Sunday, April 19, 2009

Witness By Design

You will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard. Acts 22:15 (NASV)

Saul had just been dazed and amazed by Jesus’ appearance in blinding light on the road to Damascus. Later, when Ananias restored his sight and then spelled out God’s plan (Acts 22:15) for this despicable persecutor of Christians, Saul, whose name was changed to Paul, was both confused and apprehensive.
“Lord, they themselves understand that in one synagogue after another I used to imprison and beat those who believed in You. And when the blood of Your witness Stephen was being shed, I also was standing by approving, and watching out for the coats of those who were slaying him.” (Acts 22:19-20
It is easy to understand Paul’s apprehension. His life had taken a drastic turn. His future was filled with uncertainty. And yet he had seen Jesus and heard his voice. Of that he was most certain.

As a child I remember listening to the dramatic testimonies of other believers and thinking, “Nobody will ever be interested in my testimony. I accepted Jesus in the kitchen of my family home at the age of four. How exciting is that?” I certainly had never seen Jesus, or even heard His voice.

God’s changing power in my life was far less dramatic, and was revealed more slowly over time. Yet, it was no less a testimony to God’s power than Paul’s conversion, or the conversions of those other believers whose testimonies I secretly envied. (Imagine being envious that I had no claim to a former life of debauchery!)

As I have grown and matured in the Lord I have come to realize and appreciate that each one of us has our own story, written by the Author and Finisher of our faith. Because of that, we each have our own set of things about which to testify. We have seen and heard the things that God used to bring us to faith. In testifying about those things, we can encourage the weak, and perhaps cause others to see God’s saving grace, helping them to believe that He can work in their own lives. I truly believe that God goes ahead, preparing the hearts of those for whom my story will make a difference! I also realize that even without the drama, my conversion is no less miraculous than Paul's. Without Jesus, my heart was just as stained as his.

Maturity in Jesus Christ comes at different rates for each of us. I want to share with you an essay written as an assignment by a very mature eighth grader who attends the Christian school where I teach. Her Bible teacher, Robin Cline, submitted the essay to me for publication in our school paper, “The Husky Heartbeat.” As you will see, it is written on the same topic of being Jesus’ witness, but from a verse that appears later in the book of Acts.

Here’s a little background. Shanay Gonder was born and raised in Australia. A few years ago, however, her father accepted a position in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Their family sold their home in Australia and nearly all of their belongings, arriving in the United States with just the bare necessities. Once here, they had to raise support for the new ministry position. They were able to rent a house, but sought help from our Christian community to provide them with the furnishings they needed. I recall at the time being impressed by their humble and gracious attitudes. I am even more impressed with what the Lord has taught Shanay in her young life.

What does it mean for you to be Jesus’ witnesses
in Judea, Jerusalem, Samaria, and to
the ends of the earth? (as in Acts 1:8)

At the moment this phrase was commanded, there was probably apprehension, and today when this is spoken there is still apprehension –apprehension to give up what we have known for a lifetime and leave it. Whether this moves us to a state 600 miles away or to another country 2,000 miles away, this apprehension comes with a great sense of pride, the thought that we as Christians have been chosen and commanded to live out God’s work to the ends of the earth. When we grasp the true meaning of what this means for us: total elimination of self, and all exploitation of all worldly things that once formed our identity, we discover what this phrase truly foretells.

For me, the only way to fully do God’s work is to fully let go of any distractions that might be misleading my focus. When we, as Christians, are commanded to do something by the one who created hairs on our heads and has pre-ordained the futures of billions of people, I feel that we should listen.

My apprehension dissolves when I put things into perspective. This one command given out of Acts literally commands my actions, my thoughts, and my aspirations completely.

If our main purpose is to glorify God, then why are we scared to live out a life God has designed for us? When you really think about it, if we are living a life aside from that, then that should be our source of apprehension.

