I Don't Have a Testimony
Have you ever noticed there are generally two overarching themes about people’s testimonies of coming to saving faith in Christ? There are the radical testimonies, where a person was so lost they are drowning in sin and despair, and God—like a flash of lightning—appeared, saved them, and instantly their life was transformed. Then, there are the testimonies that go something like this: “Well, I don’t have much of a testimony. I was raised in a Christian home, went to church every Sunday, and was involved in youth group in high school.” This story likely involves a few periods of doubting and some type of rebellion against God, but in general it sounds like the polar opposite of the first story. And unfortunately, we Christians tend to glorify and respond more with adoration and praise to the more dramatic and obviously life-changing story.
I say “unfortunately” not because those stories aren’t important. They are. However, those with more seemingly mundane testimonies are not as celebrated as they should be. As a person who identifies with the more “mundane” story, I have recently come to learn just how amazing my testimony actually is.
To best illustrate, I think of the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32. A father has two sons, and one decides to do the unthinkable and ask for his father’s inheritance, to which the father surprisingly obliges. The son goes to Vegas to party and indulge in all sorts of sinful pleasures. As most who follow this type of story, he soon runs out of cash and ends up feeding pigs to make a living and even begins to contemplate eating some of the pigs’ food himself. Eventually, he comes to his senses, realizes his depravity and need to be rescued, and builds up the courage to return home and ask his father to employ him as a slave. The father instead forgives him, receives him back as his son, and throws a huge celebration at his homecoming.
This is a great story, and one that has countless adaptions made into films each year to which we gladly pay to watch and be entertained. We also rejoice when we hear similar stories of those who came to faith like this. However, the end of the parable is what I most relate to and what has more recently caused me to cherish my salvation even more.
While the younger son is at Vegas, the older son stays home the entire time and follows the family and cultural norms of working under his father. He obeys the rules and otherwise lives a “good” and acceptable life. So, when his younger brother returns and sees the party, instead of rejoicing himself, he is jealous that his father has never thrown a party for him like that. Jesus stops the parable short and doesn’t share if the older brother eventually repents of his sin and enters the party to celebrate with his father.
Over the years I have noticed how many people I know who have similar stories as the older brother—having been in close proximity to the Father through a Christian upbringing—either do not truly know God or do not understand the gospel fully. The older brother was not more righteous than his younger brother because he stayed home and obeyed all the rules. I am not a more righteous Christian because I never “went to Vegas” before becoming a Christian. Yet when we older brothers are not accurately applying the gospel to our own hearts, we believe that we have earned our salvation through obedience and behavior management.
As my wife and I have grown in our faith, we have come to truly cherish our salvation, not only for the fact that we are saved, but from what God saved us from. He saved us from our older brother syndrome. It is so easy to project a life that is Christian when you know certain Bible verses, pray before dinner, and attend a church service on Sunday. But recognizing and repenting that our spiritual depravity is the same as our younger brothers? That truly is a miracle!
If you’re like me and grew up going to church, your parents raised you in a Christian home, and you heard the gospel often during your childhood, thank God for that. Be sure also to thank him every day for saving you from the older brother syndrome and turning into a Pharisee. He does not only save people who are younger brothers, but he saves the older brothers as well, anyone indeed who will repent of their sin and trust Jesus as their Lord and Savior. So, next time you are sharing your testimony about how you became a Christian, I hope you realize how truly miraculous your story is, too, that God saved you in the midst of the temptation of being an older brother.