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We often hear stories of unsung heroes who defied all odds and accomplished incredible acts during their lifetime. One of those unsung heroes would be Jacob Atem. Jacob has a story that is not well known but is remarkable. He grew up in South Sudan during a time of war and unrest. One day when he was six years old, he was tending to the animals and fields when he saw fire and smoke coming from his village. This would be the day he lost everything – his family, friends, and home. Luckily, he was able to escape with his older cousin to the safety of the forest.
Convictions are the compasses of life – that keep us moving in the right direction.
They didn’t know what to do so they began a thousand-mile trek to Ethiopia hopeful for a new start. Each day brought challenges that included: fighting off rival militia, escaping lion attacks, and having enough food to survive. Regardless of the opposition, Jacob and his cousin pressed on. After arriving in Ethiopia, both of them were selected to be moved to the United States. Jacob was sent to Michigan where he thrived in education and graduated with a Masters in Physical Health. With a drive to make a difference in his homeland, Jacob used what he had learned to open the first medical clinic in Maar, South Sudan.
What was the driving force that led Atem to rise above the difficulties and in the end, bring change to his homeland? Author and Pastor Warren Wiersbe writes, “Convictions are the compasses of life – that keep us moving in the right direction. They are the foundation stones that help us to stand firm when everything around us is shaking and changing.” I would venture to say that Atem was driven by his convictions, and nothing was going to stop him from making a difference in South Sudan…and the rest is history.
What Are Convictions?
Professor of Psychology, Linda Skitka writes, “convictions are attitudes that are treated more like possessions or aspects of the self.” In other words, convictions are not just mere opinions, but they are firm beliefs that define who we are. They help determine parameters that in turn charts a course for our lives. When it comes to convictions, the old saying is true – if you don’t stand for anything, then you will fall for everything. Therefore, it is critical that we give careful attention to what is truly important to us and solidify our non-negotiable values.
Daniel: A Man of Conviction
The Bible tells an incredible story of Daniel, who was a young Israelite man who possessed strong convictions. After King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians besieged Jerusalem in 597 BC, Daniel was among four men chosen to serve in this king’s court. The king offered Daniel the best training, education, and diet available. Daniel decided that instead of enjoying such delicacies, he would not subject himself to compromising his faith. Daniel 1:8-9 says, “Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore, he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs.” Daniel took a stand for what he believed, and the result was God’s favor on his life.
Types of Convictions
Indeed, many convictions immerse every part of our lives. By example, here are a few categories of convictions that we must strategically consider:
- Relationship Convictions – What kind of relationships will I allow to influence me?
- Time Convictions – How will I spend my time? What will I give my life to attaining?
- Family Convictions – How will I lead my family? What will my family be committed to?
- Entertainment Convictions – How will I allow entertainment to influence me?
- Career Convictions – How will I properly align my career with God’s calling on my life?
- Financial Convictions – How will my finances be ordered in the most God-honoring way?
- Health Convictions – How are my health decisions impacting the longevity and impact of my life?
- Spiritual Convictions – What priority will I place on worshipping God and being committed to his church?
These are just a few examples of how convictions play into our lives. If we don’t consider what guardrails and boundaries we are creating for the various areas of our lives, we’ll find ourselves in a place with lack of conviction which always leads to despair and even chaos.
Where Do You Begin?
Guiding Principle #1: Pray Regularly
Prayer should play a vital role in life because it allows us to communicate with our Creator. Whether it involves situations we are facing, struggles we are dealing with, or battles we are up against, prayer gives us the strength to keep fighting for what we stand for. Prayer is also a key component in hearing from God regarding the convictions he is calling us to establish in our lives.
“In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.” Ephesians 6:18 (MSG)
Guiding Principle #2: Stay Immersed in the Bible
The Bible is our ultimate guide. Within this incredible book, God has laid out the answers to our questions and the direction for our life. By continually studying and meditating on the Bible, we can become more like Christ, our ultimate example. A clarity of direction occurs as we invest time reading and applying the Bible.
“Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.” Joshua 1:8 (NLT)
Guiding Principle #3: Be Committed
The idea of commitment is experiencing a significant decline in our modern society. And without commitment, convictions will be difficult to keep. We need to contest the norm by demonstrating a commitment in how we live, work and pursue godliness, all with godly conviction. Different seasons in life can be difficult, but when we commit to sticking it out, we will see God bring the best in every season.
“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” – Proverbs 16:3 (ESV)
Guiding Principle #4: Do Everything as Unto the Lord
Work is often viewed as either positive or negative. For some, work is seen as tedious, hard, and tiresome, while others see their work as fulfilling, fun, and exciting. When you live with the conviction that there is an eternal purpose in your work, not only will you reshape your perspective, but you’ll approach your work with greater passion and tenacity.
“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Colossians 3:23 (NLT)
These are just a few of the guiding principles that can help shape your convictions. The truth is that as you commit to godly convictions in your life, God will work in an amazing, undeniable fashion. Convictions result in the difference from living a natural life versus a supernatural life. If you’re a Christian, God wants you to experience a life filled with his supernatural work in and through you. Convictions are one of the ways you will see your life, work, relationships and church accomplish much for the Kingdom of God.
So, what are your convictions?