Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Testimonies - Let God Speak Directly

Christian fiction readers love happy endings; at least I do. But in real life we don’t always get to find out what happens until we reach eternity. Now, that's the advantage of novels! Have you ever thought of incorporating testimonies as part of your storyline? Here's an example of one of my own experiences:

Many years ago, my children and I were waiting at the railway station for a city-bound train. It was a glorious summer morning, the children were playing a game, and I was enjoying the scent of a flowering bush nearby. We had the station to ourselves except for a middle-aged woman who kept glancing in our direction. I was wondering if she felt lonely, when suddenly I noticed her moving towards me. “Your children aren’t in school today,” she said, and it sounded as if she was concerned for them. “Oh yes, they are,” I laughed. “We are on our way to the museum in Sydney. We home school, you see, and we like to do lots of practical things. By the way, I am Margaret, and you are…?”  “My name is Rosalie,” she said, and after a slight hesitation went on to ask, “What do you mean by home schooling?”

Just as I started explaining, the train arrived, and Rosalie moved away towards another entrance. I felt a bit disappointed that our conversation had come to such an abrupt end, but to my surprise she walked back down the aisle. And guess what – she picked the seat right next to me! Like so many other people she was curious about our strange schooling habits and started asking questions. She also commented on how polite and well behaved the children were (phew…was I glad they were being a good witness – as you know, all children have their moments!)

So I started telling Rosalie how we found out about home schooling a few years after becoming Christians, and that our faith was the main reason for doing it. I used the opportunity to ask her about her own philosophy of life, and she gladly volunteered. I always try to get people to talk about themselves, so that they will allow me to share with them in return. And so it happened this time. After listening with interest to what she had to say, I asked if I could now share with her how I came to my faith, and she agreed. Fortunately, I had been involved with a women’s group just a few weeks earlier where we had learned how to give a short testimony that naturally incorporates some Bible verses. And here was my chance to practice.

So I began my story...I noticed that Rosalie kept nodding when I talked about not being a sinner, so I continued, wove in Bible verses, and finished with... I neither heard a voice nor did I have an ecstatic experience, but by the end of that evening I could no longer carry my burden. I fell on my knees and cried out to God, shedding tears of shame and tears of sorrow for causing Him so much pain.  But there were also tears of joy because I realised that I had been forgiven, my debt was paid, and I was set free to live a new life for God.”  (this post is getting a bit long, so you can click here to find out which Bible verses were used and how I constructed the testimony.)

Just then the train slowed and Rosalie realised that this was her stop. She hurriedly gathered her bags, and I just managed to hand her a tract and wish her well. As she walked down the platform, I thanked the Lord for this unusual encounter. Would there be a happy ending? Would I meet this woman in heaven? I didn’t know, but I prayed for her and felt thankful for the opportunity to sow some seeds.

Looking back, I realise that this was no chance encounter, no co-incidence. I prefer to call these occasions God-incidences – and we all have them. So let’s never be backward in being forward! Let us use these opportunities boldly and hope for many happy endings to be revealed in glory. I wonder if fiction writers could use this 'personal testimony approach' with their characters?

By the way, if you haven’t been bold enough in the past to speak to others about Jesus, it might help to write down your own testimony and hone it on paper until it is short and gripping. Leave out the self-indulgence of talking about all the terrible sins you were into in your sordid past (sorry, too many people focus on self here rather than God), and  instead include Scripture passages that convey the gospel. Cull anything that isn’t necessary without taking away from the freshness of your experience and – hey presto – you have a ‘formula’ that you can adapt to many situations. Memorise it and don’t worry!

God doesn’t need us to be accomplished speakers or fantastic people persons (or even writers:). He will draw people by HIS WORD (hence the focus on Scripture). As He proclaims in Isaiah 55:10-11, “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there…so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” I like that.

Dr. Margaret Lepke is a Christian educator, naturopath, counsellor and writer. She loves encouraging women to grow in Christ and serve God better and achieves this by presenting talks and workshops on many helpful topics (see  http://drlepke.com.au/speaker.htm). 

17 comments:

  1. Hi Margaret. I love this testimony. And yes, I always try to incorporate the gospel in my novels - usually through one character sharing his or her faith with another. It is one of the priorities I am committed to adding to each novel. How could I not speak, when I have been given a voice? Thanks for sharing. :)

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  2. Hi Margaret,Thanks for your post.
    I tried to follow your links but they didn't work.
    Penny.

