Talking about conviction last week (https://sonjaandersonbooks.com/2014/09/14/fred-fred-use-your-head-a-plea-for-common-sense/) got me thinking–how do you ever reach a place where you can be so sure of something? Even the head of the Anglican Church was quoted this week saying he “had doubts” sometimes. Doesn’t everyone?
I don’t think people are born with great conviction. You might be born into a strong Christian (or other religious) family, you might be raised in that faith, but the kind of conviction that made a 17th century Japanese Christian refuse to step on the fumi-e, a picture of Jesus or Mary and baby Jesus, knowing that they’d be burned at the stake, drowned in tidal waters, or thrown into a boiling mud pit for that refusal–that kind of conviction has to be come from someplace deep down inside–someplace unshakeable.
Christians around the world have faced times of severe persecution, and stories abound of people singing to their deaths amidst flames and smoke. Jesus’ disciples themselves are said to have almost all died a martyrs’ death. How on earth can anyone ever be that “sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1)? It seems impossible!
The lives of Jesus’ disciples maybe give us a clue. At the time that Jesus was arrested and killed on the cross, his most faithful disciples were denying that they knew him, fleeing the scene, or hiding in a locked room, terrified that they’d be next. Yet, history and legend tell us that almost all of them died because of their conviction that Jesus was God who had come to be with us and to save us. What happened to turn them into such heroes of the faith?
Some people have claimed that Jesus’ disciples took Jesus’ body from the tomb in order to say that Jesus had raised from the dead. But would you die a terrible death for something you knew to be a hoax? That doesn’t make sense. It makes much more sense that Jesus proved to them to be who he said he was–God with them, God who loved them, died, and was raised from death for them–our Messiah.
Have you ever wanted Jesus to prove that to you? When I was at my most alone, vulnerable time, living in Japan and seeing people with a very different sort of faith all around me, I started reading my Bible more and more often. I wanted to know truth. I’d come across verses that made claims about things that God would do and I started holding Him to those promises. Like Moses did, when God was frustrated with the flimsy faith of the Israelites, I would literally quote God back to God, begging Him to keep the promises in His Word.
Even though specific situations weren’t immediately resolved or made clear, I started feeling God’s presence. I started to sense His care for me. I began to see hints of how He might be working in my life. I began to thank Him for the ways that I could see Him work, and to trust Him for the things that were still so terribly unclear. I began to realize what was meant by a faith that is “sure of what we hope for.”
I heard Crowder on the radio the other day singing a phrase that went, “In the middle of the storm, I will be holding on to You.” I don’t know what storms are ahead for Christians, and I hope we never have to face anything as severe as the Japanese Christians had to face, but I do know who I’ll be holding on to in the storms of my life!
I hope you’ll be holding on with me.