--Shanay Gonder, 8th grader

Shanay’s final sentence says it all. We all know what Paul’s decision was when it came to being a witness for Jesus Christ, and we know that it cost him dearly. But he lived the life God called him to, and took great joy and godly pride in the testimony of the cross. As Shanay has suggested, shouldn’t my source of apprehension be in making the opposite choice and living a life outside of the one God designed for me?

NOTE: I posted this essay with Shanay’s permission. Please feel free to leave comments directed to her. I will make sure that she sees them.

This is my contribution to Monday Manna, which is hosted bi-weekly by Joanne at An Open Book. Please visit her blog for links to other articles on this topic


  1. Oh, that last sentence ABSOLUTELY is pure wisdom. Shanay has clearly grown hugely through her experience, and is already an incredible witness of God's work in her life! What an on-fire young lady she will continue to grow to be.

    And Sharlyn, thank you SO much for participating, and for sharing this young lady's thoughts on the topic. You BOTH blessed me this morning.

  2. Wow, Shar, this is such awesome maturity and insight from one so young -- please thank her for her permission -- it was a blessing to read.

    And like you, my salvation was not remarkable as a 6 yr. old. In fact, I didn't even pray -- I just opened the door to my heart and Jesus walked in and shut the door Himself. He's always been my Companion. So like you, I envied the testimonies most other people have.

    Seems kind of silly when we've had the personal Companionship of our very personable God all our lives, huh? That relationship
    came in handy so many times when life wasn't ideal growing up.

    Oh, and , I have an Australian Crystal prism ball hanging in my kitchen window that catches the light just right at certain times too. All the kids have grown up with twirly rainbows that fill the kitchen from the rainbow maker. "It's raining rainbows!"

    I'm going to make sure I check to see if we can see them while my grandkids are here -- she'd love to hold one.

    Hope you get to see them today too.

    Love, Pat

  3. Thank you! I needed this encouraging word this morning. Sometimes it is tough to keep fighting the good fight...thank you again.
    Serving GOD together, andrea

  4. Shanay has a beautiful essay, amazing in fact for a young lady.
    "Yet, it was no less a testimony to God’s power than Paul’s conversion." I pray my children will have the same testimony as you- of knowing Him at a young age. I think it is such an amazing testimony for someone to walk with the Lord throughout their whole life. God bless you sis!

  5. Wow. This says a lot!
    "If our main purpose is to glorify God, then why are we scared to live out a life God has designed for us?" This is exactly what I've been mulling over for a few days. So well said! Thank you!

  6. Thank you so much for sharing this, Sharlyn! You are a special blessing, and it is wonderful to read what Shanay has said. What wisdom from an 8th grader! God bless you, Shanay, as you glorify God and live the life God has designed for you!

  7. WOW...I am in complete AWE! Thank you so much for ALL that you shared!

    Blessings Sharlyn...Most definitely Shanay has such a mature outlook & solid foundation! Praise God for youth that stand strong & what an aMazing final point! May she continue to shine & be a witness with wisdom like this glorifying Our Lord!

    But way back at the beginning, I so appreciated that you went back as I did, to read in context. You shared this so well.

    I'm so grateful that you wrote about your own personal accepting of Jesus! Because that is so precious!!! It helps me out to get a better idea of how to write my testimony though I did not pray that young, I was not in a church that did that...but my point is that I really don't have a"moment".
    Ohhh, I have prayed with many churches in unison and ask God to send people forward that need Him so they will pray. I did pray in 6th grade but not like I've taught others or children.

    Anyways,that is what stood out to me...ALL you wrote in the middle of the great "oreo" cookie! That "filling" was meant for me! I read your previous Manna...and it impressed me so much! Thank you again & also for visiting me! May you be blessed as this blesses me!
    Hope we get to know each other. I have you bookmarked as a "neighbor" to MN being you're from IOWA!

  8. Thank you for sharing this and thank Shanay also. I feel blessed and challenged by reading this.


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