In May 2008 I was speaking at a conference. Usually I try to take my family on as many speaking engagements as I can. There are two basic reasons:
- When my wife and I got married 18 years ago, I promised her a family vacation at least once a year. And for the most part, I’ve been true to my word.
- My wife stays home and raises our two children (13 years old and 9 years old), and I’ve come to this conclusion: regular family vacations are much easier on the pocketbook than are either weekly therapy sessions or a weekly visit to the spa—or both!
Anyhow, I was doing only one presentation, so we were spending just three nights in Chattanooga, Tenn. OK, it’s not the most exotic locale, but it is where my wife and I met and fell in love, so it holds a lot of fond memories. Also, Chattanooga really is a wonderfully fun, family-oriented city. There really is a lot to see and do.
The VIP Treatment?
Only one problem: the folk who paid me to come there put us up in some extra “fancy” accommodations. I mean, we had to share a bathroom with only … three other people!
To continue—on the night following the day that I spoke, I was beat, so I was able to go to bed at roughly the same time that everybody else did. Well, if you’re getting older, as I am, getting to bed sometimes requires a checklist—and apparatuses—rivaling that of a space shuttle crew getting ready for liftoff. There’s the tooth brushing with the special toothbrush and toothpaste; then there’s the flossing with the special handled flosser-dealie (I made that name up); then there’s the tongue scraper (unfortunately, I didn’t make that one up); then finally there’s the mouthwash. And if you’re not tired before starting that regimen, then you’ll be afterward.
Now, the room was somewhat small, and the sink was not separated by a partition, nor did it have a lovely soft white light. Did I forget to mention that this was a dorm room? Now, I’m sure that it was cleaned thoroughly before we got there, but this was still a dormitory room. Not only could you tell it once you came into the room, but once you entered the hall, you could also smell it. Anyhow, the room actually had two lights: a main light in the center of the room and a light directly over the sink. Many times we just turned on the sink light because it was bright enough to illuminate the entire room—and probably the room next door—and that was cool when everybody was awake. But the next night I stayed awake for a couple hours later and stayed in the lobby, doing some research and writing on the computer, so I didn’t get in until late. Needless to say, I didn’t plan ahead; because if I had, I would have brushed my teeth and done all that other stuff right after supper, but as my wife always says to me, “Omar, that’d be too much like right.” So, it’s well after 11:00 p.m., and my family is snoring—all of them! I’m not really worried about waking up my daughter; she sleeps like her old man. But my wife and son are extremely light sleepers. Anyhow, I walk into the room and am able to put my books and laptop in the closet by the faint light from the hallway spilling over into the edge of the room, but there’s no way that I’m going to be able to get changed into my pajamas.
This Little Light of Mine…
So there I am, standing in the pitch black trying to figure out what I’m going to do. I start to pray hard. Then I have a thought, and it’s too smart to come from me, so I thank God and pull out my cell phone. If any of you have been to a concert lately, you know what I’m about to do. I gently open the phone (and remember, the room is pitch black), I punch a key, and it makes a loud beeping sound. My son shifts in his bed, and I hold my breath. Freaking out, I slow my breathing, calm my heartbeat, and become very still. I wait a little bit, turn off the sound, and try again.
This time I press the key, and presto! The phone lights up the entire room. The light from my teeny little cell phone is so bright that I have to cover it with my hand. I quickly take off my white T-shirt and wrap my cell phone in it. This dims the light somewhat, but still gives me enough light to get everything done. As I pull the covers over me, the Holy Spirit impresses upon my mind two incredibly deep spiritual truths about this situation:
- The more pervasive the darkness is, the brighter a light—any light, even a small one—will be upon that darkness.
- The moment I stopped pressing the buttons on my phone the light went off, and the room got dark again! For there to be light, I had to be actively doing something to give off that light.
And then in a flash the Holy Spirit (I can always tell when the Holy Spirit is working, because I don’t do anything in a flash--except for put my foot in my mouth) brought two passages of Scripture to my mind:
- “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house” (New International Version, Matthew 5:14, 15).
- “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life” (Philippians 2:14-16).
As I pondered these two incredible truths, I began to think about my life and how many times I “hid” my light because I was afraid of not knowing what to say or being rejected by others. But then I thought about a sadder truth: how many more times did I tell others about Jesus, but dimmed my “light” by wrapping it up in the “T-shirts” of worldliness or watering down truth so as not to offend or upset anybody. In the end, not sharing Jesus or changing the truth to make it easier to swallow are both unacceptable to God. He wants us to be bold—not rude—but honest, respectful, gentle, direct, clear, and concise.
It’s not hard to do. In fact, if you have a daily, real relationship with Jesus, then it should be easy. As I said, I’m married, and I find it very easy to brag on my wife and talk all about her wonderful qualities. In fact, my wife jokingly states, “Omar, you talk about me as if I walk on water!” And I do, because I love and adore my wife. Do you have that kind of relationship with Jesus? I certainly hope so.
There are really only three steps in the formula for witnessing:
- Start with talking about your life before you accepted Christ.
- Then talk about how you accepted Christ.
- End with talking about your life now, after you accepted Christ.
When you share your testimony about what you’ve seen, heard, and experienced, both in your life before and after knowing Christ, you are a first-person witness. That’s why Christians call the act of telling their story “witnessing.” You can’t give your testimony if you haven’t witnessed Christ.
Additionally, when you tell your story, you need to keep these three things in mind:
- Listen to the Holy Spirit.
- Be real and honest.
- Be ready for results.
Every time a person is a witness to others about their relationship with Jesus, there is always a response (sometimes good, sometimes bad). What I’ve found is that when you share the gospel honestly and with power, people’s hearts will either melt or harden; it may not happen right away—or even in your lifetime, but God promises that if His Word is shared, it will not be in vain (Isa. 55:11).
Homework for Him!
Now that I’m done talking about theory, let’s put it into real-life application. I’ve got a homework assignment for you: write your testimony and give it to another Christian so they can give you some constructive criticism on it. Then make any necessary changes and start to pray what I’ve heard referred to as the Three Openings Prayer: “God, open an opportunity for me to share my testimony, open someone’s heart to your Holy Spirit, and finally, open my mouth and give me the boldness and courage to share the lifesaving and life-changing message with somebody else.”
Now that you know what you should do, and how to do it…get going and shine for Jesus! There’s a lost world out there waiting…no, literally dying to see the clear, bright light of God’s grace, power, and salvation.
Realistically, you may feel like your testimony isn’t anything spectacular or special—but it is…because it’s yours and no one else’s!
So, go on and do as the deeply deep words of that popular children’s song reminds us: “this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”