How deep are your beliefs about God?
Some kids are nearly undone by peer pressure. Especially if asked to publicly acknowledge their gratitude to Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins. The word “sin,” in case you haven’t noticed, has become a word to avoid, thanks to the growing influence of cultural tolerance.
So how do we help our young people to honor God in a society that, increasingly, is choosing to abandon Him? How do we help our kids to separate the truth from the half-truths and outright lies?
We help them to develop personal convictions about who God is — and who He says we are. I’m talking about beliefs so deep, so personal, that our kids feel strengthened to enter the arena of antagonistic culture and not crumble under the pressure. If I can use the words of pop singer Taylor Swift, they’ll be able to “shake it off, shake it off.”
My Own Wavering Conviction
Back in the ninth grade, I clearly remember the sting of being laughed at for wearing a “Jesus Saves” patch that I had hand-sewn onto my windbreaker. An older student, a popular senior, took one look at the patch, curled his lip in derision, and spit out the words, “Jesus Freak!”
It still shames me to admit that I used my school books to hide the patch from public viewing the rest of the school day — and I promptly removed the patch the minute I got home.
Why did I care so much about another student’s ridicule? I think it came down to my being mentally and emotionally unprepared for the attack. I remember how happy it made me to attach the patch to my jacket, because I did love Jesus. I thought the patch would give me a “safe” way to witness. Alas, like Peter, I quickly denied my Lord when I got some pushback.
The bottom line: I believed, but I lacked conviction. What I now know: we can’t be fully committed to God, if we don’t fully commit to knowing Him. It’s our personal relationship with God that gives us strength. As they say, “You can know of something, or you can know something.”
God used that event to help me sink roots of conviction and faith. My Savior loves me, and I love Him. My Savior knows me, and I know Him. My joy at that knowing can’t be shaken by any person.
How Belief and Conviction Differ
To have belief in something is “to accept it as genuine or real.” To have a conviction about something is to be thoroughly convinced of its truth. Genuine conviction enables us to take a stand — regardless of the consequences.
The apostle Paul had this kind of belief. He endured beatings for Christ! He was imprisoned for Christ! He was stoned for Christ! What did Paul say about all this suffering? “I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12). Paul was so persuaded in his conviction about Christ that not even the threat of death could shake it. Paul was beheaded, but his conviction continues to help us get our heads straight today.
That’s the kind of belief that several students at Columbine High School had when guns were pointed at their heads as they were asked, “Do you believe in God?” Though it also cost them their lives, their conviction enabled them to boldly declare, “Yes!” One of the students, Rachel Scott, had earlier written in her diary, “I’m not going to apologize for speaking the name of Jesus…I’m not going to hide the light God has put in me. If I have to sacrifice everything, I will.”
Should those of us currently lacking this boldness detest ourselves for it? I don’t think God is at all interested in our wallowing in our moments of weakness. As He did with his disciple Peter, Jesus is ever ready to forgive us, brush us off, and send us back into battle.
Do Questions = Lack of Faith?
While some of our youth are bold like the students mentioned above, many develop their strength of conviction only by taking baby steps. Like me, their confidence in God is built by a slow and steady walk with Him.
How might we guide our youth in developing this confidence? We can start by helping them to get clear on real truth — God’s truth — not the version of “truth” that our secular society loves to spew. Let us encourage our kids to examine the evidence of God. Does He love us? Does He have a purpose for us? Are we important to Him? Do our thoughts, words, and actions matter?
The Bible answers all of these questions, and more.
Many condemn Thomas for refusing to believe that Jesus rose, until the disciple personally saw Jesus’ nail wounds. But his disbelief does have some merit. Thomas refused to take another person’s word as truth. He was only going to believe after he personally experienced the risen Jesus.
Does the bible include this story to slap our hands for not having blind faith? My question to that is, “If faith is offered blindly, does it really have meaning?”
Faith, of course, is a foundational part of conviction. No amount of evidence can create 100 percent certainty. God likes mystery; he’s not going to answer all of our questions. But God, in His Word, tells us to earnestly seek after Him. Like Thomas, our youth probably have doubts about God. Instead of judging them for not simply believing what we’ve taught them, let’s encourage their personally investing time in getting to know God.
Through reading the Bible we learn the specific truths about who God is. This knowledge leads to trust, which leads to our willingly turning our lives over to Him. It is through the daily building of a personal relationship with God that our young people will form unshakeable convictions that will give them the strength to deal with life.
“Believing something without evidence is like taking a leap into the dark,” goes the saying, but “faith that is rooted in truth is like stepping into the light.” Our wish-washy, culturally tolerant society often feels dark. Let’s shine God’s unchanging truth on it.
Thought to Ponder
A lyric in a popular Christian song says, “Cause I’m all in…til the day I die.” Talk about conviction! This week, examine your own convictions about God. Does the bible influence your beliefs, or is society influencing your beliefs? Which do you trust more? Why? Stop and acknowledge that people can have deep convictions about something and still be tragically wrong if the things they believe with conviction are wrong beliefs. Our God is never wrong. I can’t say the same for this world.
This blog post has been adapted from the book The Beauty of Intolerance, by Josh and Sean McDowell. To purchase a copy of this helpful resource, please visit our Store page.