It can be said of any Christian witness that for the first generation of believers their faith will be a matter of conviction, for the second generation it will only be a belief and by the time of the third generation it will be nothing more than an opinion. They may openly proclaim the same faith, yet in reality their attachment to those truths is vastly different from the generations before them. Although this may be most apparent in the youth of the church, yet it can also be the case in older believers also. It is evident today that many professing Christians have fallen away from that position of conviction which their predecessors have held and are 'carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness'. Their faith has become at best a belief and at worst an opinion. In considering what the difference is between those three positions it is easiest to reject that of an opinion, for opinions are subjective to the desires and views of those holding them. One opinion can never be truly considered to be of greater value than another opinion. As such we should never consider our scriptural standards as opinions, for John 17:17 says that ‘thy word is truth'. The doctrines of the Bible are not opinions but God’s revealed truth, a truth that is absolute and unchangeable and what it teaches can never be considered on a par with other ‘truths’.
It is however more difficult to distinguish between conviction and belief. What is the difference between having conviction and having belief? It is probably best expressed by describing a belief as something we hold to, but a conviction being something which takes hold of us. Daniel when taken captive to Babylon we read that he 'purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat'. Daniel brought with him the teachings which had set Israel apart as a peculiar people, and some of those teachings covered the area of what was permissible for the Israelites to eat. When the king’s meat was placed before him, meat which may have been unlawful for him to eat, the question was asked of him, did he have conviction or belief in those teachings. Belief alone would only tell him what he ought to do; conviction however would result in action. Daniel was convinced of what he believed, it had taken hold of him and so he refrained from eating the king’s meat. For taking a biblical stand and being led by his convictions Daniel was blessed by God and received great honour in Babylon.
If we will remain steadfast in the faith, based on our conviction of the truth of Scripture God will likewise bless and honour us, and God’s Word will be honoured because of our faithfulness. How many Christians know what they ought to do, but have not the necessary conviction to do it. How many display their lack of conviction by moving from one church to another, from reformed, to charismatic, from Calvinist to Arminian, without thought or concern for the differing theology. How many abandon the standards of their home congregation when they are worshiping elsewhere. The need today is for Christians of conviction, who will not be swayed by the pressures and trends of the world, nor by the enticing words of man, but whose faith will take hold of them that they might remain faithful to ‘the faith which was once delivered unto the saints’. Pray that God would give to us the conviction which Daniel had, that we would also purpose in our hearts to remain faithful to God and follow him.