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Friday, August 7, 2009

How Do You Know When You Should Believe a Christian's Testimony?

People rational in every other way will listen and believe the most outlandish stories when they are given in a church. One preacher will tell of  a "black box" recording which reveals a woman leading the passengers of a crashing plane to the Lord. No one asks for any evidence other than the preacher's testimony. One missionary told of winning over 2000 souls to the Lord while Khadafi's bodyguards protected him. Subsequent missionaries couldn't find the converts. One preacher tells the testimony of another preacher as if it is his own. How do you know when to believe them?

Fantastic stories raise lots of money. People love to hear stories of success. They love to hear stories that fortify their faith in heaven and God's rewards. They love to hear how God has gone behind the scenes to rectify a wrong. The love to hear these stories so much that they throw discernment out the window and open their pocketbooks.

While some of the stories are complete fabrications, many of them are lies stuffed in the skin of the truth. Some of the facts are verifiable. This does not mean the whole story is true. For example, a plane did crash on that day and it did spiral downward for several minutes. The lie is discovered from those who actually listened to the flight recordings. There is no evidence that anyone shared Christ. However, the story went around the world through emails in less than a day. I am sure it was told in many pulpits the very next Sunday.

Christians should ask themselves if they believe because of emotions or faith. Does the story you hear compliment what you already know about your faith? Does it honor the Lord or the one telling the story? What does it say of the Lord that you already know to be true? Are you drawn closer to Him or are you just amazed with the story?

Unfortunately, we need to ask ourselves why we should believe the story. Do I know the person who is giving this testimony? Is it his or her personal testimony or is he or she telling the testimony of another? Has this person given accurate testimony in the past? Is this person prone to exaggerations? Often fantastic testimonies are given by traveling evangelists. There is no way to discern the character of these evangelists. Their reputation comes from the number of people who walk the aisles after they preach. They leave your town with no one checking out a word that they have said.

Does the testimony ring true of Scripture? God has revealed how He acts through His Word. His actions today should be consistent with His actions of the Bible. The story is not to be believed if God's character is changed through the story or if the facts revealed through the Scripture are contradicted. God does not talk out of both sides of His mouth. Either the Bible is true or the testimony of the person you are listening is true but both can't be true when they contradict each other. As for me, I'm sticking with the Bible.

Could the memory of the person telling the story be altered? Sometimes trauma makes us remember things differently. It could be that the mind has protected the person through an altered memory. He or she may be telling you events exactly as he or she remembers them. The problem is that their memory has been altered.

Having said all of this, I must admit that many of the most fantastic stories are true. There have been people who have gotten up off of their death beds. There have been healings that defy any explanation. There have been provisions made for people in amazing ways. God is still the God who fed the 5,000 and raised the dead.

I am not saying that we should believe no one. I am saying that not every one should be believed. I think we have a responsibility to discern so that our praise to God will be genuine. It should be based on what He has actually done rather than a fabrication.

God does not need people making up stories about what He has done. He is amazing and needs no other testimony than what He has done. Praise the Lord!

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