A couple of weeks ago, I attended (virtually) the National Federation of the Blind of Alabama’s state convention. We had a great time, and during the final afternoon, we elected the delegates for the upcoming national convention. These two individuals were chosen to represent the entire affiliate to the rest of the National Federation of the Blind. While this is such an exciting opportunity for those chosen, it is also a weighty responsibility.
In a similar fashion, we believers are chosen for just such a task. Paul writes that “we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Contextually, Paul was speaking directly of his relationship with other believers, but the principle remains the same for all of life. Because we are chosen by God, we are His ministers to represent who He is to the world. “We” are to show “love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). We forgive, because we ought to “be imitators of God” (Ephesians 4:32-5:1). The list goes on and on.
When people see believers, they automatically draw implications about God, whether we like it or not. While this unfortunately can take a negative turn because of the lifestyles of some Christians, it does not have to. Instead, our upright life should declare truth and point people to God. Jesus Himself said that when people “see [our] good works,” they “may…glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Peter said a very similar thing (1 Peter 2:12). When we live a life that glorifies God, our actions will point people to the Father. When people see believers loving unconditionally, remaining unified in spite of differences, caring for those around them, and possessing a joy and peace they have never known, it makes them stop and wonder—what is different? The answer, of course, is Christ.
And that is one of the reasons we see over and over again the call to “conduct [ourselves] in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27). That phrase, “in a manner worthy of,” is found in a number of epistles (Romans 16:2; Ephesians 4:1; Colossians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:12). The exact emphasis of the phrase varies from book to book, but the underlying principle remains the same. There is a particular way of life we ought to live because we belong to God, and that way is a testimony to the world.
Now even if we do live such a testimony, it does not automatically mean that the world will accept our message. In fact, it may actually incite their hatred (John 17:14). But what it does do is force them to admit we truly believe what we profess. People may hear our message, but they may dismiss it if they don’t see it upheld by our lives. But as stated above, when our lives do match our words, they can’t toss us out as hypocrites.
Here’s a quick example. Paul and Silas have been in Philippi for some time, and their message is getting around, and their deeds cause even a greater stir. When Paul casts out a demon from a fortune-teller, the “city” goes wild and lays hands on these men and throws “them into prison” (Acts 16:16-24). But the testimony of Paul and Silas during that night radically shakes the heart of the warden. They are “singing hymns of praise to God,” and when God sent “a great earthquake” and “the doors were opened,” they didn’t flee (Acts 16:25-28).
We then read this response from the warden: “trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’” (Acts 16:29-30). What God used to speak to his heart was not just the words of Paul and Silas, but their actions. Their faithful testimony cut him to the core, convincing him that their words were true.
While we may not have such a dramatic experience, we should follow such an example. Absolutely, we need to speak truth and proclaim the message of salvation. Without that, no amount of good living will point people to the Father and salvation. The point is that there needs to be both—true words and a lifestyle that supports our profession.
So I just want to encourage us this week to remember this fact. I’ll admit, I so often forget this privilege, this calling, this responsibility. However, the fact remains that knowing this truth should effect everything we do. We should always be asking, “What kind of testimony about God will this give?” Whether in the workplace, at school, or even on Facebook, everything we do as believers is to be done as representatives of the gospel. Our lives often speak far louder than our words. They can either undermine the words we profess to believe, or they can add a force by the power of the Holy Spirit that can’t be denied. Let us determine to live out such a testimony.