The Daniel Dilemma: Core Convictions Shape the Way We Live Our Lives

the daniel dilemma

Convictions require you to decide what’s right ahead of time. They’re not based on what feels good or seems right in the moment. They are, instead, the unmovable foundation upon which our lives are built. We don’t need to be mean or judgmental when we share them with others, but we do need to be sure of them.

Our beliefs, values, and moral convictions provide a starting point for what we think and feel, the decisions we make, and the actions we take. They shape every aspect of our lives.

We can see how our convictions influence our lives most clearly in our relationships. For instance, my wife, Tammy, and I have been married for more than thirty years, and I’m the only guy who has ever kissed her. You know what that makes me? The best kisser in her world!

Seriously, we decided early in our lives how we wanted our relationships, especially with the opposite sex, to honor God. As a result, when we married we were both virgins and could give ourselves to each other fully, knowing we got to open God’s gift of intimacy together without having to compare, complain, or compete with anyone else. I’ve talked to many people in the church who have struggled with the aftermath of giving their sexual purity away before marriage. But the good news is, it’s possible to become pure again in the eyes of God. If you’ve had that same struggle, know that God wants to restore you and heal you. That process can begin when you come before Him, ask for forgiveness, and lift up your hurt.

Another thing Tammy and I agreed to when we got married was to take our vows as seriously as God takes them. We defined “till death do us part” as a lifetime commitment — no matter what. Consequently, we agreed to throw out two words from our dictionary: impossible (because it’s not in God’s vocabulary) and divorce (because it’s not an option).

I won’t presume to tell you exactly what your core convictions should be, since a range of different convictions can all be rooted in the Word of God, but because I’m frequently asked about my own, I would like to explore a few areas of conviction that are crucial to how one engages with the surrounding culture.

  1. Worship, or placing worth and value on who God is, tops my list. Scripture is crystal clear about God’s preeminence, the way He surpasses all others:

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created: things in Heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the Church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. — Colossians 1:15-18

When we worship God, we embrace His attributes. We see Him as omnipresent (everywhere at once), omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), totally good, and totally loving. Worship is not about responsive readings or singing hymns. Worship is surrendering yourself to the power, majesty, and goodness of your Creator, letting God be God — even when you don’t understand what He’s doing or when you disagree.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship. — Romans 12:1

When we surrender ourselves to God in all things and acknowledge His headship, we don’t question Him, even when the culture does.

  1. God’s word, or placing worth and value on the Bible and believing it is the infallible Word of God, comes next.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. — 2 Timothy 3:16-17

With any situation you face, let God’s Word settle it. Don’t let society explain away what God says is true.

We must stay full of the Word of God, using it as the guiding light for our daily lives and the moral basis for our value system. We must be careful to rely solely on truth, avoiding gossip, hearsay, and the opinions of others.

When asked what I think about current events or some particular issue, I often respond, “What makes you think my opinion matters? It’s what God thinks that counts.”

  1. Holiness raises the standard of personal purity as we honor the lordship of Christ. God’s character, Christ’s example, and the Holy Spirit’s guidance provide our understanding of personal holiness. It’s being set apart from the world in a way that distinctly reflects who God is and what he’s about.

You know the guidelines we laid out for you from the Master Jesus. God wants you to live a pure life. Keep yourselves from sexual promiscuity. Learn to appreciate and give dignity to your body, not abusing it, as is so common among those who know nothing of God. — 1 Thessalonians 4:2-5 MSG

Holiness requires us to maintain a standard of salt-and-light leadership to those around us. It acknowledges God’s lordship over our lives and demonstrates our willingness to follow in the sacrificial footsteps of Jesus. It means we think through our words, actions, habits, and attitudes at all times. Holiness prevents us from conforming to cultural changes and moral relativism.

  1. Family carries worth and value as a sacred institution created by God. We are made in His image and designed for relationship. This begins with our families and extends when we marry and start a family of our own. As children, we’re instructed to honor our fathers and our mothers and to obey them; as parents, we are warned not to provoke or harm our children (Ephesians 6:2-4). Families take care of one another.

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. — 1 Timothy 5:8

One relationship that is central to the family is marriage. God considers marriage to be a lifelong sacred covenant between a man and a woman. He hates divorce, because marriage is designed to reflect the relationship between Christ and the church. According to Ephesians 5, husbands should love their wives as Christ loves the Church, leading through sacrificial service, and wives must love their husbands with respect, honoring them through sacrificial devotion (Ephesians 5:22-26).

Strong families grow out of strong marriages in which husbands and wives love and respect each other, serve and honor each other.

  1. Life has intrinsic value in all forms, reflecting this most precious gift from God. Therefore, no person has the right to terminate human life, their own or anyone else’s.

The word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations’. — Jeremiah 1:4-5

God knew each person even before he or she was conceived, so we must value each life as a gift from God. In light of this truth, we must face the fact that abortion is murder — there’s no nice way to say it — and taking one’s own life — including euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide — is not our decision to make.

Life is precious, and only God has the right to control when we live and when we die — not human beings.

  1. Humility reflects an attitude of service, compassion, and strength. It’s the quality of placing the needs of others above your own, refusing to grandstand and draw attention to yourself. Truly humble people always reflect the glory of God, reminding us that He is the source of life. The opposite, of course, is pride — our human tendency to want the praise, adoration, and attention of those around us, to take all the credit and shift all the responsibility. Yet God’s view on human pride is clear:

God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble. — James 4:6

Humility serves as the remedy for prideful self-centeredness. It reflects simplicity and sincerity, a willingness to sacrifice one’s ego. My family and I keep our lives and our ministry simple so we can do more for God. Living simply lowers costs and frees up our time so resources can go to the work of the Lord. We reach people for the glory of God, not for our own egos. Sincerity keeps us real and touchable, and it makes sure our words and thoughts match. Humility keeps our hearts tuned to God and not ourselves.

These core areas of conviction probably don’t surprise you, but if you don’t know what you believe about any of them, then I encourage you to explore God’s Word and commit to His truth. Culture will continue to be our Enemy’s smokescreen for obscuring truth and confusing God’s people.

But if you keep your eyes on the firm ground of God’s truth, deciding what you believe before you’re tested, then you will stand strong no matter how many bow down to the cultural pressure around you.

Excerpted with permission from The Daniel Dilemma by Chris Hodges, copyright Chris Hodges.

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Your Turn

What are your core convictions? What is it that you hold fast to no matter what the culture around you does? Come and share with us on our blog. We want to hear from you about living counter-culture! ~ Devotionals Daily

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Chris Hodges

Chris Hodges is the founding and senior pastor of Church of the Highlands. Under his leadership, Church of the Highlands offers fifty-four worship services each weekend at fifteen campuses with over 43,000 people attending weekly. He also co-founded the Association of Related Churches, launched a coaching network called GROW, and serves as Chancellor of The Highlands College, an accredited two-year ministry training college. Chris and his wife, Tammy, have five children and live in Birmingham, Alabama.

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