Christians love dramatic testimonies. We’ve all been moved by brothers and sisters who tell stories of unfathomable sin and brokenness before coming to know Jesus Christ. Many of these narratives move in excruciating detail through the kind of pain and wickedness some of us have only heard about second-hand. But the implication of their testimonies is clear: “If God can save someone like me, He can save you, too.”
But what about brothers and sisters who seem to have “boring” testimonies? What about those who grew up in a home where their parents told them about Jesus Christ from the day of their birth? Almost with a sense of shame at the simplicity of it, they confess they knew they needed to be saved when they were young, trusted in Jesus Christ, and have followed Him since. They might say they don’t even remember life before becoming a Christian. Compared to the stories of fights, drugs, and prison, these testimonies might seem lackluster.
Writing in the early 1700s to give testimony to the amazing work of revival happening in his town, Jonathan Edwards spoke about two people with very different testimonies. One woman was a “company-keeper,” an eighteenth-century term for living a notorious life, and the other a young girl named Phoebe. Both came to see their desperate need for Christ and were gloriously saved. Edwards used their examples to make a simple point: no matter what a person’s background may be, we all need grace.
Paul makes this point through the example of his own testimony in 1 Timothy 1. He looked back at his life before the Damascus Road, and even though he was a “Hebrew of Hebrews” and a Pharisee of Pharisees (Philippians 3:5) he had also been “a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an arrogant man” who “acted out of ignorance in unbelief” (1Timothy 3:13). After meeting Jesus, he looked at his present life and saw himself as someone who could never merit the favor of God because he was the “worst” of sinners (v.15).
Yet, Paul saw something that was true about God much more clearly than he saw his own sin and unbelief: “the grace of our Lord overflowed” for him, as it does for us all (v.14). Paul pictured God’s grace as a mighty river, flowing toward him at a pace so fast and a force so strong that his own sin was no match for it. His sin and his self-righteousness had been overwhelmed “with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (v.14).
Many days, we will be tempted to think we have been so bad that grace could never reach us. Other days, the temptation will be to believe we’ve been so good that grace is beneath us. Therefore, on each and every day, take a long look toward the cross of Jesus Christ. There, we remember how desperately we need grace, and hear the good news that God is glad to freely give it.
In the end, every Christian has the same testimony: I need Jesus. He has freely accepted me. His grace is more than enough to sustain me with hope and joy throughout my journey.