Group Initiatives

From Test to Testimony

By Joel Bates

“Is it possible to accomplish the task I have given you?”  I asked this question midway through a recent group initiative. I paused the initiative to find out if the members of the group really believed they could succeed.  Responses were mixed.  Two members felt that it was impossible while the others believed it was possible.  Seizing a teachable moment in this timely dilemma, I launched into a discussion about faith and belief, even asking if it is okay to doubt.  Each student agreed that the encouragement of another’s optimism was a key to a hopeful outcome, but that the doubt of some hurt their progress.  They saw the need to uphold each other in the challenge.

The group probed for more hope by inquiring about past groups: “Have others accomplished this initiative in the past?”  That was a valid question, a question that really mattered.  So I answered, “Yes,” and this additional knowledge helped to bolster their faith and hope that they too might be able to succeed.  The groups that had “been here and done that” couldn’t be present to help them with physical strength and audible voice, but the report of their successes gave the current strugglers something even greater than a leg up or an “Atta boy!”  They gave them more than a story; they gave them a testimony.  I was an eyewitness and testified to the other groups’ successes.  Though the accomplishment was in the past, it was still real enough to give the team something beyond strength; it gave them hope. 

It has dawned on me that this same, silent power is at work in my life everyday as I remember the accounts of the people listed in Hebrews’ hall of faith.  The famous passage in chapter 11 tells us that from ark builders to nomads and kings to servants, these writers, warriors, princes, and prostitutes lived for God, who had a bigger story and a better kingdom.  They were willing to hold on to their faith and hope even though they didn’t see instant gratification for their sacrifices, and their stories now are transformed into an unspeakable power borne through God that has an effect on us also to trust, also to risk, also to “count it all as loss” and throw our entire lot in with Jesus.  He will challenge us and give us a better story.  Nicolas Wolterstorff writes about the grief of losing his son in a mountaineering accident in Lament for a Son,         

             “How insipid it would be if every misstep, every slip of the hand, meant no more than a five foot drop into an Alpine meadow.  The menace is essential to the exhilaration of                                          achievement.” 

With Christ’s power and our abandonment to Him, our otherwise mediocre story can become a life changing testimony. 

So here I am, writing to you about a group who needed the power of testimony to complete their mission.  And I’m happy to report that they did succeed that day and celebrated completing the group challenge.  We stood in a circle grinning at each other, everyone talking all at once in our excitement over our achievement.  And now, they have joined the other groups who over the years, when presented with a challenge, have mixed hope with cooperation to meet with success.  And, their story lives on to encourage others as I testify of their achievement. 

What about your story?  You must not believe that your story is worthless or silent or small just because you aren’t the one telling it.  As you face your own tests and challenges, live out your faith and hope in good conscience before the Lord, and let others tell your story in His time and in His way.  Let the story that is told about you be part of God’s story.  Then, and magnificently then, it will be a testimony.

Posted on October 17, 2017
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