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Preference or Conviction

Todd Bailey

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Everyone in this life, Christians and unbelievers alike, make choices. These choices vary from the place we choose to work, the clothes we pick to wear, the food we select to eat, and the friends with whom we surround ourselves.

People always make some kind of choice. For example, if a person says he or she doesn’t want to make a decision about something, in reality they are making a choice. As the saying goes, "No answer is a ‘no’ answer."

So even though you and I say nothing, that action alone would express our decision, because our actions can dictate a "no" or "yes" answer.

The word choice in the Webster’s Dictionary means "The mental faculty by which one deliberately chooses or decides upon a course of action." Other definitions are: to select from a number of possible alternatives, decide upon and pick out, to make a choice, select, decide, and to select one from two or more.

More study on the word "choice" revealed another synonym with expresses the same meaning - preference.

Preference can be described as "a choice; negotiable (optional)." Therefore, the opposite of preference is conviction. Conviction is defined as "a requirement; non-negotiable (no "plan B").

Let’s look at some scriptures to give us more insight on what is "required" of us.

Matthew 22:35-39 (Amplified)

35 And one of their number, a lawyer, asked Him a question to test Him.

36 Teacher, which kind of commandment is great and important (the principal kind) in the Law? [Some commandments are light - which are heavy?]

37 And He replied to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (intellect).

38 This is the great (most important, principal) and first commandment.

39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (Amplified)

19 Do you not know that your body is the temple (the very sanctuary) of the Holy spirit Who lives within you, Whom you have received [as a Gift] from God? You are not your own.

20 You were bought with a price [purchased with a preciousness and paid for, made His own]. So then, honor God and bring glory to Him in your body.

Now in 1 Peter 2:21, scripture tells us that Jesus left us an example to follow. I believe the life Jesus lived was a life of conviction.

In His youth, we can see a glimpse of the life of conviction He lived. Joseph and His mother were looking for Him in Jerusalem (Luke 2:43-46) and upon finding the young Jesus in the temple, His mother asked Him why He did what He did. Jesus replied in verse 49, "How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?"

When Jesus was in His earthly ministry, we can see His dedication to live the life of conviction.

John 5:19

Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.

John 7:16-17

16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.

17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

John 8:50

And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth.

John 9:4

I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.

Even when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, we can see Him staying true to the life of conviction He chose to live. In Matthew 26, we see in verse 38 that His soul was "exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." Now we know that the soul of a person is the mind which thinks (your intellect), emotions which feel, and the will which chooses or decides.

In the garden, Jesus was effected in every part of His soul.

To live a life of conviction, you cannot allow your mind or emotions to control you. If you do, then your will (the strongest part of your soul) will become double minded and unstable.

Let’s see what Jesus did to continue living a life of conviction beyond what His emotions or mind were dictating to Him in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Matt 26:36-45

36 Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.

37 And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.

38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.

39 And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

40 And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?

41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

42 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.

43 And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.

44 And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.

45 Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

Notice in verse 39, where Jesus asked His Father, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt."

Jesus’ mind (intellect) was challenged here to live the life He was called to. This happened once again in verse 42, and for a third time in verse 44. But every time his mind was challenged, He met it by yielding to God by saying, verse 39 "Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." Verse 42, "Thy will be done." Verse 44"...and prayed the third time, saying the same words." It would have been so easy to say "Nevermind" but Jesus, determined to live a life of conviction, said "Nevertheless."

This attitude was also written about in Luke’s account of Jesus garden experience when His emotions were challenged.

Luke 22:44

And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

After the Garden experience, Jesus once again demonstrated His determination to live a life of conviction. Being crucified by the Romans was one the most brutal deaths a person could have suffered, yet Jesus knew He was laying down His innocent life for mankind and that at any moment He could have summoned God to deliver Him. He fulfilled the scriptures that He was born and called to fulfill.

Phil 2:8

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

You might be asking the question right now, "How does living a life of preference or conviction apply to me?"

