“And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.” (Acts 14:27, ESV)
Often, I have heard people share testimonies and the focus seems to be on the person sharing. I hear a lot of I did this, that, and the other thing. These types of testimonies always fail to inspire the hearers. The testimonies that inspire us are the ones given that show what great things God has done.
At the conclusion of Paul’s first missionary endeavor, he and Barnabas return to Antioch, from where they started. In Antioch, they gather the church and give a report of their journey. This would have been natural, in that, the church in Antioch was the sending church for the two men. They would have desired a report. You can imagine the church would have wondered, “What happened on your journey?”
The thing we should focus upon is the nature of their report. They “declared all that God had done.” This phrase is significant because we do not hear any self-exaltation in their report. In my years after conversion, I have seen much boasting-in-self by those called servants of the Lord.
I sat in a church-planting conference once in Alabama and heard two speakers give testimony of their church plant. It went on something like this. “I started the church and the first day we had 200 people. At the end of the year, we had over 1000.” I will be honest; I left the conference totally defeated. Our little church plant, after a year or so, had never exceeded an attendance of 60. I felt like a second-class church planter.
What was missing in the presentation? What would have left me with some sense of value in the kingdom? It was grace and humility. I never heard the emphasis, that God had done these things according to His own sovereign purposes. It took me a time of real prayer and soul searching to resolve in my heart that I was where the Lord wanted me to be and that, yes, He was the one who builds His church (Matthew 16:18).
What does this mean to us? Well, there are many applications here. First, do not allow the boasting of others to defeat you. Remember that God is sovereign over the affairs of our lives. While we purpose in our hearts, the Lord directs our steps (Proverbs 16:9).
Second, always give God the glory. If you find yourself boasting in your own accomplishments, even in your heart, spend some time in prayer, reflecting on the sovereignty of God. Realize that we are His workmanship, created in Christ for good works (Ephesians 2:10).
Third, perhaps we ought to be more observant and ready to declare the awesome things that God has done in our own lives. You see, if you are a believer, God is at work in your life. Declaring what God has done encourages the saints and witnesses to the unbeliever. I feel a bit convicted as a pastor that we do not give much time for people to declare the great things that God has done in their lives publicly. I know the time is limited on Sundays, but perhaps this highlights the need for people to gather in fellowship groups with others, so that each of us may declare the great things God has done.