Personal convictions function as our moral compass as we journey through this life. Christians are taught to treat this world not as our own but as strangers passing through it (Psalm 39:12). Often, when visiting a foreign country, exploring a new city, or hiking through a national park for the first time, we find we require tools to keep us from becoming lost and endangered. GPS, maps, celestial markers, and compasses do a great job in all sorts of terrains. Personal convictions function in much the same way in life. When we come to crossroads, our convictions will help us make beneficial, godly choices.
Daniel was an intelligent, handsome, righteous, young Jewish man when he was taken prisoner by King Nebuchadnezzar and exiled in Babylon (Daniel 1:4). Nebuchadnezzar planned to utilize Jerusalem’s brightest and most talented youth to his advantage. Although these Jews were taken against their will, they were not treated badly. In fact, many of the Jewish exiles would come to assimilate into the Babylonian culture, thus falling away from their faith.
The king brought Daniel and some of his friends to live in the palace and offered them the best food and wine from the king’s very own table (Daniel 1:5). Daniel, young but wise beyond his years, understood that to grow accustomed to rich food, wine, and other perks of training in the king’s service might make him become more loyal to the king than to his God. Therefore, “Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods” (Daniel 1:8).
Was the food or the wine offered by the king sinful? No! So why did Daniel refrain from eating it? Daniel’s personal conviction served as a way to protect himself from idolatry, keeping himself accountable to God, and set himself apart from his surrounding culture, as his decision proved to be a powerful witness to others—including non-believers looking on. (See Daniel 1 for the full story.)
Each mealtime was a reminder to Daniel that he was a follower of God—not the king. By eating vegetables and drinking water instead of lavish food and drink, Daniel relied on God for nourishment. Allowing himself to indulge in the king’s offerings might have proved to turn Daniel’s heart towards Nebuchadnezzar and an extravagant lifestyle rather than remaining focused on a heart bent towards serving God.
Having personal convictions is important to keep us from being swayed by the opinions of others or automatically doing what everyone else does. Someone with no personal convictions will be wishy-washy, indecisive, and/or easily led astray. When the crowd says, “Let’s all eat steak and lobster and wear fine silk robes!” it takes someone with personal convictions to stand up and say, “No, that isn’t good for me.” Daniel and his friends kept themselves and each other accountable by refusing the king’s food. (Having friends with similar personal convictions makes the road that much easier!)
The king’s guard was nervous he would pay dearly if the king’s new exiles became weak from malnourishment. So Daniel asked the guard to test him for ten days on vegetables and water. The guard agreed and, at the end of the ten days, Daniel and his friends looked healthier and better nourished than those who ate the king’s food! The guard was able to see for himself that vegetables—plus faith in God—was better nutrition than the richest of foods from the king’s table (Daniel 1:8-16).
Personal convictions formed by biblical principles help us to serve God with our lives. What the Bible promotes, we promote. What the Bible forbids, we refrain from. In this way, the Bible becomes the light to our path (Psalm 119:105). Personal convictions should never be based 100% on our feelings. Feelings may change, but God never does. “Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe” (Proverbs 28:26).
Everyone has opinions and preferences, but a person with godly conviction does not form their ideas based on selfish desires or for selfish gain. Those with personal convictions make conscious choices to hold themselves to a higher standard. Such people are sure of what they believe, and they are convinced of the things that matter most them as followers of Christ. They are willing to sacrifice temporary pleasure for an everlasting relationship with Jesus.
It's true—the Bible does not speak to every possible situation or scenario where we might have to make a choice to go along or stay behind. For example, the Bible does not specifically mention abortion, but we can apply what it does say about murder, God’s hand in creating each human being for a purpose, and the protection of the innocent. Using those biblical principles, we can conclude that abortion goes against the love of God.
Just because someone doesn't have the same personal convictions as you doesn't mean that they're wrong or sinning. Personal convictions are just that—personal. That means that you and I could have differing personal convictions about the same topic, yet BOTH of us would be right to follow them in our own lives.
Those exiles who traveled with Daniel and his friends, who chose to eat the king’s food, did not sin when they ate it because they did not have a personal conviction against it. Daniel’s personal conviction came from a fear that the rich food would be a temptation for him to turn from God, so he decided not to risk it and refrained. BOTH were right about the food.
Paul talks about this in Romans 14, but the key is in verse 5: "Each . . . should be fully convinced in their own mind..." (Romans 14:5). James 4:17 clarifies: "whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin." If you have decided that X-activity would cause you to sin, but you do it anyway, you've sinned because you went against your personal conviction.
For example, some Christians are personally convicted against drinking alcohol in any amount, while others are OK with drinking alcohol in moderation. Neither is sinning when they follow their personal convictions. We shouldn’t judge others when we have differing personal convictions on areas where the Bible isn't clear. We have enough to do just minding our own convictions!
Because they help you stand firm in an ever-changing, uncertain world. Your convictions will be a compass that guides you towards your True North—God. Young men and women with a “moral center” stand apart amid the moral chaos surrounding us.
Personal convictions keep you on point and accountable to yourself, to others, and to God. They help you endure temptation without compromise. They refine and prove your faith. They are a beacon to the lost looking for a better way to go.
Personal convictions serve as a moral compass to endure temptations, keep us accountable to a godly standard, and ground us firmly amid the world's chaos. When we come to crossroads, our convictions will help us make beneficial, godly choices. Sticking to personal convictions refines and proves a genuine faith. Christians may have differing personal convictions about areas where the Bible is unclear, and we must respect those differences without judgment.
Rhonda is an author, wife, mother, and mentor. She graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in English and Religious studies. She loves studying God’s Word for truth and wisdom and uses it as a compass and roadmap for her own spiritual journey. Rhonda believes in sharing the Good News and the hope found in Biblical truths with others. She uses her writing and mentoring opportunities (often with a pinch of humor) to do just that.