Friday, October 24, 2008

Say So

O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good; for his mercy endureth forever. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy.

                        Psalm 107.1-2 (KJV)

What Has He Done for You?

Christianity is a personal faith, an endless bolt of fabric cut to fit millions of unique patterns. While the weave, texture, and hue provide consistency within its ranks, no two believers look exactly alike. This has less to do with individual style (though that plays into it) than form—distinct aspirations, needs, and experiences that shape each of us. We follow Christ for different reasons, we serve Him differently, and we experience His power and love differently.

Because of this, Christianity is also a mysterious faith. It fundamentally offers the same things to all—forgiveness, redemption, acceptance, love, hope, peace, confidence, and so on—yet its impact and meaning vary profoundly from person to person. How this works can’t be explained. Why, however, seems fairly simple. Regardless of age, background, or upbringing, we all come to Christ mid-story. Therefore, He changes us specifically to suit our situations. He rewrites our narratives, giving each of us a story unlike any other, a story we should be eager tell if asked, “What has He done for you?”


Still, discussing our faith makes many of us uncomfortable. Instead of describing discrete (personal) aspects of our walk with Christ, we prefer to be discreet (private) about what He’s done for us. This is understandable to some extent because it involves a degree of self-disclosure we’d rather not delve into, particularly with casual acquaintances. Oddly enough, it seems that believers whose lives are radically transformed after coming to Christ are more apt to tell their personal stories than those whose struggles are less, well, melodramatic. We’ve all heard tremendous accounts of indisputably divine interventions—narrow escapes, rescues from addictions, event reversals too miraculous to be written off as coincidences, etc. Yet how often do we hear stories about how someone’s faith enabled him/her to overcome jealousy, say, or boastfulness or intolerance?

Why don’t we tell how God’s mercy redeems us from these “little” problems? Maybe we consider them too minor. (Although they’re not.) Maybe we’re embarrassed. Maybe we honestly believe we handled them ourselves. But here’s the long and short of it. God has done marvelous things for us and we can’t be shy about telling others. We set personal discomfort aside for the sake of letting them know He can and will do similarly wondrous things for them. We may not like doing it, but love for our neighbors compels us to.

Strong Talk

It’s good for them to hear our stories and what’s more, it’s good for us, too. Revelation 21.11 says we will overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. Telling of God’s goodness is strong talk. It forces us to flex muscles we might otherwise neglect. First, it reminds us He’s the central character in our stories; His love and mercy drive the plot and determine the outcomes. Second, it inspires gratitude; how can we explain all He’s done for us without offering up thanks? Third, it reinforces our faith; when we tell others how far we’ve come, it increases our confidence that His grace is sufficient for whatever we face now and in the future. And finally, it just feels terrific to explain how much God loves us, how He works in and through us, how He watches over us—all that great stuff that comes from an accepting, forgiving Parent.

Give thanks to the Lord, the Psalmist wrote, because He’s good. His love never fails. He has redeemed us—paid the price to restore us to our rightful place as His people—and we shouldn’t hesitate one minute about saying so. (When I read this, I almost hear the Psalmist say, “Now that’s what I’m talking about!”) What has God done for you? Speak up. Somebody you know needs to hear your story and you need to tell it. Say so.


If God has done anything for us, we should never hesitate to say so.

(Tomorrow: Crumbs)


FranIAm said...

If God has done anything for us, we should never hesitate to say so.

Amen to that my brother, preach it.

My blog readers are about evenly split between religious folks and non religious folks.

Early on it was all not religious- and in fact, many atheists. And beyond that, people who had/have a real axe to grind with church people and/or God.

Well it is kind of impossible for me to not bring up my faith - I don't think that I am obnoxious, but it is so central to who I am.

At first people were weirded out and then most have grown to be more at peace. I am not trying to do anything other than to be who I am.

And God does great things for me all the time and I must preach it.

Another thing that I have found is that for many people - for a million different reasons, God is a God of hate,anger and retribution.

