Being involved in youth ministry is one of the most phenomenal blessings I’ve ever known. Having the opportunity to come alongside the next generation is an amazing privilege; ask any of the youth leaders at our church and I’m sure they’ll say the same thing. It may be our job to encourage and build into the youth, but so often we leave encouraged, challenged and inspired ourselves. This year has seen the start of Encounter Academy, every other Friday night we gather with United Youth and we’ve been seeing fantastic results. Decisions for Christ, intense and anointed prayer sessions, great preaching and teaching, and huge amounts of fun. Last Friday Laura Bell brought a fantastic word from John 8 and then we opened up the floor to hear some of the youth give their testimonies. We had the immense blessing to sit and hear from young people about how they came to Jesus and how He’s changed their lives. To say that it was powerful would be an understatement. It was so amazingly inspiring to watch as they shared the strength of grace and the huge impact Christ has had on them. It reminded me of a scripture from Revelation that tells us how powerful testimony is.
“And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.”
– Revelation 12:11 (ESV)
How amazing is that? We conquer the accuser by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony. In biblical context this verse is speaking in the midst of an apocalyptic revelation, it’s speaking of awful things and yet in the midst of terrible attacks on believers we find them overcoming. When someone stands up and speaks of what the Lord has done in their life it’s not mere words, it is a powerful force that brings victory both in their own lives and the lives of others.
On Friday night we saw teenagers sharing some immensely personal things God has done for them and as they did so something fantastic happened; not only had their faith and confidence in Him grown through it but two amazing young people made first time decisions to give their lives to Christ. What we saw was the literal proof that victories come by the blood of the lamb and the word of testimony.
It can be easy sometimes to underestimate the power of our testimonies. Pastor Lindsay spoke a few weeks ago on David Wilkerson; you hear the story of how Nicky Cruz came to salvation and are blown away by the transformation. There have been times when I’ve looked at my own life and felt as though I didn’t have a strong testimony to share. I can’t share stories of being saved from a life of gang violence and crime or anything like that but you know what? That does not nullify my testimony. This scripture does not speak just to those who were saved in dramatic circumstances, it speaks of us all.
I may have made a decision in a Christian home but boy has God brought me through some tough stuff. My life has at times been the embodiment of ‘if He brings you to it, He’ll bring you through it’. He has worked a story of redemption within me over the past couple of years that brought me out of some really awful circumstances into a life of kingdom promise. He has been faithful to me through all of the times when I’ve been flaky, unfaithful, sinful, lazy, apathetic, and more. My decision to follow Christ came when I was shaken out of my usual in-church pastime of wondering who would win the world cup by the Holy Spirit; armed with the revelation that God was very much real it was a natural extension of that to follow Him. The real strength of my testimony has came in the intervening years when He’s somehow held onto me through all kinds of storms.
I think that sometimes we can get caught up on wether or not we had a road Damascus moment, and it’s awesome if you did, but you know what? Road to Emmaus moments are just as important. That’s why I called this blog sixty stadia; Cleopas and his fellow traveller were disciples of Christ, they knew the Lord, but what an amazing testimony it is that at their lowest point and in the middle of their trauma and grief Jesus steps in and turns everything around. Our testimony doesn’t stop at salvation, it starts there.
Our testimonies are the proof of God’s good work in us. When we speak them aloud we’re making a deceleration of what God has done and of why our faith and trust is in Him. It builds up our own strength and faith by recalling the ways He has changed our lives. Speaking it cultivates a sense of belief and anticipation in us for the future.
The other side of the coin is found in 2 Corinthians 5:20, in the Message bible, it says that God is making His appeal through us. We’re uniquely positioned in our world with a testimony that can impact and change those we know. It’s one thing to talk about some great testimonies but to most of our friends they’re going to be academic; talking personally and passionately about what God has done for us brings the reality of an awesome God and saviour right into the heart of their worlds. Our friends already know we’re Christians but it’s the power of what God has done in our lives that may be key to them understanding why. As one of those who decided to follow Christ at our youth service last week said to us afterwards, what prompted her decision was hearing first hand how God has been there for others just like her.
Whatever our testimony, no matter how we perceive it – whether big or small, it has immense power to overcome the enemy and to show the lost and the broken that there is an answer to their needs. I’ve been so impacted this week by simply hearing the work of God in the lives of those I know, whose life could my testimony impact? What about yours?