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  3. What a great opportunity you had here Margaret. I sometimes feel a bit discouraged that I don’t get enough occasions like the one you described. I know what some will say – make them – but the times that really touch hearts are the ones God lines up for you. One thing I love about my life is that I get to say all He wants me to through the lives of my characters. None of my main characters start out knowing the Lord. They all come to Him (as we all have) out of a desperate need for His love. This provides me with great opportunity to witness in my work. What wonderful possibilities He has provided for us all to do that.

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  4. I loved your story, Margaret. It made me feel that giving our testimony can be so natural, not a difficult minefield as I tend to think of it. Sharing the gospel through our writing is a wonderful opportunity to reach out and touch many lives, and I want to incorporate this into my non-fiction.

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  5. Thanks for the beautiful reflection, Margaret. I could relate to it as a fellow homeschooling mum too. Like Amanda and Rose, I'm thankful for the opportunity to be able to share testimonies through my fiction. Because even though I'm not always prepared and polished during spur-of-the-moment encounters, at least I can have characters who say exactly the right things when they should.
    But having said that, I appreciate your tips to prepare us personally for any encounters we may find ourselves in.

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  6. Yes, so true Margaret, sharing a witness through our characters is a powerful way of reaching many more folk than in person. I don't have a gripping testimony as I believed in Jesus at a very young age. But my fictional characters (often struggling Christians) have a lot to learn in similar instances to my own. And I like what you said about first listening to the other person instead of jumping in with our experience. It's a common courtesy we shouldn't forget as His ambassadors!

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  7. LINKS ARE NOW WORKING!
    Sorry, guys, my site had an unprecedented amount of traffic this month and for the first time ever exceeded its bandwith (I guess that's good). My apologies about the links not working previously, but it's all fixed now.
    Thanks for all your comments! So glad to hear all of you using the testimony technique already. If I were to write novels, getting the gospel across and other Christian life lessons would be my first goal, too.
    To those of you who feel a bit daunted by real life evangelism, don't. Your books are reaching far more people than you could reach by yourself and besides, everyone has their own gift/ability from the Lord. Actually, I prefer writing as well - at least you can go back and hone your words until they are perfect :)
    I pray that the Lord uses each one of you mightily to spread the gospel.

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  8. Margaret, great post! Thanks for encouraging us by sharing practical evangelism tips :)

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  9. Thanks Margaret. It's wonderful how you had that God-encounter and how you were able to share Christ so naturally. May she find Jesus as her all in all! Who knows - one day you may find out the end of that story!

    Thanks for the challenge - yes, our testimonies are powerful aren't they? And well worth using in our writing. I do agree.
    Blessings,
    Anusha

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  10. We should pray that God gives us more opportunities and the courage to use them ;)

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  11. I find God gives me unexpected and random moments to share about my faith. I go gung-ho when these moments happen because I know God is in there giving me the words to say for him. My purpose for writing is to touch the hearts of my readers whether they know Jesus or not. During my book signings many people asked me for my testimony. It was a wonderful way to encourage others to let them know they aren't alone.

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  12. Hi Margaret,
    thanks for the post, i like how you said our testimony should focus on God not our sins and to always include a bible verse as Gods word is powerful and the holy spirit uses it to reach into peoples hearts.

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  13. I travel on public transport all the time. I think it hard to take that next step and talk to the person next to you. I just have had a few bad experience when talking with people about God. I got almost blasted because I said "I went to church on Saturday."
    I did meet one man who carries a cross with him. As an outward sign of his devotion.
    I think what you said about writing your testimony is good. Also all you need to do is sow a seed. Don't always expect to reap.
    MEL

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  14. Hi Margaret
    Thanks for your post. You encourage testimonies of salvation, but there are so many testimonies. My whole book is a testimony of the amazing grace, love and healing power of my mighty God. My goal is to have God in my books, relating, leading and guiding the characters, always drawing them closer to Him.

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  15. Thanks all for your inspiring comments. They show that God is using each one of you mightily through your individual abilities but HIS strength. Praise Him, praise Him, Jesus, our blessed Redeemer... (you know the hymn :)

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  16. Thanks for fixing the links Margaret and your encouragement to share our faith - and not just in the writing we do.
    Penny.

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  17. On very rare occasions, I have had similar opportunities.
    I believe that one day God will show me the seeds hubby and I have planted and watered and always wondered about. I expect that one day I will see those miracles that God has kept to himself to share with us when we return home.
    Moments like those are precious.
    xx

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