By Pr Ay Nee Ng
Church, the last weeks we have been hearing about convictions. We learned about personal convictions versus biblical truths and were challenged to consider whether our personal convictions pose problems. They may slow us down. They may also influence how effective we are as disciples of Jesus Christ. Today, my message is on our faith conviction. Biblically, where should we stand in the world and what are we to do?
“So we continue to preach Christ to each person, using all wisdom to warn and to teach everyone, in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature person in Christ” (Col. 1:28). Church, we are asked to preach Christ and to grow into maturity—to stop being a baby Christian! But what happens when we face persecution for our faith? Do we stand strong, pray, and believe, or do we fall and succumb to the pressures and tortures?
When missionaries are called to the mission field, what are they to do when their food is poisoned by a witch doctor? A group of missionaries whose food was poisoned prayed and gave thanks for the food, asking God to bless what they were to partake. Guess what? The witch doctor was shocked when the next morning the missionaries were alive. The next day, he tried to double the portion, thinking it wasn’t strong enough. Again, the missionaries gave thanks for their food and asked God to bless what they were to partake. The next morning they were alive! By then, the witch doctor succumb to a greater power—our Lord Jesus Christ. Church, faith is believing in Jesus’s name; in Him we have power.
Let me share with you some true stories of people standing for their faith that are happening around the globe today. These stories are taken from the Australian Prayer Network Newsletter on 11th and 18th July, 2016, respectively.
Egypt: Modern Day Daniel Saved from Savage Dogs Meant to Tear Him Apart
Like the lions in Daniel’s den, the ferocious attack dogs meant to torture Majed El Shafie in his Egyptian jail cell refused to do anything to him. They sat placidly, and one even licked his forehead – to the rage of the guards. “These dogs are trained to listen to their masters,” El Shafie told Sid Roth. “But there is no higher Master than the Lord Jesus Christ.” How did El Shafie, a remarkable law student, wind up on the wrong side of law? First, he converted to Christianity from Islam, a big no-no in Egypt, which defines itself as officially Muslim. Then he founded a pro-Christian legal aid organization with thousands of members. But the last straw was he wrote a book expounding his ideas. Please check out our website for the full story. Source: God Reports from Australian Prayer network newsletter
Christians in Egypt Request Prayer after Series of Attacks
1. On 20th May several Christian homes were attacked in al-Karam village in Minya province, as a result of a rumour about a relationship between a Muslim woman and a Christian man. During the attack the man’s mother was attacked and publicly stripped of her clothes. The woman is around 70 years of age. Of the 16 people arrested for the assault, 11 were recently released on bail. On 9th June in Damshir village in Minya province four Muslims armed with knives attacked a Coptic man and his family. They alleged that construction work he was doing was intended to build a church and they threatened him and told him to leave the village. After he filed a complaint the four men were detained, but the authorities told him to stop the construction work.
2. On 10th June a man attacked a nun at a medical centre run by the Coptic Orthodox Church in the town of Biba in Beni Suef province. When a guard tried to help the nun he was also attacked. Later the same day the attacker returned, armed with a knife. The guard managed to lock the man out of the centre. A complaint was filed with the police, but no action has been taken so far. On 17th June a mob of a few thousand people gathered at the house of a Copt in al-Bayda village near Alexandria, after prayers had been held at the mosque. They shouted that they would not allow a church in the village and accused him of turning the building which contains his apartment into a church. Several Coptic homes were attacked, two were seriously damaged and at least ten were looted.
3. On 29th June in Kom al-Loufy village in Minya province four houses belonging to Copts were set on fire after a rumour spread that two brothers were constructing a church. After the rumour started the police asked the brothers to sign a statement saying that the building they were constructing on their land was for residential purposes, however their homes and the homes of others were attacked nevertheless. On 30th June Father Raphael Moussa was killed in Arish in Northern Sinai. Father Raphael was the parish priest of St George’s church. He was shot by several perpetrators on his way back from a church service. The Egyptian branch of the so-called “Islamic State” movement has claimed responsibility for the murder, and has threatened to carry out more killings.
Church, seeing what is going on in the world, we are up against oppositions to our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Do we have strong convictions? We have the responsibility to teach biblical convictions to counter the secular values that believers are constantly exposed to. The Word of God brings forth life and stirs up our faith. Remember the old cliché: “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”. What is ironic today is that people often have strong convictions about weak issues (food, fashion, football, living standards, etc.) and weak convictions about major issues such as what is right and what is wrong, what is fair, equitable, just, righteous, and respectable, and what is unfair, unjust, disrespectful, and immoral.
Convictions are so important to our everyday existence, especially our faith conviction! They are an important measure of spiritual growth. When we know the “whys” in what we are doing, we will have strong convictions to do or not to do something when asked to do it.
As I shared previously, dictionaries define conviction as a fixed or strong belief /opinion, but it is really much more than that. Your convictions include your values, commitments, and motivations. Howard Hendricks said about convictions. “A belief is something you will argue about. A conviction is something you will die for!” Our convictions determine our conduct. They motivate us to act in certain ways.
