Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
– Philippians 1:18b-26
“We should, I believe, distrust states of mind which turns our attention upon ourselves. Even at our sins we should look no longer than is necessary to know and to repent them; and our virtues or progress (if any) are certainly a dangerous object of contemplation. When the sun is vertically above a man he casts no shadow; similarly when we have come to the Divine meridian our spiritual shadow (that is, our consciousness of self) will vanish. One will thus in a sense be almost nothing: a room to be filled with God and our blessed fellow creatures, who in their turn are rooms we help to fill.”
– C. S. Lewis, Letter to Walter Hooper (30 November 1954)
When I was a volunteer with a Lay Witness Mission group in northern Mississippi in the early 70s, the leader said to speak only of our experience. We were not learned theologians or ordained pastors. We were not qualified to preach a sermon. We were ordinary people like the ones we would be talking to. We lived our lives to honor and praise our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, we took things from our memories that would illustrate how God had worked in our lives. We trusted that God had been working in the lives of those in attendance, and when our story struck a chord that resonated with what was going on in their lives, the Holy Spirit would enlighten them.
In so doing, we spoke of our experiences, but in each experience, we spoke of how God was at work. The focus was always on God.
I am presently reading St. Augustine’s Confessions. After he talks about his early life, he talks of how he came to know the Lord Jesus Christ. Then, after he talks about his mother dying, he goes into a philosophical discussion on memories. He is basically apologizing for having any focus upon himself, even though his experience could parallel the experience of others, and thus be useful. I guess every Christian that gives their testimony struggles with the focus of their testimony. You must relay your brokenness to the audience and how God was the only means of becoming whole without making the talk all about you. Yet, you must relate to the audience so that you seem human, just like them.
With reading C. S. Lewis’ letter to Walter Hooper, I have a better idea what a great testimony looks like. The audience sees you at the front of the church, but you do not cast a shadow. Instead, they see past you to see Jesus. Oh, if any of us mortals could pull it off.
In speaking of how God moves in our lives with us casting no shadow, it is like what Paul said of his life. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.