t’s only fitting that we define our word of the day right at the outset. Conviction (kuhn-vik-shuhn):
(1) a fixed or firm belief.
(2) the act of convicting.
(3) the state of being convinced.
The root word of conviction, of course, is convict. This is a familiar term. In our society criminals are convicted of crimes by going through the justice system. During the legal process there’s a lot of gray area: you know, appeals galore and all that “he said, she said” stuff. But after the judge or jury deliberates, the verdict is black and white: it’s either guilty or not guilty.
In the justice system a conviction brings closure and clarity. Although a bit tedious at times, the process for coming to a conclusion is straightforward and decisive.
I wish the same were true for matters pertaining to our Christian faith. As Paul says in Romans 14: “Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind” (verse 5). Or as noted above, we must arrive at “the state of being convinced.”
Now, if only getting there was straightforward and decisive.
One of the most rewarding parts of my life is being actively involved in ministry with young adults. In addition to teaching Sabbath school, I lead a Monday night Bible study at a downtown café. It’s rewarding, fulfilling, and frustrating (I can say that because I’m just 25 myself, and I know how fickle we can be).
Over the past few years of being involved with these two groups, I’ve had many conversations on difficult spiritual topics, the decision about which could lead to a paradigm shift in a person’s Christian experience. On more than one occasion I’ve had an exchange go something like this:
Me: So, how have you been doing lately?
Friend: Well, I’ve had a lot on my mind. I’ve been thinking a lot about [insert topic here].
Me: Oh yeah? Well, maybe God is trying to tell you something.
Friend: I don’t know. I just haven’t been feeling convicted enough to change.
And pause right there.
(This is one of my favorite soapbox topics, so please indulge me for a second.)
are one of the biggest hindrances to our spiritual growth. Why? Because feelings lead to decisions, decisions about potentially complicated spiritual issues that we are not meant to figure out on our own.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not minimizing the power that God has to stir our emotions and feelings. The question we must ask ourselves is, Where—or from whom—are these feelings coming?
At our Bible study a few weeks ago one of the guys began sharing his testimony. He told us about how he had spent more than three years in jail, and how God had used the time behind bars to show him what life was meant to be.
While he was sharing his experience, he used our word of the day.
“I just felt God convicting my heart,” he said. “That’s awesome, man!” I replied. “How did you know God was convicting you?”
“I just started reading the Bible, and everything started to become clear.”
This young man reminded me about the power of true conviction.
Conviction is not something that originates within us. Conviction is what Christ does in us. But in order to hear and feel Him we must take advantage of the personal relationship He offers us, using the tools He’s given us: prayer and Bible study.
Lately I’ve become convicted (no pun intended) that true conviction doesn’t just materialize out of thin air. We can’t expect to be truly changed unless we truly seek God’s will.
Now, that’s the definition of conviction.
Jimmy Phillips (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes from Bakersfield, California, where he is electronic media coordinator for San Joaquin Community Hospital. Visit his Web site at www.introducingthewhy.com. This article was published December 8, 2011.