A belief one supposedly has is either a preference or a conviction. A preference can be a strong belief and with that belief go into full time service, being a teacher, pastor or even a missionary. It can be a strong belief and give all of our wealth to it and be energetic in proselytizing others into it as well as teach our children our belief. With all of this it can still only be a preference, something we prefer to believe, or that we are pressured into believing. We might prefer it over some other religion, but that is all it is. The reason it is a preference is because it can be changed when enough pressure is applied.
We see in Daniel chapter 3 that King Nebuchadnezzar made a statue and commanded all to bow down and worship when they heard the sound of a music instrument. Pressure can come through peer pressure, family, jail or prison and persecution. We see this with Shadrach, Meshed and Abednego and the pressure applied to them by King Nebuchadnezzar. What would I do if faced with a burning furnace? Would I recant, or would I be like the three men and be willing to die for what I believe in?
What we see with these three men is what a conviction really is. There are several issues that come out showing what a conviction is. The first thing that stands out with these three men is when the pressure of the fiery furnace stands before them and they did not change their belief. They told Nebuchadnezzar, after he gave them a chance to change their mind: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18
Another aspect of conviction that stands out with these three men was that they were willing to stand alone. These three men did not bow. There were other Jews in the city, what were they doing? They were bowing. If we need other people with us before we stand then our belief is a preference instead of a conviction. A belief that is a conviction is non-negotiable. A belief that is a conviction is God given; it is part of one’s life.
Nebuchadnezzar gave these 3 men a second chance. “Then Nebuchadnezzar, in rage and fury, gave the command to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. So they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, ‘Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?’’ Daniel 3:13-15
One last aspect that stands out to me in this passage of Scripture regarding these three men is that they did not need to be assured of success before they took their stand. “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18
A question that comes: How do we know if our belief is a preference or a conviction? The answer is our life style. Conviction will show up in how we live our daily lives. James tells us: “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” (James 2:14) We are not saved by works, but where there is real faith (conviction) it will be seen in how we live, spend money, our time, etc.
The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us: “that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Hebrews 6:12) The word for sluggish could also be translated as lazy, stupid, slothful. One could continue in Hebrews 11 looking at those we should imitate like Noah, Abraham, Moses and others who were stoned, sawn into, wandered and lived in caves, destitute, but kept a good testimony through faith. The characteristic that stands out in their life style is obedience and sacrifice.
We are coming to the climax of the ages and there is a need for men/women of conviction who will take their stand no matter what.