Other than its for its legal definition, the word “conviction” is seldom used in daily conversation.  I am referring to this definition of conviction: “a firmly held opinion or belief”. 

We all have convictions of some sort.  Some are sound, some frivolous.  I am convinced the Mets will win the World Series or It is my strong conviction that the President’s policy is wrong.  It is good to have convictions, we need them to help us navigate the multitude of decisions we face each day.  For example, I am convinced that the recently fashionable “man bun” is not very appealing.  Thus my mornings are made infinitely easier by that conviction, since I have removed the man bun as a choice when deciding what to do with my hair each morning.

Although essential to our lives, convictions can also be detrimental if held despite refuting evidence.  For example, during World War I, two generals had charge of the massive British Army fighting on the Western Front in the trenches protecting France. Both Field Marshals John French and Field Marshal Douglas Haig held strong convictions that cavalry charges (officers on horses with swords and lances) would win a decisive break-through and thus win the war.  They both held this conviction despite clear evidence to the contrary: new technology had changed the shape of warfare.  The machine gun in a reinforced, concrete bunker was decisive.  Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of men lost their lives because these two generals would not compromise their conviction in the cavalry charge.

As Christians, we are called to possess strong convictions.  We need to hold on to what we believe is true.  Our faith must be assured.  This is achieved through growth, sanctification, and experience.  Three Biblical characters stand out as men who had strong convictions, even in the face of death.

The Book of Daniel mentions three companions in exile with Daniel: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  The Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar commanded all people to bow down and worship a giant golden statue he had erected in his own conceit.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused.  They would only worship the One True God.  As the guards stood by to throw these three men into the fiery furnace, their convictions remained strong and they defied the King and replied:

O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.  If this be so, our god whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.   Daniel 3:17-18

This is conviction.  In the face of certain torture and death these three men remained true to their belief in God.  They were convinced that it was better to face death than to compromise their standards.  How did they do it?  How did these young men in a foreign land have the courage and conviction to stand against a powerful earthly king?  I believe that there are three primary factors that built their convictions and that can build ours as well.

Training.  We are called to learn God’s ways.  We need to understand and hide his Word in our hearts.  We need to practice faith each day in all sorts of challenging situations.  By understanding who God is and how He has cared for and protected His people, we will begin to develop our own convictions.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.  Proverbs 22:6

Other believers.  We need other people to help us grow our convictions, and point out when we are not seeing things correctly.  We need them to stand alongside us during the challenging situations of life, so that our faith and trust grow stronger.

And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.  Ecclesiastes 4:12

The Holy Spirit.  God will give us power and strength to stand according to our convictions.  The spiritual will guide our thoughts and convict us to do what is right.  God has promised to walk beside us even in the worst situations of our lives.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;  when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.  For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.  Isaiah 43: 3-4

As Christians we need to live by strong convictions.  Our convictions will guide our every decision.  When the storm and opposition come, we need to be ready to stand firm, despite the pain that might result, because we are convinced that our God is able to deliver us.

What do you think?  How can you strengthen your convictions in light of the chaos and opposition that is building around us?  How can Christians stand together in a world that is getting darker each day?  

About John Forrest