When you say a man is a great man of conviction, or he preaches with conviction, you think of some strength of character. You see a man who tenaciously clings to the Lord and you think, “What willpower! What discipline!”
In reality, conviction is the opposite. A man of conviction is not the strongest, he is the weakest. Conviction comes from believing the Bible is true and being completely dependent upon it. It is the result of seeing yourself as untrustworthy, weak, foolish, and ignorant.
If you see yourself as you are, apart from God’s work and word, you are a fool.
Wisdom was not born with you and wisdom will not die with you. You have nothing that causes you to claim to God's word.
A drowning man is stronger than one, or even several who are not drowning because that man knows he is going to die. He knows if he does not grab a hold of someone stronger than himself, he is dead. He will cling and claw and push in desperation because he has no hope. Do you see the strength of his weakness? He recognizes he has nothing. And that is what causes him to cling.
When people are impressed by a man who clings to the Lord, that man is not impressive, not disciplined, not strong. No, he is fearful. He has had a view of his own weakness and he is terrified to do anything other than what he sees is commanded in scripture. He is terrified to trust in his own intellect or academics or anything in himself because he sees he has nothing.
It is the same way with a man who ardently loves his wife and would go to the ends of the earth for her. We think, “What a great man.” But perhaps he is not great at all, he just has a great wife and the greatness, the excellency, the virtue of his wife draws out his affections. So when you see someone and think, “They love God so much.” No. They are not a great lover of God; they have just seen more of God and his excellence, his virtues, draw out their affections.
Devotion, conviction, and love for God should not be seen as something that occurs in an excellent man. It occurs in a man who, through scripture and through his own experience, realizes, I am nothing; in a man who knows he is fodder for hell apart from the grace of God, and that he would deny God in a second apart from the grace of God.
And that is why the more we study the revelation of God's person, particularly in the person and cross of Christ, the more our affections and conviction will grow.
Conviction is a total recognition that I have no wisdom apart from the word of God. I have no spiritual strength apart from the Holy spirit. I am nothing. There is only one hero in this story, and it is Jesus Christ, and we desperately need to cling to him.