the influence Raoden has had on him. And I think this is exactly what sharing about God’s work in our lives will do for us and the people with whom we share. You see, just as with Raoden and his consistent reminders of hope, our declarations of the evidence of Christ’s grace may very well bring others to notice the same in their own lives, as Galladon noticed the hope in his. Pointing out the hope and grace in life leads others to notice it where they never had before.
Testifying to God’s work in our lives does much more than that, however. These are a few more of the changes that I have noticed in my heart when I testify and ask others.
- It points my heart to Christ, giving me a sense of awe. It leads me to think, “Wow, God does so much for his children”, and it reminds me that he is the one who does everything—growth, blessings, trials, and whatever else is best for us (Romans 5:8). He’s the one who is totally in charge, and I am utterly dependent upon him.
- It makes me more thankful. God is really gracious to work in our waning hearts and mold us to be more like him. We definitely don’t deserve that (seeing as we can be very stubborn), so it’s seriously awesome that he takes the time to teach us.
- It gives me a sense of unity with fellow Christians, reminding me that we are all in this together. It leads me that to realize that we need to lovingly keep each other accountable in order to point each other to Christ and better avoid Satan’s pitfalls, because it can be pretty hard to do that on our own.
- It reminds me of God’s glory and the lack of my own. Just as it teaches me that God is totally in charge, it shows me that he’s the only one who deserves to be—and that that’s a good thing.
- It wells up in me a desire for Jesus. All of this makes me to want to know more about Christ and to know him more deeply (which I think is very important indeed).
I could probably have listed many more changes, but I’ll stop here so I can add one last thing. I’m not saying that you have to testify about God’s work in your life verbally. There are many other ways for you to share, such as through texting (as Rachel has done many times), social media, or even blogging, obviously! However, I do think there is something superbly rich in sharing face-to-face with another Christian. Ever since I’ve started trying to do so more often—even though it’s been uncomfortable for me at times—I’ve definitely noticed growth in my life.
Either way, no matter how and when you choose to testify about God’s work in your life, or whether or not you try to ask others, I want to leave you with this:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
1 Peter 2:9
I love this verse. It brings so much to mind, like the fact that you and I, brother, are radically blessed—that you and I, sister, have so much for which we can praise God. We have been brought from the worst of scenarios into the wonderful light of Christ, and that’s reason enough to shout out some declarations, for both our sake and others’.
So let’s go! Let’s go and declare the praises of God, remembering who we are—chosen, special, royal—and what we are called to do. And above all else, may our words bring glory to he who saved us, to the God who is so good to bring us into his work—to the gracious King who has tasked us to testify.
*Sanderson, Brandon. Elantris. New York: Tor, 2006. 308-40. Print.
Note: Cover image found at http://brandonsanderson.com/books/elantris/elantris/elantris-cover-gallery/, and Raoden image found at http://www.deviantart.com/art/Raoden-Elantris-286544265 as drawn by CrisMarVaz (http://crismarvaz.deviantart.com/)