The word of your testimony, your story is powerful. However, most Christians don’t know how to share their story in a simple, clear way that communicates the love of God to other people.
And what I want to do is I want to teach you this morning how to tell your story. And I figured maybe the very best way to do it was to see the model that’s outlined in Scripture. Three times in the book of Acts the apostle Paul tells his story: Acts 9, Acts 22, and Acts 26.
In this occasion, he gets to stand before Herod the Great’s great grandson - Bernice and Agrippa - he’s the king of Palestine. It’s not a really big kingdom but Rome has given him this opportunity to be king, he is a practicing Jew although history tells us that his lifestyle didn’t match up very well.
But he knows all about Jewish law and Jewish custom. The apostle Paul is a prisoner.
And so we’re going to pick up the story in Acts chapter 26 and the apostle Paul has one last shot to make his defense. And of all the things, guess what he does? He tells his story.
This is the outline: He tells about his life before Christ in verses 4 through 11. Then he tells very specifically how he met Jesus. And then third, he talks about the difference Jesus made in his life.
And I want you to kind of get that down because it’s very simple. Your life before you met Christ, how specifically you met Him, and then the difference that He made.
Follow along and let’s just read his story and then I’m literally going to take those principles and we’re going to outline all of our stories so that in the days to come, over a cup of coffee, over a meal, sitting next to someone on a bus, they may ask a question and in about three to five minutes, you will learn very clearly, how to share your story.
Verse 1, chapter 26: “Then King Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You have permission to speak for yourself.’ So Paul motioned with his hand and he began his defense. ‘King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make my defense against all the accusations of the Jews, and especially so because you are well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore, I beg you listen to me carefully.’”
Now he’s going to build some credibility and say, “This is what my life was like before I met Christ personally.”
“The Jews all know the way I lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country and also in Jerusalem. They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived as a Pharisee. And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our fathers that I’m on trial today. This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. O King, it is because of this hope that the Jews are accusing me.
“Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead? I too was convinced that I ought to do everything possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests, I put many of the saints into prison and when they were put to death I cast my vote against them.
“Many times I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them I even went to foreign cities to persecute them.”
And so he gives this story and you just realize, there is a murderous, zealous, religious, actually nut who was just trying to kill every Christian in the name of God. Then notice the shift and I want you to listen for how specific he is.
Verse 12: “’On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. About noon, O King, as I was on the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing all around me and my companions. We fell to the ground and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It’s hard for you to kick against the goads.’
“‘Then I asked, Who are you, Lord? ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. ‘Now get up and stand on your feet for I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant, and a witness of what you have seen of Me, and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I’m sending you to open their eyes, and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so they may receive forgiveness of sins, and a place among those that are sanctified by faith in Me.’”
So he’s very specific. It was noon. The sun was bright. He even tells us what language he heard it in. He gives the actual words as sort of a “You are there.” And then picking up in verse 19 he talks about what difference it made.
“‘So then, King Agrippa, I wasn’t disobedient to the vision from heaven. First, to those in Damascus, and then in Jerusalem and all Judea, and the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.
‘That is why the Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. But I have had God’s help to this very day; and so I stand here and I testify to small and to great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen – that the Christ would suffer and would be the first to rise from the dead and would proclaim light to His own people and to the Gentiles.’
“At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. ‘You are out of your mind, Paul!’ he shouted. ‘Your great learning is driving you insane.’ ‘I am not insane, most excellent Festus,’ Paul replied, ‘what I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice because it wasn’t done in a corner.’
And now after he has said, “This is my life before, this is specifically my relationship how I met Christ, this is how things have changed,” then he ends his story with sort of a provocative question. He asked for a response.
He says, verse 27, “King Agrippa? Do you believe the prophets? I know you do.” Implication: If the prophets are true, if what Moses said, if everything I’m saying is true, the implications about Jesus are true and then notice King Agrippa knew exactly what he meant.
“Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Do you think in such a short time that you can persuade me to become a Christian?’ Paul replied, ‘Short time or long – I pray that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, a Christian, except for these chains.’ The king arose with the governor, and Bernice, and those sitting with him, they left the room, and while talking with one another they said, ‘This man isn’t doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment.’ Agrippa said to Festus, ‘This man could have been set free if he’d not appealed to Caesar.’”
If you will walk with me for about the next twenty minutes or so and even with a pen, what I’m going to do is I’m going to walk through how to tell the story. I’m going to show you exactly how you could make a few notes and bullet points and tell your story.