God has given to us all the power of choice. We can do our own "thing" or we can do His "thing."

In his famous play, Hamlet, William Shakespeare penned the famous line, "To be or not to be; that is the question." I think it should be rephrased - "To be what I want to be, or to be what God wants me to be; that is the question."

Ephesians 2:8-10 and 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 give us a good idea of what He wants us to do and also to be.

Ephesians 2:8-9

8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Ephesians 2:10 (Amplified)

10 For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (Amplified)

19 Do you not know that your body is the temple (the very sanctuary) of the Holy spirit Who lives within you, Whom you have received [as a Gift] from God? You are not your own.

20 You were bought with a price [purchased with a preciousness and paid for, made His own]. So then, honor God and bring glory to Him in your body.

Did you notice the phrase at the end of verse 19 and the first part of verse 20?

"You are not your own. You were bought with a price [purchased with a preciousness and paid for; made His own]."

That means we don’t go around representing ourselves, but God. This actually makes us "Ambassadors for Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:20).

An Ambassador is "any authorized messenger or representative." In other words, you are representing someone else totally. A representative does not do or say anything of their own; only for whom they represent.

If an American ambassador will say and do only what the United States government tells them, then whom the Ambassador represents (USA) will meet all their needs according to their riches in the United States Treasury.

Even if the country where the Ambassador is residing is poverty stricken and lacking in modern technology, that Ambassador representing the United States doesn’t have to live according to that country’s standard of living. Why? Because that United States Ambassador might be in that country, but he or she is not of that country.

The same holds true for Christians. We are Ambassadors for God on this earth. Actually, this earth isn’t our real home. We represent heaven, and heaven is where our true home is.

Therefore, as long as we do and say what God’s Word and Spirit tell us, no matter where we live, we can count on God meeting our needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

I like what one minister said, "People generally have too many opinions and not enough convictions."

Did you know that if you are wanting to live a life of conviction, you don’t have a choice of where you want to attend church. You can spot the people who live a life of preference - they go from church to church, much like they go from restaurant to restaurant to see which one they like. I call them "Grasshopper Christians", going from one church to the next, week after week and never becoming committed to one church.

Even if the Christians that are living a life of preference do find one church, they only stay committed if it falls under their guidelines. For example, if they don’t have to pay tithes, park in an unpaved part of the parking lot, if the color of the new carpet is agreeable to their liking and if they don’t have to volunteer in any area of the church.

You know, going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going the McDonalds makes you a hamburger!

Some Christians don’t show up for church because the Super Bowl is on TV that night or their favorite game show has been switched from Tuesday nights to Wednesday nights.

The apostle Paul addresses a similar problem with the Hebrews.

Hebrews 10:24-25 (Amplified)

24 And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up (stimulate and incite) to love and helpful deeds and noble activities.

25 Not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together [as believers], as is the habit of some people, but admonishing (warning, urging and encouraging) one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching.

There are specific areas where Jesus commands us to live a life of conviction.


Mark 16:15

"Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."

Matthew 5:16 (Amplified)

"Let your light so shine before men that they may see your moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven."

The bottom line is if we don’t tell the world the truth, then someone will tell them a lie.

Walking in Love:

Jude 1:21

Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

How do you keep yourself in the love of God? Simply do 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a.

1 Cor 13:4-8

4 Love suffereth long, (and) is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

5 doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not provoked, taketh not account of evil;

6 rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth;

7 beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

8 Love never faileth...

The love of God is already in your heart (Romans 5:5). This should be a way of life with Christians. Not when it is convenient or when you feel like it.

Here is a clear distinction between preference and conviction.

Preference: Is based on what mood you’re in.

Conviction: Doesn’t matter what mood you’re in nor what the conditions are. You have already made the decision to live the way God says to live.

The following are examples of people who lived a life of conviction and didn’t give thought to their own ideas and opinions of life.

