Belief Versus Conviction
As we enter the Easter season, I wanted to share some thoughts with you regarding the important question of belief versus conviction. I recently heard a speaker say that beliefs may waiver but we will die for our convictions. For purposes of our review we will define belief as “a principle or body of principles held by a group” and conviction will be defined as “a strong persuasion.” We may be influenced to change our beliefs but convictions have the element of certainty and therefore they are not negotiable. Unfortunately, too many men are relying solely on beliefs and they have not grown in their spiritual lives to determine what they should live out as a conviction.
To demonstrate the incredible power of conviction, I want us to go back to the Old Testament and look at the directions given to Abraham regarding his son Isaac. Genesis 22:1-15 states “Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.’ Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, ‘Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.’ Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, ‘Father?’ ‘Yes, my son?’ Abraham replied. ‘The fire and wood are here,’ Isaac said, ‘but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ Abraham answered, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’ And the two of them went on together. When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. ‘Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ he said. ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.’ Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.’ The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, ‘I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” What an incredible parallel of what was to come when Jesus, the only Son of God, would be sacrificed for yours and my sins. There is no doubt in my mind that Abraham held a tremendous conviction to God and because of that conviction he carried out the directions he was given to the letter.
While it would be easy to spend the remainder of this article focused on Abraham and his incredible certainty of God’s plan, I want us to turn our focus to Isaac. We often miss the fantastic role he played in unfolding this prediction of future events. We rarely stop to consider that at the time of this event Isaac was a young man and Abraham was in excess of 100 years old. While it is not particularly important as to Isaac’s specific age (it is speculated by historians that he was somewhere between mid-teens and mid-thirties when this event occurred), it is important to recognize that he had reached an age where, physically, he could have resisted his fathers efforts to bind him and place him on the altar. Obviously, Abraham had a very strong relationship with Isaac, his only son, and Abraham had lived out his conviction to God in such a way that Isaac shared that conviction. Isaac’s compliance can only be interpreted as conviction to his father and faith that Abraham would only do what God directed him to do. Isaac went all the way to the point of death when God stepped in and provided a substitution. It was never God’s intent to sacrifice Isaac but only to test Abraham. In order for this test to be successfully completed, Isaac had to be a willing participant. Isaac demonstrated tremendous conviction under circumstances that I don’t believe many of us could have voluntarily complied. What would you have done? I don’t know that I could honestly say that I would have willingly gone along without at least raising some questions or offering some alternative actions.
If Abraham, Isaac, or both simply relied on beliefs, this event could have gone in a very different direction. God’s desire is that we grow in our relationship with Him so that we will not waiver but stand firm in our convictions. While Satan will attempt to influence our beliefs, our convictions provide us the essential foundation for being the spiritual warriors that God calls us to be. Thank goodness that Abraham and Isaac had strong convictions to carry out God’s plan and did not lean on beliefs for determining the appropriate course of action.
Isaac’s actions are foretelling of the same conviction we will see from Jesus Christ. Jesus has total conviction to his Father’s plan and he follows it to the letter, even to the cross. Just as Isaac could have resisted and in all likelihood overpowered his elderly father, Jesus could have decided to avoid the cross and physical death. Yet he knew that God’s plan had to be fulfilled and he had to be a willing participant in fulfilling that plan. While Isaac was saved from the sacrifice, Jesus could not be relieved of that role. Isaac received a substitution and it symbolizes what Jesus would do for all of mankind when he is crucified to pay our sin debt.
My prayer is that each of you will take this Easter season to evaluate your relationship with your Heavenly Father and His only Son Jesus Christ. Are you simply relying on “beliefs” or are you growing in your “conviction” to the God of the Universe. May your conviction be that God is your Jehova-jireh; He is your provider in all things. Celebrate the resurrection of the one and only Savior sacrificed for you and me. Thank you Father that you love us so much that you provided the means for us to come back to you and that is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. AMEN