Is Your Story a Biography or a Testimony?

When non-Christians share their life story, it is a biography. When Christians share their life story, it is supposed to be a testimony. The difference between a biography and a testimony is who the hero of the story is. In a biography, there is a tendency to downplay or even dismiss the faults, flaws, and failures of a person honored as a hero. In a testimony, the goal is to be honest about the best and worst days, deeds, and decisions of a person, so that God is glorified for His faithfulness to and through that person. 

A Bible commentary says: “Gideon’s legacy is threefold. First, Midian is permanently subdued, and the land rests for a paradigmatic forty years. Second, he has a harem and “seventy” sons, with one more in Shechem, named Abimelech, “My Father is king.” Finally, Israel forgets him and eventually returns to worship Baal as before. So, the Gideon cycle ends as it began, with Israel playing the harlot after Baal.”1 

Summarizing the honest but complex life of Gideon, a Bible commentary asks: “What does a Spirit-empowered sinner look like? Gideon was a complex character, who exhibited strongly positive and strongly negative qualities. Although he questioned and doubted, and needed signs and reassurances, he obeyed. But he obeyed feebly and under cover of darkness, fearing his neighbors. Hardly an Elijah confronting an Ahab with idolatry. But Gideon did cut down Baal’s altar. Even after the Spirit outfitted him, he asked for signs. He finally “got it,” however, and led with full confidence. He even declared with no fear at all to Succoth that Yahweh would surely deliver the commanders of fifteen thousand Midianites they were pursuing. He didn’t object when God reduced him from twenty-two thousand men to three hundred. He was wise in his diplomacy with Ephraim. But he made an illegal ephod that blurred Israel’s focus on Yahweh’s requirements. Although he did accomplish the mission at hand, in the end Israel was spiritually no better off. Why did he make a religious item? Why did he deal so harshly with Israelite towns? This ambiguity, or two-sided character, makes Gideon look like us. We are baptized with the Spirit and empowered to fulfill the mission at hand – the Great Commission – even while we err, sin, and engage in great folly. And yet,
for all our shortcomings, the success of the mission is guaranteed.”2 

In Judges, especially the final scene of Gideon’s life, we see that God is perfect and His leaders are not. Their success is by His grace, not their goodness. That should encourage us that, for God to use us, we don’t need to be perfect – just available and honest. Lastly, it is not too far-fetched to assume that Gideon did indeed repent of his sins against the Lord. After all, some of them were private matters that we would not know about unless he told his testimony and included mention of the sins he committed but God forgave. 

Reflect on your own testimony. How has God worked in your life despite your imperfections?

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