So yesterday, I was going on about the fact that, while people might question the existence of God as an abstract idea, they can’t take away your own personal testimony. It’s important to show from your experience that the stuff people say about a relationship with God is real: we are not just ambassadors for Christ, but God’s PR department.
We have to remember that a PR department’s job is to show its boss in the best light possible, and when we’re talking about a relationship with God, that doesn’t necessarily mean showing us in the best light.
“I was praying for some more money, and when I went to my closet this morning, I found a $10 bill in my pants pocket that I forgot was there! God answered my prayer!”
— Actual church testimony
“I had suffered with back trouble for 26 years, and a healing minister prayed over me and I don’t have back trouble anymore! Thank you, Jesus!”
— my own testimony (in part)
There is no reason to doubt either of those testimonies (and if anyone doubts mine, they can meet me in the parking lot afterwards), but they tend to focus on something Really Good happening because of faith in God. God isn’t all about doing nice things for people who believe in Him.
… you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:
“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him:
For whom the Lord loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives”
If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons, for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?
But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.
— Hebrews 12:5-8
See, my testimony also includes chastening. And by “chastening”, I don’t mean “punishment”, per se, but a sense of correction and even the notion that things are not going as well as they could have if I had stayed closer to the Lord. There were times when I did things I knew I should not have been doing, and things I had hoped for did not come about. I believe there was a connection between disobedience and my “missing out”.
Who knows how many things I missed out on, because I was disobedient?
My own career in broadcasting looked successful to some, I suppose, but became a series of advances, “plateaux” and stagnation, if not slipping backwards entirely. Looking back, it was a case of God saying, “you’re not relying enough on Me, yet: you have to learn more about that, and then you can go forward.”
That’s a hard concept to get across for two reasons: first, you have to overcome the notion that the idea that God might “punish” you for something sounds silly (not to mention the fact that someone may shrug and say, “Oh — bad karma”); second, you have to tell someone else — and hear for yourself — that you committed a sin.
(The details of the sin are not necessary, because often, the nature of the chastening is not connected to the sin itself: the point is that you were disobedient and/or decided to “go it alone” and say that you didn’t need God. As a result, things did not go as you had hoped.)
In fact, it’s not right to say that God is punishing you for something. That suggests that all you can do is hang your head, beat yourself up and say you’re nothing but a worm (Psalm 22:6). That may satisfy your flesh, in believing that if you admit your guilt and spend time hitting yourself over the head with a Cross, you’ll be OK; but chastening means you learn, grow, and lean on God all the more.
“I am grateful to God that I don’t have a roof over my head. I am grateful to God that I don’t know where I’m going to sleep tonight or where my next meal is coming from. I am grateful to God because I know He will provide whatever I need, when I need it.”
— testimony from homeless man on Vancouver’s Downtown East Side
It’s one thing to give God the glory when things are going well; but probably a greater testimony is to give Him the glory when things don’t look so good: when you tell others that in good times and bad, through the bright days and the dark periods, you still trust Him to carry you through.
Moral of the story: He’s never let you down and He never will.
He can do it for anyone else who asks.