When you first become a Christian, you often do things simply because other Christians around you suggest them or model them. You may pray, read the Bible, attend services, and even serve a little because you see the examples of others and think it is the norm. This is fine for a new Christian. Little children learn the same way. We copy the actions of our peers thinking that they and their actions will lead us to spirituality and maturity. But, Church, as we grow, we each must eventually develop our own reasons for doing what we do. We can’t stay a baby Christian! We must discover the why (reasons) in the things we do; they will become our convictions. Church, biblical convictions are essential for spiritual growth and maturity. Without them, we are “unstable and double- minded” as James said.
“But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position” (Jas. 1:6-10). Just imagine, what would happen to you if you had no convictions? You would be at the mercy of circumstances, swayed by the tide of things.
Every day you have people minding their business in your affairs and telling you what to even say or do. Come on, if you don’t determine what’s important for you and how you will live, other people will determine it for you. A person without convictions is a weakling who tends to sit on the fence of decision making, being double-minded. It is like a jellyfish, mindlessly following the crowd.
Paul was talking about convictions when he said in Romans 12:2 (Phillips):
“Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within…”
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible…. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Heb. 11:1, 3, 6).
Faith convictions have an attractive quality. Do you know why many cults have popularity? Even though many cults’ beliefs are erroneous and often illogical, they still believe them with such an intense conviction. In contrast, churches without clear, strong convictions will never attract the level of commitment that Christ deserves. We must teach and preach with strong convictions. They give us direction and purpose; they instill passion in what we do! Church, do we have strong convictions? Are our faith convictions strong enough to stand the test of time, strain, and persecution?
Remember, we are all “work-in- progress”. We aren’t right and perfect to apply faith. Yet, we just need to have conviction of who we are in Christ Jesus and what His death meant to us as believers. His death brought us life! Faith is trusting ourselves in our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, and handing Him the reigns of our life. The minute you hand the reins of your life to Him, He stays in you. He isn’t going anywhere unless you chase Him out! Do you have this strong faith conviction?
When we apply faith, we don’t need to wait for the evidence of what we are asking for; we can move on knowing that God has the best for us. We don’t need to see with our own eyes or have the answer before us. Believing is waiting and knowing deep down in our hearts the end result that will happen.
Faith (Rom. 14:22) gives us the conviction that we are free from all unnecessary scruples (feelings of doubt or hesitation with regard to the morality or propriety of a course of action). But it doesn’t give us the right to flaunt our liberty recklessly over the weak in faith. Instead, we are to take the weaker in faith, walk with them, and help them grow their faith in Jesus Christ. Now, if we have scruples (are hesitant or reluctant to do something that one thinks may be wrong; Rom. 14:23) about matters that are wrong, we mustn’t act contrary to our conscience. Violating our conscience isn’t acting in faith; it is sin. It is better to abstain from doing what you aren’t supposed to do and explain that you aren’t doing that, when asked to do it, because of your personal convictions and in order to not offend others.
Church, knowing what to do (knowledge), why we do it (perspective), and how to do it (skill) is worthless if we don’t have the right convictions to motivate us to do something. We need a faith conviction in our Lord Jesus Christ to align us back to the Word of God!
Where do we stand in the world with our faith conviction? With the knowledge of who Jesus is and what He did for each one of us and the Word growing strong in our lives, we have a bigger perspective of why we are here on earth. Our faith conviction gives us purpose in life and equips us with skills to accomplish His tasks ahead, His perfect will.
What are we asked to do? Let’s see the life of Jesus Christ first. Jesus’ life was dominated by His conviction that He was sent to do the Father’s will, which produced a deep awareness of His life purpose and kept him from being distracted by the agenda of others. Study all the times that Jesus used the phrase, “I must …” to gain insight into the convictions that He held. When people develop Christ-like convictions, they too develop a sense of purpose in life. Now, what are we asked to do? We are to follow our Lord Jesus Christ.
“So we continue to preach Christ to each person, using all wisdom to warn and to teach everyone, in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature person in Christ” (Col. 1:28). More than just preach and teach Jesus Christ, let’s continue to build the kingdom of God and have believers fired up with their faith conviction. There will come a time when we face strong oppositions to our faith as we draw to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Are we prepared to face persecution and even lose our lives for Jesus?
Church, encourage each other faith conviction! This is required of us. As Paul encourages Timothy: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops” (2 Tim. 2:2-6).
Church, our faith conviction is about knowing what to do (knowledge), why we do it (perspective), and how to do it (skill). They are life giving because they motivate us to actually do things! We are NOT couch potatoes! We are doers of the Word of God and our hearts grow with compassion for the lost, poor, sick, and needy. We will face trials, adversity, and pressures in this world, but we should stand firm in biblical principles and our faith in Jesus Christ, the substance of things that we hope for and the evidence of things not seen. Let’s build a better world by sowing “hope” in people’s lives. Let’s pray.