I’m going to encourage you, at the end of our time, to literally this afternoon take a half hour or forty-five minutes, maybe an hour for some, and literally write down, “This is what my life was like before Christ. This was the day,” and for some it won’t be a very, real specific day. I realize there’s some that have had a little bit different experience. “But this is specifically my relationship with Christ, how I met Him. And this is how my life changed.”
If you will invest that time to write that out I will guarantee you God will give you an opportunity to share that in the most natural, normal way with some people than you ever dreamed.
And you’ll find yourself sharing God’s love and having a confidence to share it.
I got an email from someone I had a chance to sit down and he wanted to learn how to share his story and so I said, “I’d be glad to.” And I took him to Acts chapter 26, in fact, I’ve been in this passage many times, taken a lot of groups through it.
And it was a Sunday afternoon and I shared it with him. He later wrote me an email. He said, “You know what? I’ve been a Christian since I was seven years old and I didn’t think I had much of a story. I actually grew up in, like, a really great home. My parents actually really loved each other. I’ve never been on drugs, I’ve never been an alcoholic. I don’t have anything fantastic to say.
“But when I started to write down my story, how exciting is it to say that when I was five and a half years old, you know, at my bedside with my mom I trusted Christ.” He said, “But what I realized was the theme of God’s unconditional love and the confidence and what it did in my life.”
And he said, “You know, I wrote all that out. It took me about forty-five minutes or an hour, I wrote it all out and it got real clear.” He said, “The next day I was with a fellow at work who was a brand new Christian whose wife was not a follower of Christ. He invited me, ‘Do you want to grab dinner with my wife and I?’ And now he says, so I go, we eat dinner together, and the conversation went around self-confidence.
“And I’ve been a very confident person and his wife turned to me and said, ‘Where do you get such self-confidence?’” And he said, “I realized I get God’s self-confidence from His unconditional love. And in about the next three and a half to five minutes I shared what my life was like, how I met Christ personally, the theme of His unconditional love.”
And he said, “You know, it was so freely and so well received. Even though I’d been a Christian since I was seven,” he goes, “I’ve never shared my story.”
So, all I want to tell you, as we go, I’m trying to set you up. Are you getting the idea? Are you kind of getting the idea? This isn’t like, “Hey, I’m going to listen to this. I might do this someday, someway. I’m really trying to say, “Do it.” You’re a trophy of God’s grace. God wants you to be able to tell your story. It’s the simplest and maybe the most powerful way you’ll ever share His love with people. People that you care about.
So are you ready? I want, you’re story is, “What was your life like before Christ?” And when you make your outline I encourage you to write it out. But I’m an outline person. So you might bullet point it first.
You want to talk about some external issues. If there was a movie camera following you around before your life, before you met Christ, I mean, where did you grow up, and what was going on, and what were you doing, and what was your vocation, and were you single, or were you married, or this was your job. I mean, just give people snapshots. This is externally what your life looked like.
And then if somehow there was a little internal recorder that could record the things of your heart, and the struggles, and what you felt, and what was going on inside, and what you feared. Then you want to talk about some of the internal stuff. What was going on inside?
And then the final thing you want to do, is you want to talk about the realization of your need. No one ever puts their faith in Christ until at some point, at some time, they realize, “You know, I need God. I really need to be forgiven. I need hope.”
And so, you know, what was it? What was it that began to move you to realize you had a need?
And then second, you want to tell how did you personally come to know Christ? And if you answer these questions again with a few bullet points. What caused you to consider Christ as a solution to your need? Usually, there’s some exposure. Usually you met a person.
For some of us, I don’t know about you, I had never opened the Bible in my life until I was eighteen years old. And I literally said, I don’t know if this is true or not but I’m going to examine it.
But what caused you to consider? What motivated you to finally trust Christ? What was the tipping point? What happened in your life?
And for some of us it’s a tragedy. For others it’s someone walked out on us. Sometimes we went through a really difficult time. I’ve met people that have really hit bottom or by contrast I meet people that really hit it out of the park. And they just thought, “If I ever accomplish this, or had that, or married him, or lived there, or earned that much, or got that degree, wow!” And then they get to that and they go, “Wow, this, is this all there is?” And that was a turning point.
What, if you had to write yours down, what would it be?
And then be specific about where and how you actually put your faith in Christ. I mean, when Paul did it he even tells us what language. He gives us the actual words. “It was a noonday sun. It was brighter than the sun. We fell to the ground.”
I mean, when I get to share my story, when I get done, my prayer is that if someone could listen to what I did, it’s specific enough that even if I didn’t explain it they could say, “You know what? I think I could do what he did. I could put my faith in Christ the way I heard Chip,” or you put your name in there.
