Do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord. (2 Timothy 1:8).
After I had returned to Jerusalem and while I was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance and saw the Lord saying to me, “Hurry, leave Jerusalem at once, because they will not accept your testimony about me.” But I replied, “Lord, they themselves know that from synagogue to synagogue I used to imprison and beat those who believed in you. And when the blood of your witness Stephen was being shed, I myself stood by giving my approval and keeping guard over the cloaks of his murderers.” Then he said to me, “Go, I shall send you far away to the Gentiles.” (Acts 22:17-21)
And so, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. On the contrary, first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem and throughout the whole country of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached the need to repent and turn to God, and to do works giving evidence of repentance. That is why the Jews seized me (when I was) in the temple and tried to kill me. But I have enjoyed God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here testifying to small and great alike, saying nothing different from what the prophets and Moses foretold, that the Messiah must suffer and that, as the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles. (Acts 26:19-23)
Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me. For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God (that is) with me. Therefore, whether it be I or they, so we preach and so you believed. (1 Corinthians 15:8-11)
Now I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel preached by me is not of human origin. For I did not receive it from a human being, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you heard of my former way of life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it, and progressed in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my race, since I was even more a zealot for my ancestral traditions. But when (God), who from my mother’s womb had set me apart and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him to the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; rather, I went into Arabia and then returned to Damascus. (Galatians 1:11-17)
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8.28).
In the previous article, “The Power of the Gospel in Evangelization,” I described how the Gospel message of salvation through Jesus Christ has the power to touch men’s lives and bring them to conversion in Jesus Christ. As the Apostle Paul put it, the Gospel is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). That is why he also wrote: “My message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5). In this article, I will describe the importance of our own personal testimony, and how it also has power to impact the lives of others for Jesus Christ and his Church.
It is easy to think, especially as Catholics, that being a witness to the Lord only involves how we live. Yet this is not the teaching of the Church. For example, Pope Paul VI in his letter, Evangelization in the Modern World, states: “We wish to confirm once more that the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church. It is a task and mission which the vast and profound changes of present day society make all the more urgent. Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize.” Pope John Paul II, in The Mission of Christ the Redeemer, says that “No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.”
As Catholic men, we have all experienced God working in our lives. Of course, there are many different ways to tell how this has occurred when we give our personal testimony. And how we describe it can depend on the situation and our audience. We should take the example of the Apostle Paul who told his own conversion story on several occasions (Acts 22:1-21; 26:12-23; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Galatians 1:11–2:14), shaping the story in a way that would benefit his readers or listeners. Notice in the Scriptures at the beginning of this article (Acts 22:17-21, Acts 26:19-23, 1 Corinthians 15:8-11, Galatians 1:11-17) that Paul ends his testimony in a different way each time.
When we share our own testimony, we should always be asking ourselves: “What is God asking me to say to this person?” and make that a central focus when you share about your life. Should I share about a time when I came to realize I needed to make Jesus the Lord of my life, or when God brought me to repentance and freedom from a particular sin, or when he comforted and strengthened me in a difficult time, or when he allowed me to experience his presence and fill me with his love at Mass or during prayer?
To prepare ourselves for the opportunities to share our testimonies, we need to constantly remind ourselves of what God has done for us. We need to take some time to write out our testimony and the many times he has touched our lives. How easy it is to forget how far we have come in our faith journey and how clearly we have experienced the Lord’s presence! We can never wear out these reminders of God’s work in our lives.
Whenever you share your story, be sure to keep in mind this one unshakeable truth: “I know that God loves me and has always acted in love toward me.” And be sure to tell your story—whether to yourself or someone else—with the assurance that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8.28). So follow St. Paul’s example and his own advice: “Do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord” (2 Timothy 1:8).
“Dear Lord, I want to tell the story of what you have done for me. Give me fresh eyes to see how you have been pursuing me, protecting me, and supporting me throughout my life. And give me the boldness to tell this story to all those you want me to.”
(Maurice Blumberg was the founding Executive Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.nfcmusa.org/), and is currently a Trustee. He is also the Director of Partner Relations for Partners in Evangelism, (http://www2.wau.org/partners/), a Ministry to the Military and Prisoners for The Word Among Us. Maurice can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
[Many thanks to The Word Among Us (http://www.wau.org/) for allowing me to adapt some material from daily meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.]
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
1. In the article we hear these words: “It is easy to think, especially as Catholics, that being a witness to the Lord only involves how we live.” Do you think this way as well? Why or why not? Do the teachings of the Church concur with your thinking?
2. The article goes on to say that “As Catholic men, we have all experienced God working in our lives.” How would you describe the ways God has worked in your life and its impact on you?
3. Four examples from Paul’s testimonies are given at the beginning of the article. In what ways are they different? In what ways are they similar?
4. Why is it important to “shape” our testimony, depending “on the situation and our audience”?
5. Have you ever written out your own testimony of how God has worked in your life and how he brought you to a personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? If so, revisit it and see how you may want to update it. If not, take some time during the next week to write it out.
6. If you are in a men’s group, end your meeting by praying for one another that the Lord would give each of you the boldness to share your testimony with others as the opportunities occur to do so. Use the prayer at the end of the article as the starting point. Also, prepare your testimony and share it at your next meeting.