A common misconception is that one’s walk with God only takes place in the privacy of the prayer closet. Even though the subject of our prayers may never be revealed, people can discern our temperaments. We can be peaceful, joyful, and assured if we are “holding fast” to our faith, or we can be stressed, anxious, and moody if we are “wavering.” Read the Bible, receive its promises, and reside in patient and faithful commitment to God as you anticipate the answer to your prayer! As you’ve put these elements into place in your life, you are ready to perform the third element of your walk with God: sharing your life lessons with those around you.
And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. – Hebrews 10:24-25
As we walk with God through prayer and Bible reading, we develop a testimony. Our testimony is the story of our faith as seen in our character, reputation, and ministry. Our personal story of faith is not just marked by the trials and triumphs that we experience, but also by our response to those times of testing. The Hebrew preacher is exhorting us to consider the impact of your testimony on the life of others.
A personal testimony is based upon experience with God. There is a difference between explaining and experiencing God. Consider this thought: just about anyone can pick up a book about any subject and share their insights from that book. For example, anyone can read a story and share insights from a history book about the “Island Hopping” campaign of World War II, but you’ll get a much more vivid and intriguing history lesson from a veteran who personally survived the battle of Iwo Jima. The same concept applies to the Christian life. There are some Christians who only have “book knowledge” of God. They have read their Bibles, listened to sermons, and heard the testimonies of other Christians, but have never experienced God for themselves. They’ve read about faith, but have never lived by faith. They can repeat some important general points for Christian living, reiterate some major points of doctrines, but have never strapped on their running shoes to run the race of faith that lies before them. Indeed, it is one thing to explain God; it is another thing entirely to experience God and share those lessons with others. Just like a military veteran, you can share “war stories” from the victories you gained in spiritual warfare. You should be to flip through the pages of your Christian life and remember when God answered your prayers, cheered you when you were sad, used you to lead a person to the Savior, illuminated your heart with the Word, helped you break a bad habit, gave you wisdom when you asked, and helped you face the giants of your life. If you’ve experienced God in these ways then you’ve got a testimony to share and a story to tell.
Our testimony is a teaching tool. The lessons you learn about life through prayer and application of biblical principles can provoke those around you to follow in your footsteps of faith. You can encourage others to develop greater love for God and to perform good works for God’s glory.
Using your testimony as a teaching tool involves provocation and exhortation. To “provoke” typically has a negative connotation. In this case, to “provoke” someone does not mean to be antagonistic. Instead, it means using your words and works to stir up others to love the Lord more so than they do presently. Your testimony should move people to do more for God and for His people. To “exhort” means to encourage. Therefore, your testimony should encourage others to pray more earnestly and regularly, to trust the Lord with more of their problems, or to solidify their belief in God’s ability to help them. Your testimony should provide strength and courage to trust the Lord with renewed vigor.
How Can I Exhort the Brethren?
1. Ready Yourself for Church Services
Though church services are primarily for the worship of God, they can also be a time of spiritual refreshing for the brethren. Fellowship with other believers provides a unique opportunity to minister to others who are hurting and in need of encouragement. If you have a testimony for God then you can have a ministry to others! However, the way to be prepared in church is to be prepared before church. This preparation begins in your prayer time with God. Ensure that your walk with God is fresh, that the grace of God abides on you, and that your way is committed to God. Secondly, you must commit to be faithful to the church services. You cannot have a faithful ministry to others if you aren’t faithful to assemble with them. The “manner of some” is to forsake the house of God, but Christians must become more and more faithful especially as the Day of the Lord approaches. Increased faithfulness is important because the days leading up to the “end times” are characterized by faithlessness and apostasy (I Timothy 4:1). Gather together with God’s people in order to provide a ministry of presence as they seek to endure hard times in their own life. Are you prepared to be faithful to the house of God?
2. Restore the Overtaken
At any given time, whether or not known to you, people all around you are struggling with some problem. This could include personal health struggles, financial distresses, looming life decisions, concerns for lost loved ones, adjustments to new stages in life, and many other areas. If you have experienced God’s grace during your own times of adversity then you can be used to comfort and encourage those who are hurting. In fact, God allowed you to go through those things so you could become a comforting presence for others (II Corinthians 1:3-4). You must be a Christian who uses a little “shake and bake” to help the brethren (no, not the bread-crumb coating for chicken). You must shake hands and bake relationships. Show that you are interested in people’s lives and, as your relationship develops, take opportunities to be a blessing by sharing your testimony of God’s faithfulness to you in the midst of your own struggles. Many people have been overtaken by faults, sins, and trials. You can “restore such an one” as you teach them with a spirit of meekness as you recall how your own needs were met by God’s grace (Galatians 6:1). Sharing your testimony can encourage a wayward believer to restore their fellowship with God and get back to a place where God can strengthen their faith and bless their life. With whom will you share your testimony?
3. Refresh the Saints
If you are ready for church and seek to restore the overtaken, you will bring great refreshment to other believers. Philemon, a Christian to whom Paul wrote, was known as someone who comforted the brethren. On behalf of his missionary companions, Paul told Philemon that “we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother” (Philemon 1:7). The encouragement that Philemon provided soothed the deepest pains within the heart of each person he encountered. Imagine how you feel when someone shares a word of encouragement with you. There are Christians who are often overlooked and made to feel unimportant. Some people may get lost in the crowd or avoided as a result of busyness. Christians, this ought not to be so. You should not leave the house of God without taking the opportunity to consider the needs of your brethren and help them find spiritual strength for their journey. The end result is that love and good works will flourish. Are you known as a comforting presence to people in your church?
The fundamental need of a Christian is to walk with God. This need is simply to pray to God, read the Bible, and let brotherly love continue. These basics of the Christian life are often the most neglected.
1. Have you drawn near to God in prayer? Is this a habit in your life or have you neglected your prayer time lately? INVITE God to work in your life!
2. How faithful have you been to your daily reading? How do you expect to hold fast to the promises of God’s Word if you neglect your Bible? Receive the instruction of the Word of God and reside in His Word.
3. Are you considering the needs of your brethren? Are you taking time to restore and refresh those in need? Who was the last person you stopped to encourage? How long ago was that?
Your private time with God will be a mirror image of your public ministry. If you aren’t walking with God, take time to recommit yourself to your daily devotions to Him.
As you walk with the Lord through prayer, your testimony of faith can become a teaching tool that can help restore and refresh other believers. Be sure to share your life lessons with those who are in need all around you!