“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Three years ago was the last time I shared my full length public testimony on a stage. It is my favorite talk to give over all the talks I have the ability to share because I feel so blessed in taking a walk through the many areas God has worked in my life to bring me where I am today. I have themed this talk with road signs to depict the many ways God has directed the road I have traveled on with Him. And although many of the signs I bring out during my talk remind me of painful times in my past, they also remind we of wondrous ways the Lord has been faithful when I was at the end of myself and had only Him to cling to.
The reason I just recalled this particular speaking engagement three years ago has to do with the scriptures I felt led to talk about today. You see, at the end of that particular talk a woman, probably in her 80's, came up to me and made a comment that I have never forgot. She said, “If God would have taken me through half of what you have had to endure, I would have told Him I gave up.” Yes, my life has been filled with a lot of pain but also a lot of blessings have come out of those painful places. What this woman made me realize in her comment, was that I had a choice at each turn God placed before me, and in choosing to take the ways God set before me I allowed my life (and the lives of those around me) to be turned upside-down for Him. But, through my obedience and His provision for me during those times I have come out stronger, wiser, and more prepared for each new situation He places ahead of me. My testimony is one that reflects His faithfulness through my obedience.
What we learn from scripture, time and time again, is that if we do not choose to follow the way God has set before us, He has no choice but to use our life (our testimony) as an example of disobedience and a warning to others on how not to live. We do not get out of the loop by not following God as we may think (and as I think the woman who made the comment to me was thinking), rather we are just used in a different way by God that is not too beneficial for us.
Read what Paul has to say about the examples God has left us in scripture which He has used to teach us lessons of how not to follow Him:
“Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them...Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” 1 Corinthians 10:1-11
We all have a testimony – positive or negative for the Lord. Our choice in how that testimony plays out though has a lot to do with our ability to obey God, even when He calls us to go through experiences we know will bring pain and suffering into our lives. Maybe you have always wanted a vibrant testimony to share with the world, well then my friend you will need to experience the bottom before you can be brought up again to the top. A content and happy life apart from pain does not give us the opportunity to cling to God as our last hope, or cry out to Him when we have no where left to turn, or to feel His comfort when all the comforts of the world are beyond our reach. Pain and suffering alone give us the ability to see God in ways we cannot see Him apart from them. Plus, these experiences also give us the ability to help others with a compassionate heart when they have need to see God as we have been allowed to see Him and experience Him.
“If you aspire to be a person of consolation, if you want to share the priestly gift of sympathy, if you desire to go beyond giving commonplace comfort to a heart that is tempted, and if you long to go through the daily exchanges of life with the kind of tact that never inflicts pain, then you must be prepared to pay the price for a costly education – for like Christ, you must suffer.” Fredrick William Robertson
Our consolation on this earth is not that we will be saved from all the hardships of man if we trust in Christ. Instead we are consoled in our souls that we live for a Savior who is always watching over us and who knows what we need, who knows what we can handle with His help, and who knows what we need to go through to be prepared for all that lies ahead yet on the road we walk with Him.
“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:12-13
Your testimony is made out of your choices. Will you choose to be a good example and take the difficult turns when the Lord puts them before you? Or, will you instead choose to be a bad example and avoid the hardships of life the Lord has asked you to enter into? Either way, God will use each of us and our choices to bring Himself the glory that He alone deserves. Why not choose to be on His side? The results of your obedience may not be the easiest life to live now, but I promise they will be much easier to live with for eternity.