When Thomas Paine warned about “sunshine soldiers” and “summer patriots” in his famous 1776 pamphlet Common Sense, he likely never fathomed how timeless his exhortation would be.

“These are the times that try men’s souls,” he declared, urging the colonists to not “shrink from the service of their country.”

Christians face a similar challenge and moment, especially in America where biblical truths have been upended, logic has been lost and tossed – and common sense is no longer common at all.

As the abortion debate rages and promises to be front and center in this November’s election, psychologists and sociologists debate the exclusivity of male and female, parents battle to retain authority over school curriculum – and the courts threaten to become a super legislature, there’s no denying how trying the times are in 2024.

Sadly, sunshine soldiers and summer patriots exist in the Church, too. They may not be openly or overtly hostile, but they’re often apathetic. They don’t want to get involved or challenge prevailing wisdom, fearing either blowback or loss of favor – and sometimes both.

Progressive theology is rife with the lukewarm or the counterfeit who use the times to interpret the Bible instead of using the Scriptures to interpret the times.

What we need to face these times aren’t primarily compassion and understanding. Instead, we need double doses of courage and conviction.

Conviction adds ballast to the believer’s countenance. It deeply roots the Christian so that when the winds blow and the storms rage, he or she can, in the admonition of the apostle Paul, “to stand” (Eph. 6:13).

Writing to the Thessalonians, Paul echoed a similar theme. “So then brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter” (2 Thess. 2:15).

If conviction adds strength, vacillation and indecision undermines and weakens.

Whether it’s defending a preborn baby or advocating for the constitutional privilege of religious freedom, there can be no middle ground.

“One man with conviction will overwhelm a hundred who have only opinions,” stated Winston Churchill.

Make no mistake: conviction can be inconvenient and uncomfortable.

Writing in Common Sense, Paine aptly observed, “The more men have to lose, the less willing are they to venture.”

Might this era of comfort and excess also be contributing to a lack of conviction? Are we willing to endure the slings and arrows of popular culture, to lose the niceties, in exchange for advocating for and proclaiming biblical truth?

Whether it’s a politician wanting to stay in power or a someone not wanting to incite dissent, the quest for self-preservation lures many into passivity. Don’t rock the boat – and better still, maybe don’t even get into it.

Conviction adds metaphorical height to a person. It’s been said Dr. Billy Graham wasn’t the most eloquent or the most talented preacher. There have been others who have preached more interesting sermons. But Dr. Graham connected because he preached with a deep sense of conviction.

Christians may not always say the right things, make the most friends, or be the most popular. Of course we don’t go out of our way to be disagreeable, but disagreement in an age of insanity is vital and necessary. And when it comes to any tensions, we’ll be in good company. It was the prophet Isaiah who prophesied of the coming of Jesus:

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3).

As Christians, we’re to be “strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:9) thinking people who cultivate an enduring spirit of conviction.

 

Original image from Getty.