Friday, November 27, 2009

Balanced Testimonies

I started to entitle this post Negative Testimonies, but decided that would be undermining the point I hoped to present.

For years I have experienced some frustration and disappointment when I hear people attempting to give God the glory when something good happened to them. The reason for my negative thoughts? Not because I don't like to hear people thanking God for what he has done for them, but because there are many more people who are believers and who have not experienced the same thing.

Here's an example: Say there's a car accident and only some survived and some died. The survivors might be heard to say, "God was with me, and I lived." That kind of statement bothers me. Are we to think that God was not with the ones who died? Hmm...

Another example: Say a woman's husband leaves her and she prays he will return. He does return and she says that God blessed her and had her husband return. Are we to think that a woman whose husband leaves and she prays and he doesn't return that God was not as good to her as He was to the other woman?

Final example: Say a child is ill. The parents pray and the child is healed. God is good. He healed their child. Another couple has an ill child, they are strong believers, they pray and their child dies. Are we to think that God heard one prayer and blessed and heard the other prayers and didn't bless?

These examples and the resulting attempt to give God the glory sometimes seem to me to do more damage than good. Here's what I mean.

What about in the first example having two people speak about the same experience, one about being a survivor and one about losing a loved one. Cannot both say God is good? Cannot both say God blessed them? Isn't that the God we serve?

Here's what I think is the best biblical example: Peter and James were in jail in the book of Acts. Peter was miraculously released. James was beheaded. The story told in Sunday School and in sermons seems to always be about Peter. But, what about James?

Another biblical example: Peter preached on the day of Pentecost and 3,000 souls were saved. God blessed! A few chapters over Stephen preached, maybe much the same sermon, and he was stoned to death by the religious leaders. Did God bless Stephen? Or...what?

What do we do with these two examples?

And a final point I want to make is the entire chapter in Hebrews 11. This chapter is commonly what is called the Hall of Faith Heroes. The summary towards the end of this chapter in the version, The Message, reads: We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless––the world didn't deserve them!––making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world. Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised.

So, now what? I think it's great to give God the glory when someone is healed, when someone survives, when someone returns. But wouldn't it be more biblical, more realistic, more accurate, to always have examples of both types when giving God the glory.

When we have someone passionately speak how God has blessed her because her husband returned, wouldn't it be real and honoring to God to have someone just as passionately speak about how good God is good and has blessed her and that her husband didn't return? Same thing with surviving and with healing.

Doesn't the unbalanced type of testimonies of hearing only positive and good things that have happened leave listening people thinking, well God didn't do that for me so He must not love me as much or He would have blessed me like that. My child died. Where was God? My husband divorced me and married a younger woman. Didn't God hear my prayers? Doesn't God love me?

We should always remember and speak of the balanced teachings in scripture. Where did we get that only good things and blessings happen to those whom God loves and cares for. Terribly misleading and wrong teaching. Would we have as many followers and as large churches if we preached balanced truth? Probably not, but we would have true, God-honoring believers, who really make a difference.

Thoughts to ponder. My opinion only.