Skip to content ↓

When Your Testimony Just Isn’t That Good

Reading Classics Together

Testimony is a good Christian word, isn’t it? It is a word we use to describe a person’s account of their conversion. At Grace Fellowship Church we ask people to share their testimony aloud before they are baptized, and to send it in printed form to the members of the church as they apply for church membership. Sometimes at an evening service we will invite someone to come to the front and to tell us how the Lord saved her. We even keep a big binder full of these testimonies for anyone who would like to read through them—an amazing collection of stories that are so very different and yet all tell the same story.

Do you talk about your conversion? Do you find yourself thinking back to it and recounting its circumstances? Do you remember and share your testimony? John Flavel considers this one of the great joys and responsibilities of the Christian life saying, “This is a subject which every gracious heart loves to steep its thoughts in. It is certainly the sweetest history that ever they repeated; they love to think and talk of it.” Do you?

In chapter 3 of Flavel’s book The Mystery of Providence, Flavel instructs his reader in the importance of considering and recounting God’s providence in our salvation.

In nothing does Providence shine forth more gloriously in this world than in ordering the occasions, instruments and means of conversion of the people of God. However skilfully its hand had moulded your bodies, however tenderly it had preserved them and however bountifully it had provided for them; if it had not also ordered some means or other for your conversion, all the former favours and benefits it had done for you had meant little. This, O this, is the most excellent benefit you ever received from its hand. You are more indebted to it for this, than for all your other mercies. And in explaining this performance of Providence, I cannot but think your hearts must be deeply affected.

But with all the emphasis we place on testimony, there is one kind of person that can sometimes feel a little bit inadequate—the person who grew up in a Christian home, who put his faith in Christ at a very young age and through circumstances that may have long since been lost to the mists of time.

Flavel acknowledges this person, stating that not every Christian can recount the circumstances of their salvation in quite the same way. While for some people salvation was “wrought in person of riper years, who in their youthful days were more profane and vile,” for others salvation came to “persons in their tender years, into whose hearts grace was more imperceptibly and indiscernibly instilled by God’s blessing upon pious education.”

In the former sort, the distinct acts of the Spirit, illuminating, convincing, humbling, drawing them to Christ and sealing them are more evident and discernible. In the latter, these are more obscure and confused. They can remember that God gave them an esteem and liking of godly persons, care of duty and conscience of sin; but as to the time, place, instruments and manner of the work, they can give but a slender account of them.

There is a clear difference between these people, but it is not the difference between genuine and false salvation. Rather, God has simply chosen to bring about the miracle of conversion in a different way.

However, if the work is savingly wrought in them, there is no reason they should be troubled because the circumstances of it are not so evident to them as they are to others. Let the substance and reality of the work appear and there is no reason to afflict yourselves because of the lack of evidence of such circumstance.

In other words, salvation is no more genuine to those who can clearly remember and recount the circumstances that led to their conversion. And I would go so far as to say that the “boring” testimonies of childhood conversions are the most blessed of all. After all, aren’t these exactly the testimonies we wish for our children?

Next Week

We will continue our reading next week with chapter 4: “God’s Providence in Our Work.” Read it by next Thursday and check in to see what I (and others) have to say about it.

Your Turn

The purpose of this project is to read classics together. So do feel free to leave a comment if you have something you would like to say. Alternatively, you may leave a link to your blog or Facebook or anywhere else you have reflected on what you have read.

If you would like to read along with us, we have only just begun, so there is lots of time to get caught up. Simply get a copy of the book and start reading…

Image credit: Shutterstock


  • The Least of My Childrens Accomplishments

    The Least of My Children’s Accomplishments

    I know what it is to be a father and to take pride in the achievements of my children. I had not been a father for long when I learned that the least of my children’s accomplishments by far outshines the greatest of my own. Their smallest victory generates more delight than my largest and…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (June 5)

    A La Carte: 3 waves that have shaped evangelical churches (and a 4th on the way) / When is a couple considered married? / A Christian’s practical guide to reproductive technology / Don’t be half a Berean / Wisdom is work / This body is only the seed / Book and Kindle deals / and…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (June 4)

    A La Carte: The blame game / Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be / A kind invitation and lifelong friendship / Steered into error by those closest to you / Satan as “prince of the air” / Under the eaves / General market books / and more.

  • Bring Your Skills to the Missions World

    This week the blog is sponsored by TWR, also known as Trans World Radio, and is called to reach the world for Christ by mass media so that lasting fruit is produced. Pete and Debbie Lee were living the American dream. The parents of two children, the Lees lived in Greensboro, North Carolina, and were…

  • How can you mumble

    How Can You Mumble?

    Some of my most meaningful moments of public worship have been in settings where I did not speak the language. I have stood with a congregation in rural Zambia as they’ve clapped and moved and praised the Lord in Bemba, a language that is utterly unknown to me. I’ve sat with a congregation in the…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (June 3)

    A La Carte: Life doesn’t always turn out like we thought it would / Hope for fallen Christians / AI as theological babel fish / Teenagers and parental hypocrisy / Is there a preferred Bible translation Christians should use? / Logos and Kindle deals / and more.