Rethinking the Standard Testimony

November 19th, 2010

Ever learned a new vocabulary word and then right afterwards heard it used three times in unrelated contexts?  Seems to happen all the time.

Another example: my brother moved to Oregon and now it seems everywhere I turn there’s an Oregon connection.  Works out practically everyone’s brother lives in Oregon.  Who’d have thunk?  Even today I stumbled upon an Oregon reference:  I needed the phone number to my doctor’s office but the first google result was a doctor by the same name in Oregon.  Of course.

Something like this recently happened as I mulled over a thought gleaned from Revolution in World Missions by K.P. Yohannan.  Which, by the way, I highly recommend as an insightful look at foreign missions from an outsiders perspective.  Particularly the last chapter.  Yohannan doesn’t hold back any punches.  But his book is free so we can’t complain.  Plus, near as I can tell he lives what he preaches.

I’ll review this book later, but here’s the quote I’m referring to:

The typical media testimony goes something like this: ‘I was sick and broke, a total failure. Then I met Jesus. Now everything is fine; my business is booming, and I am a great success.’

It sounds wonderful. Be a Christian and get that bigger house and a boat and vacation in the Holy Land.

But if that were really God’s way, it would put some believers living in anti-Christian and in the Two-Thirds World in a pretty bad light. Their testimonies often go something like this:

“I was happy. I had everything-prestige, recognition, a good job, and a happy wife and children. Then I gave my life to Jesus Christ. Now I am in Siberia, having lost my family, wealth, reputation, job and health.  Here I live, lonely, deserted by friends. I cannot see the face of my wife and dear children. My crime is that I love Jesus.”

What about the heroes of the faith down through the ages? The apostles laid down their lives for the Lord. Christian martyrs have written their names on every page of history.

In the former Soviet Union, Ivan Moiseyev was tortured and killed within two years of meeting Jesus. In China, Watchman Nee spent 20 years in prison and finally died in bondage.

When Sadhu Sundar Singh [Hey! I mentioned this guy last April, he wrote the song “I Have Decided”], born and raised in a rich Sikh’s home in Punjab, became a Christian, his own family tried to poison him and banished him from their home. He lost his inheritance and walked away with one piece of clothing on his body. Yet, following his Master, he made millions truly rich through faith in Christ.

Sure I’ve thought about all this before, but for some reason it resonated in a new way.  Then, a few days later I’m reading a book by Shane Claiborne (which was not free but should have been) and he made a very similar observation:

I know there are people out there who say, ‘My life was such a mess.  I was drinking, partying, sleeping around… and then I met Jesus and my whole life came together.’ God bless those people. But me, I had it together. I used to be cool. And then I met Jesus and he wrecked my life.  The more I read the gospel, the more it messed me up, turning everything I believed in, valued, and hoped for upside-down. I am still recovering from my conversion.

So I thought it strange I got the same thought twice in a row from polar opposite writers. 

Here’s a few things Jesus said:

Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.” (Luke 6:26)

"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields–and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30)

Paul weighed in too:

“You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings–what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured.” (2 Timothy 3:10)

“Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.” (2 Thess 1:5)

Of course Peter had advice:

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Pet 4)

Then John wraps up with a succinct, Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you.” (John 3:13)  Thanks John.  I’ll remember that.

I realize this blog is turning into all challenge and no encouragement.  Sorry!  I’ll try writing things more encouraging.

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