John the Baptist: At the peak of his ministry he said in John 3:30, "He must increase, but I must decrease."

Peter: After fishing all night, catching nothing and worn out, Jesus tells Him to launch out into the deep. And Peter’s response to Jesus was, "Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net." (Luke 5:5)

Patrick Henry: Fighting against the British for American Independence stood up and proclaimed, "Give me liberty or give me death."

Wisconsin vs. Yoder: When this Amish man was told that his child had to attend public school, this man insisted he had no choice in the matter, but that it was required according to his beliefs that his child be taught in the Amish tradition and beliefs. His case went all they way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The highest court ruled that this Amish man expressed a conviction and not a preference. His son was allowed to be taken out of the public school system to be trained according to Amish convictions.

I would like to give you an explanation that was given to me of how the U.S. Supreme court explains conviction vs. preference.

"Difference between a conviction and a preference, according the U.S. Supreme Court. A preference is a very strong belief, held with great strength. You can give your entire life in a full-time way to the service of the preference, and can also give your entire material wealth in the name of the belief. You can also energetically proselytize others to your preference. You can also want to teach this belief to your children, and the Supreme Court may still rule that it is a preference. A preference is a strong belief, but a belief that you will change under the right circumstances. Circumstances such as 1) peer pressure; if your beliefs are such that other people stand with you before you will stand, your beliefs are preferences, not convictions, 2) family pressure, 3) lawsuits, 4) jail, 5) threat of death; would you die for your beliefs? A conviction is a belief that you will not change. Why? A man believes that his God requires it of him. Preferences aren’t protected by the constitution. Convictions are. A conviction is not something that you discover, it is something that you purpose in your heart. Convictions on the inside will always show up on the outside, in a person’s lifestyle. To violate a conviction would be a sin."

What made these individuals different from others? They lived a life of conviction.

A statement a minister said sums it up. "A person without a conviction is like a ship without a rudder."

Preference says, "Nevermind." Conviction says "Nevertheless."

Preference brings survival. Conviction brings revival.

Preference brings compromise. Conviction brings victory.

With preference, "Some restrictions apply." With conviction, "No restrictions apply."

It would be easy to compromise what God’s word says about living a life of conviction. I heard a definition of compromise that really put it in perspective. Compromise is "accepting what you don’t believe, because you refuse to fight for what you do believe."

It is so easy to stop living a life of conviction. the devil will give 1,000 alternatives (preferences) to keep you from doing what God requires you to do. Even people can sway you away from doing what your are supposed to be doing. Paul told Christians at the church at Corinth, "Ye are bought with a price, be not ye the servant of men." (1 Corinthians 7:23).

Most Christians look for a "plan B" because "plan A" is too much work or a sacrifice. I have learned for myself and observed most Christians get confused by a trick of the devil to stop them from growing and living a life of conviction.

It is when a situation they are in is not convenient and the devil give them a "plan B" option. They get confused because the deception of the devil is a "relief in the flesh" and not a "release in the Spirit."

A life of conviction is a rewarding life and also a serious one. I am not saying you won’t have fun, but you can’t be half-hearted about it either!

In closing, remember these words Jesus spoke to us in Luke 9:23-24.

Luke 9:23-24 (Amplified)

23 And He said to all, If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself [disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself] and take up his cross daily and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also],

24 For whoever would preserve his life and save it will lose and destroy it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he will preserve and save it [from the penalty of eternal death].


Matthew 10:38-39 (Amplified)

38 And he who does not take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also] is not worthy of Me.

39 Whoever finds his [lower] life will lose it [the higher life], and whoever loses his [lower] life on My account will find it [the higher life].

What God is telling us to do in Luke 9 and Matthew 10 is not impossible, yet not a choice, rather a requirement if you are wanting to accept the life of conviction.

It may take some time, maybe even our entire lifetime to accomplish, but we must continually keep ourselves committed to do our utmost for "the higher life" -- the life of conviction.