Do you believe what you say that you believe? And do you have lifestyle convictions that lend credibility to your faith?
In the passage preceding this verse, Paul talks about how he has been saved by grace through faith in Christ and has been appointed a herald and apostle of the gospel. This is what he believes and bases his life on. He has experienced persecution and difficulty and torture as a result of his beliefs. His suffering for the sake of the gospel gives his faith credibility. No one doubts that Paul believes what he says he believes because he is willing to suffer and die if that is what it takes to live out his faith. He is not in any way ashamed of the fact that he is a follower of Jesus. What he says reflects this; what he does reflects this; what he endures reflects this.
Where does this kind of conviction come from? As I look at my own life and the Christian culture in general I see very few examples of the kind of conviction that Paul displayed. As I think about this question, there seems to be a past, present, and future element to establishing strong convictions that result in courageous living. Here are my thoughts for what they are worth…
Past: Convictions comes from a genuine encounter with our resurrected Savior – There is an eternal difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus. Many people know about Him but knowing about Him does not transform you. Knowing Jesus is transformational. When you meet Him, when you have a genuine encounter with Him, then you are changed. Your life canNOT ever be the same. The things that matter to you change. You begin to care about the things that matter to Him. Convictions begin to develop because you are thoroughly convinced that He is Lord and reigns triumphant in your life. Paul had a life-changing encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus that was both overwhelmingly convincing and emphatically convicting.
Present: Convictions come from the Holy Scriptures – As we immerse ourselves in the Word of God, the Spirit of God changes our heart and challenges our mind so that we become convicted of sin in our own lives and in the injustice that we see around us. The Scriptures have the power to pierce through our apathy and indifference; to invade our capricious conscience; to penetrate the fallow and infertile ground of our wayward hearts. As we are saturated with Truth, God’s Spirit can supernaturally create within us robust convictions that will enable us to stand the strength of any storm that might encroach upon our lives.
Future: – Convictions come from having a clearly defined end goal – For instance, if my goal is to shed 100 pounds of weight and I have a clear picture of what it takes to get there then I suspect that 2 of my convictions will involve a healthy diet and regular exercise. If my goal is to stand before the Father upon my death as one who is holy and unashamed then I will develop convictions along the way that will help to steer my choices regarding what I can and cannot do. One of Jonathan Edward’s Resolutions went like this: Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life. Thoughts of death turned his mind to eternal realities, making worldly temptations of the moment seem empty and unattractive. Living as if he was in his last hour helped him keep sinful things at a distance. Having his heart and mind set upon heaven helped him cultivate clear and concise convictions.
May God make us men and women of conviction – men and women who really believe what we say that believe!