“In the world you will have tribulation…” (John 16:33, ESV). The suffering (CSB), trouble (NIV), trials (NLT), and tribulation (NASB) that Jesus promised His followers in this life becomes more apparent with each passing day. While persecution for the name of Christ has been rampant throughout the world for centuries, born-again believers in America are watching as their constitutionally protected religious freedoms are being targeted with satanic precision and hostility.
Sermons that teach the basic truths that God has woven into the fabric of creation are being censored and removed from the internet. Legislators are presently drafting laws to directly undermine objective realities and elevate experience and subjectivism as the arbitrators of truth and nature’s greatest virtues. The temptation for believers to fret because of evildoers (Ps 37:1), to live in constant fear of man (Prov 29:25), and to be weighed down by anxiety (Prov 12:25) constantly encroaches our peace of mind.
The world’s present social upheavals and temptations really aren’t that new (Eccl 1:9-10; 1 Cor 10:13). Neither is the primary question that every Christian must address: “How then shall we live?” Should comfort, convenience, complacency, or conviction be the driving force behind our thoughts and actions? Thankfully, the Bible is not silent on this matter.
It’s time. It is time to live with conviction. While the rest of the world thrusts itself down a rebellious spiral that will, apart from repentance and faith in Christ, end in destruction, every man and woman united to Christ by faith must labor with every fiber of their being to be salt and light to a dying world. This is not a suggestion or a recommendation. It is a mandate given by the Lord of Lords and King of Kings (Matt 5:13-16; 28:18-20). And only a life of conviction can produce salt with any taste and light with any brightness.
But how does one live with conviction? The Apostle Peter is particularly helpful on this topic. Towards the end of his first epistle, Peter gives three practical instructions to help believers live with conviction.
1. If you want to live with conviction, it is time to focus on the prize (1 Pet 4:1-6)
If you ask any athlete that has competed at a high level, they will tell you that it takes tremendous inner strength and discipline to focus on the prize while experiencing the pain of training and competition. And yet, no matter how much of a toll the preparation and competition takes on their mind and body, the hope of a worthy prize silences the impulse to quit.
In order to spend our remaining time on earth living for the will of God rather than the passions of our flesh (1 Pet 4:2), our focus must be on the prize of all prizes—eternal life. The promise for those who believe the gospel is that they will be able to stand in Christ’s righteousness before the Judge of all and be given entrance into never-ending life.
Now, it is true that believers will experience daily temptations to engage in sinful thoughts and behavior and absorb the ideologies of the unbelieving world. We will face extreme pressure and persecution from colleagues, family members, and folks on social media for our failure to go along with the crowd (1 Pet 4:3-4). It is for these specific times of difficulty that God has graciously provided us with the example of His Son. No person in the history of the world is more familiar with the hatred and darkness of mankind than the Son of Man. No one has such intimate knowledge of the world’s rejection and hatred than Jesus Christ. Yet, in the face of such great suffering, Christ persevered by his unwavering anticipation of the prize that lay before him (Heb 12:2). Therefore, every believer whose eyes are focused on the prize of eternal life and the Lord’s example will be equipped to live with conviction.
2. If you want to live with conviction, it is time to focus on God (1 Pet 4:7)
While believers are called to look forward to the prize of eternal life that is theirs in Christ (Phil 3:12-14), we must also reckon with the fact that we presently dwell in a sinful, broken world. Spend enough time on the news, and you’ll likely come to the same conclusion that Peter does—the end of all things is at hand (1 Pet 4:7)!
Now, when folk expressions like, “The sky is falling!” become our reality, our need for the exhortation to focus on God dramatically increases. When a person experiences an emergency and calls 911, they are exhorted to stay on the line to provide the operator with updates on the situation and receive important counsel until the proper resources arrive. Similarly, we must remain near to God’s Word to receive vital instruction for our present trying circumstances.
Peter’s exhortation is to remain self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of prayer. In difficult times, communication with God is essential for perseverance and continued fruitfulness. Our circumstances are not a surprise to God, but are providentially designed by him in order to fulfill his perfect purposes (Job 42:2). These truths of God’s purposeful sovereignty underscore the need for Christians to rely upon the One who knows all things (Job 37:16), orchestrates all things for his glory and the good of his people (Rom 8:28-32) and has infinite resources at his disposal (Rom 11:33-36). Therefore, when believers entrust themselves to God in prayer, they will be able to live with conviction through his gracious guidance.
3. If you want to live with conviction, it is time to focus on others (1 Pet 4:8-11)
One of the greatest hindrances to living with conviction is a focus on self instead of other believers. What will be best for me? Where will I be most comfortable? How do I best enjoy spending my time? Where would I most like to go? It’s not difficult to imagine the hopeless condition we would find ourselves in if the Lord Jesus Christ had come to earth with that mentality. But by great contrast, Christ pleased his Father by his commitment to suffer righteously (1 Pet 2:21) and shed his blood for our salvation (1 Pet 2:24) so that he might bring us to God (1 Pet 3:18). Jesus’ focus was on the glory of the Father and the eternal welfare of his people, not on self (Rom 15:1-3).
While we cannot ultimately save lost sinners or produce sanctification in the saints, God has nevertheless called us to labor in the areas of evangelism and service as we sojourn as exiles in the world. By his grace, God has provided us with two categories of spiritual gifts—speaking gifts and serving gifts—for the purpose of spiritually blessing others. A failure to arm oneself with a mindset of service and the commitment to steward the gifts God has entrusted to us will result in selfishness and will rob God of the glory he deserves. Therefore, Christians who desire to live with conviction must be committed to a life of serving others and living for the physical and spiritual well-being of others, both believers and unbelievers (Gal 6:10). This kind of life will be characterized by speaking God’s words and serving in the strength he supplies (1 Pet 4:10), and will thus reap the benefits of a conviction driven life: the glory of God through the Lord Jesus Christ.
In these last days, the need for conviction is essential as the fires of persecution surround us. Let us encourage one another that now is the time to focus on the prize, to focus on God, and to focus on loving and serving others.