"I heard a loud voice in heaven say...They overcame Satan by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony" (Revelation 12:11)
Oral evidence offered by a competent witness under oath, which is used to establish some fact or set of facts.-West's Encyclopedia of American Law
The bible includes examples of giving a testimony. One of the most striking is Paul's testimony, which he tells in Acts 22 which summarizes the events in Acts 9, where Paul recounts his life before encountering Christ, his encounter with Christ, and then how that changed his life. He went from having Christians killed to becoming a disciple of Christ and bolding speaking on behalf of God
I didn't grow up in one of those so-called Christian homes. I didn't go to sunday school. Well, I went, once, with my grandma, but I thought it was really boring and didn't really ever go back. I just didn't really see a need for God in my life. I had a great-aunt who was very religious. At least, she said she was, she loved to say how she loved Jesus. But she also loved to drink and smoke, and had a pretty violent temper when it came to getting in fights with her elderly sisters. Not exactly the role-model of christianity that's going to make you want to have anything to do with Jesus.
In junior high I picked up a biography from a book-swap called Joni, about a girl who became quadripalegic and how her life seemed senseless until she turned her life over to Christ. "That's nice for someone like me, but I don't need that" was pretty much the attitude I had as I read her testimony.
In high school, I watched with strange fascination why the FISH club would stand outside in the bitter cold, around the flagpole to pray at 7:30 in the morning. "Are those people crazy?" I wondered. I didn't really understand what motivated them. And although I had a bit of respect for the surity with which one classmate of mine knew what he believed, I didn't want anything to do with the Christians. There weren't a lot of them, I think I knew more Mormons than I did Christians, and they were all really nice girls, but I wasn't particularly interested in their religion either.
The only real "religious indoctrination" I got growing up was when, in high school, I started attending a summer camp group that was affiliated with an aldults new-age religious conference that my mom volunteered at. Mostly I went because I'd never been to a "real" summer camp that wasn't a day-camp, and it sounded kind of fun. They shared a lot of unconventional and strange ideas. A few of them resonated, others just seemed really weird. But all in all, when I went back home, I just didn't think about God much.
And then I moved to San Diego for college. San Diego was where I met God. Not right away, mind you. It was a slow and windy path.
There was cute sophomore guy I met at the first school-dance of freshman year, and how often do you run into cute computer science majors at a school dance? Over time we actually got to be friends, he seemed like a pretty normal guy, we had a few classes together, and then around the beginning of my third year, when I was going through a difficult time and looking for answers, he was that friend who was the one encouraging me that "it doesn't have to be like that", that there's this thing he does when he was struggling, maybe it'd help me? He prays. He talks to God. And somehow God helps him. I wasn't even sure I knew how to pray. But like a good friend, he didn't laugh at me when I asked how you pray, but explained that its just talking to God, and he hears you, even if you talk to him only in your head. I wasn't too convinced this "praying to God" thing could really help me, but what could it hurt? Either its just wasting my time, or its worth all the marbles because God is out there listening to my prayer. Well, I gave it a try, and suddenly the circumstances in my life just seemed to turn around, and the decisions I was having trouble making, just kind of made themselves and things got less stressful, and it seemed like God had heard my prayer and answered.
It wasn't like overnight my life changed. I didn't really have a "relationship" with God at that point, I wasn't even totally convinced of God at that point. But as time went on, when I was having another rough time, I remembered that prayer thing, maybe I could give it another try? Eventually, after time and time again of giving this prayer thing a try in my weaker momemnts, although it seemed coincidental that prayer had helped at first, after a while, it seemed like there was a pattern to it, sufficient to the point I kind of started to be fairly convinced that somewhere out there was a God who listened to my prayers.
But I didn't know Jesus, I just knew God as the God who listens to my prayers. Then one day, about a month after graduation, I had a dream, that I needed to read James. I took dreams very seriously, and would write down every dream I had in a journal. This dream seemed really important, and OI was taking very careful dictation of these three books I should read (sadly the other two I couldn't remember the names of after I woke up. I had only a vague suspicion that James was from the bible, I wasn't even sure if it was really a book in the bible. But looked up the bible on the internet, and sure enough, it tuns out James is a book of the bible. So I read it. And the message I got out of it was that faith without works is dead. To me that meant, you can't just believe in God, you need to act on that belief. So I bought a bible, and started reading it a little bit every now and then. Came across an interesting passage about hypocrisy...how you shouldn't criticize your friend with a spec in their eye when you have a plank in your own...hmm, that's interesting.
And hearing about this dream, and my experiences, my freind, the one who told me about prayer, told me about the church he went to sometimes--it's not like your grandma's church, the church is fun, the pastor is pretty young and hip, and a lot of college students go. You should come sometime..."yeah" I agreed in mild consideration of attending sometime. But then my friend moved out of town for grad school, and I never went.
But then come November, I got back in touch with another friend from junior year of college. He'd kind of called me out of the blue, with an interesting timing. He asked how I was doing and we cought up a bit, and then he gets to telling me about what's new in his life since we'd lost touch two years prior. First, he'd gotten into drugs, then he'd hit rock bottom. And then he started going back to church. "What do you mean "back" to chuch? I don't remember you ever having mentioned being religious? But apparently back in high school, he had been. And this new life he was telling me about, where the anti-social computer-geek suddenly was the social butterfly with a well-established group of friends, and didn't seem depressed anymore, but pretty self-confident and happy with his life. Wow, what an amazing, maybe even super-natural transformation. I was curious.
So when he started telling me about this church he goes to, and describing this young fresh congregation, I start thinking this sounds suspiciously like this church my other friend told me about, I agreed to go with him to check it out. They met in a college auditorium. Not at my college, but at the other school in town, the "party school". It seemed like they kept singing forever and ever and ever. And I didn't know any of these songs. And I barely understood the preaching. But something in my heart just felt good about being there, and in my spirit I longed to go back the next week.
Pretty soon, I found myself reading about this "Jesus" guy. Would I want to accept him as my personal Lord and Savior? I read all I could about Jesus, and it sounded a lot like the original proposition about prayer and God...is Jesus God? If he is, it counts for everything...and if he's not? Not a whole lot of risk. Not knowing what I was getting into, I decided to take a chance on this Jesus. It'd worked out pretty well for my friend, hadn't it?
And if there's one thing I don't regret it was giving God a chance to show me who he is, to make a similar impact in my own life--helping me conquer problems in my own life that I'd just assumed were beyond hope. Feeling depressed for no good reason? Who knew that could be gone in the twinkle of an eye, just by entrusting the help of God. Scary as it was to enter that world of the unknown, it really was better than the old known world that hurts. I experienced in the church a love I'd never known, the love God has for me, that surpasses all human relationships. And as I started reading the bible and trying to live by it, I found it transforming my life and my heart, giving me better attitudes, more compassion, a better sense of purpose.
Would I turn back? How could I?