What would you do if you were alone in what you believed? The question is not, “What would you do while in the minority?” We all find ourselves there. Rather, what would you do if you were isolated, abandoned by others, alone? Would you give in? Or would you stand up? Perhaps it is this exercise that shows us whether ours is a stance of conviction or convenience.
Jeremiah offers an example of one who stood almost completely alone. He took a stand for God and it resulted in rejection, loneliness, and persecution.
Jeremiah’s words were not reserved only for the elite. He spoke both to the leaders and to the common people. He was to “stand against all who live in the land” (Jeremiah 1:18 NET).
He confronted idolatrous practices and unjust acts. God promised to send the Babylonians unless the people repented. But others, so-called “prophets,” attempted to muffle Jeremiah’s voice with a din of positivity, “No harm will come to us. We will not experience war and famine” (Jeremiah 5:12). Their chorus of “peace, peace,” fell softly upon eager ears. While Jeremiah’s words, the words of God, grated upon the people.
Despite threats, violence against his person, and near death, Jeremiah remained faithful to his calling. He trusted in God’s promise, “They will attack you but they will not be able to overcome you, for I will be with you to rescue you” (Jeremiah 1:19).
His life was one of conviction, not convenience.
Paul was often accompanied in his travels and in his work. He gained strength and gave the same to his companions. But when Paul was tested with solitude and the silence of his friends he did not shrink, “At my first defense no one appeared in my support; instead they all deserted me” (2 Timothy 4:16). While no earthly friend stood by Paul’s side, “the Lord stood by [him] and strengthened [him]” (2 Timothy 4:17).
Did those who abandoned Paul do so because standing with him would have been inconvenient? Would it have cost them something? Would they have to pay with their freedom or their life? Paul’s faith was not a convenient one. It cost him dearly.
Paul was confident in the Lord. “The Lord will deliver me from every evil deed and will bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18). It was that faith that allowed Paul to accept every beating, every threat, every imprisonment, and every abandonment.
He knew the heavenly kingdom awaited those of conviction.
Our Lord’s faith was certainly not one of convenience. It was not convenient to leave the spiritual realm of heaven and put on flesh. It was not convenient to speak against the religious and secular leaders of his day. It was not convenient to give himself over to a mob, to watch as his friends deserted him, and to be lifted up in shame upon an excruciating cross.
Our Lord demonstrated conviction.
What of you? While, like Paul, we are never alone with Jesus, we may find one day to have no earthly companions. It may be that those whom you have respected when tested abandon what they know to be true. It may be that those difficult teachings of Jesus one day cease to be theoretical and must be put into practice. If you stand alone, trust that Jesus is there standing alongside you.
Is yours a faith of convenience or conviction?