What Your Kids Need to Know Before They Leave Home
Belief or Conviction?
Joey and Carla Link
Many times parents think their kids are convicted about an issue such as being responsible when they really only have a belief (or opinion) about it. “Belief“ is defined as “an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists; they can trust someone or something.” “Conviction“ is defined as “a firmly held belief or opinion.”
How “firmly held” do you think your kids hold to the key values and core beliefs you have taught them? Have they taken ownership of these beliefs or are they opinions that are changeable?
Kids can believe something is right, but friends can change a belief through persuasive argument. I had a young man in my youth group that believed it was wrong to say certain words. His Christian friends would use the words, but he would not because he was convinced that these words his parents had taught him were wrong for him. He chose to live by this verse in Ephesians 4:29, “do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Did you catch that? Something could be right for others (but in this case they weren’t right for his Christian friends to use), but wrong for him. This is what conviction is, not being swayed by peers or others opinions, instead they are “firmly holding on” to a belief or opinion.
For your child to have conviction he must be convinced in his own heart (not just in his head) what is right and what is wrong and why it is right or wrong, James 4:17 says “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” And in Ephesians 4:27 it says we should not give Satan a foothold by continuing in a sin. Each time his Christian friends used a foul word for example, Satan was climbing the ladder to their hearts and once he got there he would rule their mouths.
Today there has been so much blurring of the line between what is right for Christians to do and how far they can go before it becomes sin that it could be hard to tell where the lines are, like a baseball batter’s box line after a player blurs out the line when he slides into the base. This challenges those with conviction and often isolates them, and no kid wants to be isolated from his/her peers.
Instead of being concerned with how far can you go before you cross the line, the real question parents need to consider is “What do my kids really believe in, what convictions do my kids hold fast to?” For parents of kids under 10 yrs. of age, you are still in the developing their character stage of training your children. Do you have a plan for training your kids in Biblical character values? If you don’t work on it from preschool on up they will not try to work on it when they are teens.
For instance, does your child believe Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave as a fact, or do they have the conviction of knowing why he died on the cross and what saving them from their sins means? If it is only a fact it is only a belief. If they have taken ownership of that fact then how does that influence and impact their lives? What influence will the power of the cross have on the decisions and choices they make every day in multiple situations that question how they were raised and how they should and will live?
Today many kids growing up in Christian homes are walking away from their faith in the college years because they don’t have the conviction that Jesus really died for their sins, therefore they don’t have a real and personal relationship with Christ which squelches the Holy Spirit’s voice or influence in their lives so much that their opinions, ideas and beliefs are questioned and even challenged by others.
I (Carla) went to a California state university. The first day in a Religious Studies class that was required for General Ed, the professor said, “Who of you are Christians? If you are, stand up.” While I was deciding what to do, others were standing up. I had a choice to make then and there. I stood up. The professor then told us that he would mock us, belittle us and badger us the entire semester until we changed our beliefs and if we didn’t, we would fail the class. Out of the 150 students about 20 stood up and I decided it was enough of a group to give me the strength and courage to see it through. The professor was true to his word, but none of us changed our beliefs. A visit to the dean by all of the Christians in the class ensured that none of us failed either. I studied why I believed what I did harder than I ever had and it strengthened my faith in unbelievable ways. Not only that, our group of “Stand-up Christians” grew every single week!
The following are ways to help your kids move from ideas, opinions and beliefs to conviction.
Dialogue about the following:
- Ask them what the difference is between belief and conviction. Most teens have never given this any thought. This would be a great family discussion with kids 10 yrs. and up.
- Ask them what they believe in and what they have convictions in and why.
- Have them make a list of life choices they might change and what they would never change even by persuasive argument from others.For instance, abortion in today’s polls show people’s views, including Christians, have changed on this in the last decade. What do your teens believe about having sex outside of marriage? Do they have convictions as to what is right and wrong in how far they should go in a relationship physically? What would your child do if she got pregnant or he got someone pregnant? What circumstances would they consider abortion to be right in God’s eyes? It is one thing to believe in something from an intellectual point of view. It is quite another to live by that belief and choose to live by it no matter what.
- Ask them how much they would be willing to sacrifice for their convictions. Would they take less money or lose a job because people did not like their convictions? We know someone who lost a promotion because when instructed by management to lie about something to the employees under him, he refused. He told them he wouldn’t lie, and they needed to find another way to let the employees know what was going on. If something bad happened to your teens or someone they loved, would they question their faith or trust in God?
- The apostle Peter was convinced Jesus was the Christ, the son of God. He was willing to die for Jesus, and he eventually did. History says he was crucified and wanted to be hung upside down because he did not deserve to die like Jesus did. A good question to ask your teens: How much conviction do you have for how God tells us to live in the Bible? Will you follow no matter what it costs? Luke 9:23, 26 says,
Then he (Jesus) said to them all:
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me.
What good is it for a man to gain the whole world,
and yet lose or forfeit his very self?
If anyone is ashamed of me and my words,
the Son of Man (Jesus) will be ashamed of him.”
Christian martyrs and the Christians who were killed for not denying their faith at the hands of ISIS just 4 years ago in February 2015 stood up for their faith knowing it could or would cost them their lives. Do your kids stand up for their beliefs in Christ in their world like these Christians did in theirs? Do you show them how to do it?
Statistics today show that over 80% of kids raised in evangelical Christian homes deny and even leave their faith during the ages of 19-22 years. That should terrify you. If you asked these kids if they believed in God most would say they did. If you asked them if they thought they should live the way the Bible told them to they would tell you the Bible was written for another time, it wasn’t relevant to today’s society or that they did live by it when it was convenient for them to. They may believe in God but they aren’t convicted they need to live His way.
How are you going to be sure your kids have conviction and not just belief in their faith when they leave your home? Next Sunday look at the teens in your church. Picture them in a line in your mind. For every 6 kids only 2 will stand up for Christ in their college years. If you want your kids to be the “2”, you need to take this on, helping them take ownership of their beliefs so they become convictions.
We highly recommend you plan special dates with your kids in the teen years to learn what they believe and to work with them on how they will move their belief to conviction. This will yield you immense joy as you know your teen’s convictions and you build in-depth relationships with them.