I just got back from church. I heard my pastor speak on belief vs. conviction using Stephen out of Acts. He talked about how, as he meets with people, most will say they believe in Jesus. But he asks the question, "Is that belief a conviction?" Most will then mutter different excuses, but will ultimately land on that it is not a conviction.
A conviction is something that takes over one's life. It takes over the soul and allows nothing else to stand in its way. I was wresting in my own heart this morning, wondering if my belief in Christ stops there, or is it a conviction? As I'm thinking through it, it gets harder because my pastor moves to the idea of martyrdom. It was obvious in Stephen's life that Jesus Christ was no mere belief, someone he tucked away when He wasn't convenient. He was utterly convinced that He was (and is) Lord and that He satisfies the deepest longings of the soul. He was not going to stop heralding this Truth for mere physical persecution.
So what does this have to do with comfort? Well, I live a life free from much discomfort, much less physical persecution because of my faith. I buckle under the pressure of an awkward conversation, of someone giving me a weird look. And I believe this has happened because I don't suffer enough. I live a life filled with comfort and ease. Even right now, I'm typing on my Apple computer, using wireless internet, in the comfort of a condo in Alpharetta, Georgia. Why do I need God? I have everything I need right? Why do I need to trust him for my needs, when I seemingly have everything??
The truth is, I'm thankful for the blessing of these things. But they often become an idol. And in my heart of hearts, I would give it all up if I could just experience the presence of God like that experienced by many I read about, for instance John Paton.
John Paton was a missionary to the New Hebrides in the South Pacific 150 years ago. The island was full of cannibals, and he often was in danger of being killed. This is what he wrote while being hunted one night, as he he took refuge in a tree.
Being entirely at the mercy of such doubtful and vacillating friends, I, though perplexed, felt it best to obey. I climbed into the tree and was left there alone in the bush. The hours I spent there live all before me as if it were but of yesterday. I heard the frequent discharging of muskets, and the yells of the Savages. Yet I sat there among the branches, as safe as in the arms of Jesus. Never, in all my sorrows, did my Lord draw nearer to me, and speak more soothingly in my soul, than when the moonlight flickered among those chestnut leaves, and the night air played on my throbbing brow, as I told all my heart to Jesus. Alone, yet not alone! If it be to glorify my God, I will not grudge to spend many nights alone in such a tree, to feel again my Savior's spiritual presence, to enjoy His consoling fellowship. If thus thrown back upon your own soul, alone, all alone, in the midnight, in the bush, in the very embrace of death itself, have you a Friend that will not fail you then?
Basically, I'm exhausted with comfort, but my flesh still longs for it. I want to know God more fully, and I know suffering is the main way that is going to happen. So, if your my friend, please speak truth into my life about this reality.