(15) Set Christ up as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks for an account of the hope that is in you. — 1 Peter 3:15
(13) You have heard how I behaved at one time in Judaism, how I was extreme in persecuting the church of God and tried to destroy it. (14) And I went further than all my contemporaries in Judaism, being incredibly zealous for the traditions of my ancestors. (15) But when it pleased God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, (16) he provided a revelation of his son to me, so that I could proclaim him as good news among the gentiles. I didn’t add anything to it that was from other people. — Galatians 1:13-16 (slightly paraphrased)
Whenever I talk about being a witness for Jesus someone will inevitably ask me just how they can defend their faith. They may have limited knowledge because they are recent Christians. Some have only recently started on spiritual disciplines of study and meditation and don’t feel that they have that many answers. Some think that all they need to know is that they are saved, and really shouldn’t have to study.
Study is a good thing, and I commend it as a spiritual discipline. It will help you be ready to give an account of what Jesus has done for you. Answering questions can be helpful. After many years of study, however, I still feel inadequate to answer many questions about my faith. I know many people who are quite knowledgeable, and none of them think that they have all the answers.
So what do you do? First, don’t neglect study. There is a call to grow as disciples of Jesus. But that’s another subject. Today I want to suggest that you follow the example of the apostle Paul in Galatians. Now I think it’s unlikely that we’re going to find someone more prepared to give an answer for his faith than Paul. After all, he not only did it before some very hostile audiences, he eventually faced death for doing it.
In Galatians, he’s facing an extremely difficult situation. Not only is he being asked to give an answer for his own hope, but he’s being accused of having distorted the gospel message. He’s placed on the spot. So what does he do?
He starts with his testimony!
You may not recognize this immediately. You may, like many of us, be accustomed to thinking of your testimony as something that you stand up and give in church, telling about something that God did for you in the week before. But your testimony is simply your witness to what God has done for you, whenever or wherever it might have happened. If you belong to Jesus, you have a testimony.
No matter who you are, you can pass that testimony on. Now Paul, in Galatians, goes much further than giving his testimony, but remember that Paul had a lot of training to do that. You may need to stop with just your testimony. It’s alright to say, â€œI don’t know the answer to that, but I’ll try to find one, or I’ll find someone who does.â€
What are the elements of a testimony? Let’s take them from Paul.
Paul is emphatic and clear about:
- His past. He doesn’t dwell on it, but he doesn’t minimize it. He was a persecutor.
- God’s election and God’s grace. We’re not arguing Calvinism and Arminianism here. When God gets hold of you, your testimony is going to sound much like Paul’s: When it pleased God he grabbed hold of me and changed me.
- God’s revelation. While we get much of our teaching from the Bible, there is a point in each Christian’s life when God comes to you and you alone.
- God doesn’t just call you from your old life. He has a new one, a plan, a call for you. Paul affirms his call at the same time as his conversion
- His new life.
And that is a testimony. Where were you before? How did God get hold of you and reveal himself to you? What’s happening now? You don’t have to be a theologian or a long-time Christian to do it.