Conviction is not something someone else can give you. It’s something that must come from within. Another person’s conviction is not yours because it has not been distilled through your own mind and heart. Conviction is the result of a process within you whereby you form strong beliefs based on the knowledge you have.
As believers, we form our convictions from two things: God’s word and His Holy Spirit. These work in concert to help build in us beliefs about God, people, the world, spiritual things, work, money, relationships, etc. As we read God’s word, God’s Spirit gives us understanding about “everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).
But why are convictions important?
They are important because of what happens in Acts 28. Paul and his crew are shipwrecked on an island when they start making camp. As they build the fire, a snake comes out of the sticks he’s just put on the fire and bites Paul on the hand. At once the natives of the island believe he is a murderer and “justice has not allowed him to live” (v. 4). Death is imminent. Karma is at work. What goes around comes around.
Here’s where things become puzzling. Paul shakes off the snake into the fire and “suffers no harm” (v. 5). The people wait for Paul to die when we see a huge shift in their opinion of Paul. “When they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god” (v. 6).
Let’s get this straight. Because Paul was bitten, he is a murderer and assured of death. But because he didn’t die, he must be a god. This is surely the kind of behavior James had in mind when he talked about “double-minded men” (James 1:8).
What does this mean?
Here’s the point: these men had no firm conviction about the nature of people and the nature of God. This one person (Paul) could be, to them, the worst criminal or one of their gods. They had no ballast in their boat, no direction, no understanding. They did not know Christ, so they had no clear thinking because their minds were still blinded by the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4).
For us who do know Christ, it can still be like this. We can have flawed beliefs that lead to flighty behavior. We can believe that if we’re good God will bless us and if we’re bad God will punish us. That’s the kind of belief these natives had, and that’s why they were driven and tossed by the wind.
Instead, let us be a people form convictions from God’s word through His Spirit. Let us be a people who whisper boldly that God “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). Let us be a people who smile broadly and say that “God cause all things to work together for good” (Romans 8:28). Let us be a people of conviction.