The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
July 3, 2022
Pastor Matt Woodley was looking for some durable, top quality socks for hiking. He visited the Amazon website, and a particular brand caught his eye. The company’s sales pitch declared: “Our socks give you the cushioning and toughness you need… Premium cotton provides soft comfort, and full reinforcement means they hold up wear after wear.” But the accompanying customer reviews were far more persuasive. To cite just two examples from the long list of commendations:
Wayne from Oklahoma wrote, “[These socks] are good looking… wear like iron… [and] are well padded… [I’d never] buy another brand;” and D.D. from Dallas proclaimed, “I can’t believe how comfortable these socks are… I highly recommend [them]!!!” These satisfied customers weren’t ashamed to sing the praises of a product they love!
Woodley notes that customer reviews are what we used to call “testimonials”: personal witnesses about how something or someone betters a life. So, if all these satisfied customers declare to the world their high regard for socks, why are so many Christians reluctant to tell of how Jesus betters a life?
Some years ago, Mercedes Benz developed a new energy-absorbing car body frame that in collisions saves lives. Several other manufacturers copied
Mercedes Benz’s design, but the company never took a one of them to court for patent infringement. When asked why, a company representative replied, “Some things in life are too important not to share.”
On His way to His execution in Jerusalem, Jesus had something too important not to share. Aware that His crucifixion was but weeks away, He knew time was running short for Him to proclaim the good news of God’s grace. So, in preparation for doing some 11th hour evangelism, and in an effort to train His followers to carry on His work after He was gone, Jesus sent out 70 people to go on ahead of Him and to give testimonials about how He betters anyone’s life.
A while before, Jesus had sent out the first twelve disciples on such a mission, with almost the same set of instructions. Now, however, because the “harvest” was “plentiful” but the “laborers” still few, Jesus needed to mobilize even more people to join in the work of sharing the good news too important not to share. So He commanded the seventy both to go forth into the mission and also to “ask the Lord of the harvest to send out [other] laborers into his harvest”.
Each of us who follows Jesus today would do well to step forward to be part of the answer to that prayer which His followers have been praying for the past 2,000 years. To follow Jesus is to labor in His harvest, even while praying for more laborers to join in the work. For, given how “plentiful” the harvest is, there’s can’t be too many to tell their stories, give their testimonials and sing the praises of Jesus. Doing so is an essential purpose of the life of discipleship for all His followers.
Being such a witness does not require our becoming theologically astute, stirringly eloquent or irresistibly persuasive. But it does require our living in such a way that we become a bit of a puzzling curiosity, to some at least. It requires our acting in such a way that our behavior makes little sense unless our faith is true and we believe it. Being a witness requires our becoming, even if only in modest ways, inexplicable but intriguing oddities who, when asked to explain their oddity, give simple and clear testimonials of what “satisfied customers” they are of Jesus! Dr. Francis Collins is renowned for his genetic research and for heading the National Institutes of Health under three different presidents. He is a committed follower of Jesus, but once was a committed atheist.
In his mid-twenties, Collins was confident that faith was for folks stuck in the “supernaturalism” of the past which science has now proven delusional and needless. But, as a third-year medical student, he became “unsettled” (his term) as he got to know several Christians who were enduring terrible and fatal diseases whose worsening the doctors could not stop. He noticed that there was a remarkable “peace and even a sort of joyfulness” about them that came from their having faith in Jesus. What Collins saw in them disconcerted him.
Collins tells of one patient who was an Oxford intellectual. Years before, she had given up her atheism to embrace a life of following Jesus. When Collins met her, she was suffering from advanced cardiac disease, which assaulted her daily with crushing chest pain. Yet, she endured it all with a striking amount of serene equanimity. When he asked how she handled her suffering so well, she spoke of how Jesus gave her hope in the approaching certainty of her death and how He uplifted her spirits so as to finish her life well. She gently and disarmingly pressed Collins to consider whether he could believe in Jesus like that.
Over time Collins came to the conclusion that “most of my objections against faith were utterly simplistic”. That conclusion and the testimonials of Christians eventually moved him to start following Jesus himself.
So will you go when Jesus sends you, give your testimonial when He asks you, and tell the curious what He does for you? It is an essential purpose of the wonderful new life He’s given you. Let us pray.