How can people know that God is love, as we are clearly told in John's letter and elsewhere... We must be that very love and goodness in our world.

I would say that you are doing an amazing job of that.

So every time that someone who thinks that can hear, learn of and experience God's great love through another- what is more beautiful testimony than that?

I have rambled here - but I hope I made some sense.

Tim said...

Fran, you make perfect sense. Besides, I like it when you ramble--you've got a terrific knack for finding stuff hidden in the corners, bringing it front and center, and pulling everything together. And being a rambler myself...

Your blog is a superb example of saying so. Knowing the wide spectrum of your readers, I can totally see how some of them were weirded out initially. I'm sure they didn't expect you to talk about your faith with such fervor and conviction. But because you're so genuine about it, they got accustomed to it. There's so much to love about FranIAm, but nothing beats the comments, because your openness has fostered open engagement. Were you less "real," I don't think it would be half as lively.

Usually, when non-believers join a conversation, believers clam up under the pretense of being polite and inoffensive. But how can describing good things that God sends our way be rude? If they're our friends, they can be happy for us and leave it at that. And, of course, we do the same for them. I've just never understood how Christians got hoodwinked into thinking it's incorrect to express our feelings and beliefs while everybody else feels free to talk about theirs.

Well, let me take that back. I do know how it happened. Christians in general got a bad rap from the crowd that can't control their urge to speak for God. Instead of telling His goodness, they obnoxiously push their version of His agenda. These people can clear a room in no time and I think the rest of us have become so wary of being identified with them, we've decided not to say anything at all.

But I think we've gone way too far in the wrong direction. As you say, when we tell what God does for us we testify to His love--it's all about Him, not us. That message has got lost, sacrificed to our fear of being mistaken for fanatics rather than followers. And frankly, it's a much bigger deal for us than it is for those we're allegedly worried about offending. Surely they can see the difference between someone who celebrates his/her faith and those who weaponize it.

We all can learn from your example, Fran. We should be who we are, freely express what we feel, and have no qualms about saying so. We put no one at risk when we testify to God's goodness. If they don't agree, etc., so be it, no harm done. But when we bottle up the message, we're taking a great risk. We can't assume nobody's interested in our story and miss a chance to convey God's love and mercy to someone who needs it--who may be searching for it even as we speak.

And now I've rambled on too long and find myself hoping I've made some sense...

Muchos gracias for the comment--and by all means ramble away any time you feel like iti!

Anonymous said...

Tim, you are so very right. I often think of God as a lock and we are the key, trying to refashion ourselves to be a perfect fit. Those that succeed, like Jesus, create the perfect fit. We all throughout our journey, shave and build, alter and refashion our keys, ever drawing closer. Yet, as you say, these mundane and normal journeys don't attract as much attention, yet they are the very journeys that alert us all that we are companions on the trek.

Tim said...

I completely agree with you, Sherry. We are fellow travelers and we owe it to one another to share what we've experienced.

As Hebrews tells us, Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. But as we're all works in progress, we can greatly benefit from hearing about each other's trials and triumphs. And to get to that, I think it's important to remind ourselves that as "normal and mundane" (nice description there) as our journeys may seem, they really are no less challenging than the more colorful ones.

Furthermore, as Fran points out so beautifully above, when we become comfortable with talking about God's goodness, it becomes a natural part of our conversation--unforced and unintentional in the strictest sense of the word. This creates a flow that spreads beyond our Christian family and touches the lives of those who may not understand or see how faith operates in believers' daily lives.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said no man lights a candle and then puts a basket on top of it. What good is that? Not only does it hide our light, it soon extinguishes it.

Personally, I'm so grateful to have lived a "scaled-down" life (so far), free of any major cataclysms that would make my story highly dramatic. That alone is worth telling. And then, when I think about how much I've learned in the shaving and building, altering and refashioning of my "key," I realize I've been given a story every bit as rich and rewarding as the bigger ones.

I'm always appreciative of what you add to our discussions, Sherry, but--like Fran's--your comment here spoke to me in a very special way. Thanks!