I’ve gone to hundreds of camps and retreats. Ever since I was young, I’ve been a camper, counselor, staff member, camp director or regional overseer. Suffice it to say, I’ve slept in too many uncomfortable bunk beds, sung lots of “Friends are Friends Forever” and thrown plenty of pinecones into the bonfire while swaying to the melody of “It Only Takes a Spark.”
Around those bonfires we would often have “testimony time.” Anyone could share what God had done or was doing in their life. Many times the testimonies would begin with something like this: “I really didn’t want to come to camp this year, but I’m so glad I did, because the Lord did some cool things in me, etc. etc.” Other testimonies were WAY more dramatic. They involved crazy things that I thought happened only in Rated R movies. Things like drugs or hurting people. Girls would testify to promiscuity and deep insecurity. Guys would tells us how they used to “drink, chew and date girls that do.”
I recall the various testimonies I’ve heard at those camps, and now the ones that I have the privilege of hearing as a pastor of a church, and there is a irrational thought that pops into my head almost every time:
“I wish I had a testimony like that.”
Now to be fair, I am grateful that I, by the grace of God, was able to side-step many tragic and life-altering pitfalls. I’m not actually wishing I had done the things I’ve heard others speak of, nor would I want anyone to go through such trauma, but a small part of me wonders what my testimony would sound like if it had more…well…spice.
In Acts 22, the Apostle Paul is defending himself in front of a Roman Tribune. I found it interesting to note that his defense was his testimony – pure and simple. Paul addressed them with the only thing that was completely HIS…his testimony. No one else could claim that. No one could borrow or buy it.
Near the end of chapter 22, while the Tribune was up in arms over Paul’s claims, one of the centurions overheard Paul say that he was a Roman citizen. This was a deal-breaker to the case they were building against Paul. The Tribune asked “Are you a Roman citizen?” Paul said, “Yes.” They told Paul that they had gotten their citizenship by paying a large sum of money. In other words, they’re identity was purchased whereas Paul was a Roman by birth. When they discovered this, the tribune withdrew immediately.
You’re testimony is YOUR testimony. You can’t get rid of it. There is great power in it.
Nor can you borrow or purchase someone else’s testimony. It’s not worth it. Like me, you may have thought, “Man, I wish I could tell a shocking BEFORE & AFTER story like the ones I hear other share,” but honestly, it wouldn’t be your story. Your story is…your story, and your story, regardless of its level of “spice” is powerful.
Tell it. Speak it out. This is what we find Paul doing in chapter 22. Today I was encouraged by him and his boldness.
I encourage you to be bold as well.