Damaging your testimony

I heard a teaching on this recently but I also had it happen in my own life over the past week so I felt like it was important to write about it. In my last two entries I’ve been writing about giving (PART ONE   PART TWO) . I shared a deeply personal look at my own finances and the way giving faithfully to God has been a blessing to me. The problem is, I had to edit that writing prior to posting it.

Let me explain. When I originally wrote about my personal finances and the ways in which being a faithful and glad hearted giver to the Lord had helped me, I had a great testimony to share. For the entire time I’d been tithing ten percent of all of my income to God, I hadn’t needed to borrow a single penny from anyone around me. All bills were covered, and I’d broken the cycle I was in of needing to look for financial help from those around me on a regular basis.

Well, if you recall the post that I actually put on this blog, it didn’t say that. It said that I’d needed financial help one time since I started tithing. That’s because between the time I wrote the original entry and the time I posted it, I ran into a tough couple of financial weeks. But here’s the thing. It wasn’t God who broke the streak of my financial good fortune, it was me. I made a large purchase of an important item despite the fact that I knew it would make the rest of my month insanely tight financially. It was a calculated decision, and one I was comfortable with making. Then, like a true genius, instead of living really tight and being extra careful with my money for the rest of that week, I spent even more money, this time on stuff I didn’t need, because that’s a terrible old habit I have and I fell back into it.

I’ll never lie on this blog, and thus I was forced to change my writing about how giving has positively impacted my life. I had to take out the part about not needing assistance at all and replace it with the new fact that I’d needed assistance once. I still think it’s a great testimony, and I still feel incredibly blessed by the Lord in the realm of my finances and my attitudes towards money. However, the testimony was way stronger before I came along and messed it up by acting unwisely with my money.

The reason I feel like it’s important to say all of this is because it’s such an important lesson to learn. When we do something that damages our testimony, it hurts our ability to reach people who need to hear the good news of Jesus. Sometimes this comes from sin. If a Christian marriage counselor is discovered to have been unfaithful to his own wife, that’s probably going to undo most of the work he’s done in the lives of those he’s counseling. They’ll no longer trust what he’s been telling them, because he’s not living it. If there’s sin in our lives that’s going to make it difficult for those we’re ministering to to trust us, then we need to confront that sin and get it taken care of. Telling a group of guys at work about how God has brought you peace and taught you to respect all people five minutes after you just cussed out and belittled a client on the phone in front of the whole office probably isn’t going to carry much weight. However, telling your coworkers the same thing after they just saw you calmly and respectfully handle a tough client on the phone is going to go a lot further than the first example.

The thing is, it’s not just sin that can damage our testimony. Sometimes it’s just a less than ideal decision/situation, like a pastor getting spotted buying ten cases of beer at the grocery store. Is it wrong for a pastor to have a beer from time to time in his own home? Probably not. Can the perception of the pastor being an alcoholic harm his testimony? Probably so. Maybe this frugal pastor just wanted to stock up on beer while it was on sale, but the perception of that purchase could really damage his testimony.

Maybe that’s not the best example, but to me it works because it’s not fair, yet it makes sense. It’s not fair that simply because someone might get the wrong impression I shouldn’t do something that’s not a sin. But to me I’d rather swallow a few situations that are unfair if it means living in a way that elevates my testimony, thus giving me a better chance of reaching those who need to hear the good news of Jesus.

One of the spiritual leaders in my life said something once about breaking down the word joy. He said it stands for Jesus, Others, Yourself, in that order. I thought it was a beautiful sentiment and a beautiful way to break down the servant oriented life we should all be striving towards if we want to be more like Jesus. I think this JOY breakdown fits right into the idea of damaging our testimonies. We should be living in a manner that glorifies Jesus, that serves others, and then worries about yourself last. So even if yourself wants to cuss, or wants to belittle a rude client on the phone, or wants to spend money on something despite what it will do to your finances that week, we should first think of the other two letters in JOY. How does this action reflect the role of Jesus in my life, and how does this action influence/serve Others in my life?

In my case, getting temporarily dumb with my money was a letdown for all the letters of JOY. Jesus gives me wisdom towards my finances, and yet I ignored that and overspent. Others got a watered down version of my giving testimony, so that hurt my ability to share the good news. As for myself, I may’ve bought what I wanted, but knowing that I hurt the J and the O left the Y feeling pretty bad and made the unneeded thing I purchased feel pretty useless.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s really not the biggest deal. But it is a lesson I want to hold onto, because it’s something that’s important to me and I think should be important to all believers. Our testimonies are the way in which we relate Jesus to other people. Anything that damages that testimony or even something that just waters it down a little bit is something we need to take a long, hard look at.  I want to be putting Jesus and others first in my life and I want to do the best I can to overcome any shortcomings or situations that might damage my testimony.

CLOSING AND PRAYER

I’m very excited about the next few weeks on the blog as starting tomorrow we’ll be moving into the first 24 psalms.  This is the first time I’ve ever read the book of Psalms, and I’ve just found so much joy and wisdom in there so far.  I’m excited to share with all of you about it!

For prayers today, let’s pray about our testimonies.  Ask God to really search you, to search your habits and your hobbies and your behaviors, to help us find anything in our lives that might be harming our testimonies.  Seek His guidance on how best to keep our testimonies mighty and pure, as our testimony is what allows us to show others what God is doing and has done in our lives.

If you prayed that prayer, please know that I prayed in agreement with you as your brother in Christ.

Alright, I love you guys.  I’m always excited on Mondays because it kicks off a new week here on the blog.  I hope your week is off to a great start as well.  Know that whatever situation you find yourself in this week, God is there with you.  He loves you with an everlasting love!

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