And then finally if there’s a key verse, God’s word never returns void. If you can specifically give people, here’s a core verse that, sort of, summarizes your journey. It’ll be different for different ones.
And then finally how did your life change after trusting Christ? And you’ll want to get that movie camera back out and look at the external issues. You know, what happened in the things that are external and that people can see?
And by the way, share, be honest. You don’t ever have to improve on what God’s done. We don’t have to exaggerate. Just tell people honestly and candidly what’s occurred that they can see on the outside, that you can see. What’s occurred and changed on the inside? And then this is really important. Share honestly where you still struggle.
I’ve heard people share their testimony that, when I’ve heard them and I think they must already be in heaven. “My life was a wreck, I met Jesus, everything is great.” I’ve never met a Christian that everything is great.
He didn’t promise to make everything great. He didn’t promise that you’ll never have any problems. He promised that, progressively, we’d change. He promised He’d give us hope in the midst of lots of real difficulty.
So we gotta be careful that we share very honestly about what God has done but that it’s still a journey. Does that make sense?
Okay, what I thought I would do is give a, sort of a shot at, those are the principles. So let me just take a moment and I’ll share my story using this outline, okay? You’ve probably heard parts of it here and there but if I was sitting down and we had a cup of coffee and I said, “Hey! Where did you grow up?” And you told me where you grew up. “And so what was it like growing up?” And you told me a little bit about your family and this and that.
And then just normal or casually you might say, “Well, Chip, tell me a little bit about your life.” Externally what I’d say is: Well I grew up in a home, parents were school teachers and we were, in general, kind of, pretty moral. My mom was an amazing person. A guidance counselor. My dad, you know, ex-Marine, Guam, Iwo Jima, a science teacher. He was a great athlete so I was really, you know, pushed and admired and wanted to be a good athlete.
And my dad was one of those guys that I never heard him say, ‘I love you’ until late in his life. I never, he wasn’t a hugger. But I knew he loved me and the way he loved me was, in that generation is he would help you become successful. If you did really well that’s the way you got loved.
And so he hit grounders until they would bounce off my face and if I got four As and a B we had a deep talk about what happened with the B. And it was real, I mean, that was his love language. It was, “I really want you to do well’ because I learned in my house early that if there’s a theme it was, ‘If you can become successful then you’ll really be happy. And I want to help you be successful.
“And the way you’re successful is this, it’s real easy, you know? You get up earlier than everybody else, you set very clear goals, you develop a strategy to get there, and when they’re sleeping you work. And when they go to bed, you keep working. And I’ll tell you what, son, you’ll be successful and when you’re successful, you’ll be happy.”
And so I became a workaholic by the time I was thirteen, I had six or seven yards, three paper routes at one time. I lent my parents three thousand dollars when I was thirteen years old, at six percent interest. I decided, I read an article about Pete Maravich when I was about seventh grade and I saw all the drills that he did and started doing those drills for about eight or nine hours a day and decided, “I’m going to date a pretty cheerleader, I’m going to get a basketball scholarship, I’m going to graduate in the top of my class, I’m going to be in this club, and be all-league in this and that.”
And I went like an absolute wild man after that. I didn’t do any drugs, I didn’t do any alcohol, I was too busy. But internally I was desperately insecure, I was very short and very skinny so I had that little chip on my shoulder trying to prove myself.
I was very mouthy, very arrogant, had a real foul mouth, and was really lonely inside because my dad began to drink more and more and more as I got older. And I just had a big wound I didn’t know about. But that’s what my life was like.
So the realization of my need came the night that I graduated from high school. I vividly remember sitting in an empty apartment off Ohio State’s campus with about twenty-five or thirty people and as a, in those days they called it a “reefer” a “joint,” whatever you call it. But they were passing it around, and we were telling stories about high school, and as it came around a gal named Jackie turned to me and said, “You must be very happy tonight.”
And she was one of those girls that was a friend, and we were in a lot of study halls together, and we talked honestly and I remember turning and saying, “Well, why do you say that?” And because we talked she goes, “Well, you know, you did well in school, you date that cute, little cheerleader, you got a scholarship.” And she named a few things.
And I didn’t realize, see, every single person pursues something or someone that you believe is going to make you happy. Everyone behaves in a way that makes sense to them. Even if you don’t articulate it, even if you don’t think it through your behavior, your energy, your time, your money – it all, I mean, if you could put it all together, all of us go towards something that makes sense.
I didn’t realize the mantra was, “If you work hard and are successful, you’ll be happy.” And when she said that it was like a light came on. And I didn’t feel happy, I felt empty.