Conviction of heart really refers to not only the condition of the heart, but the 'bent' of the heart. Which way will we choose more than once when offered the choice? This is often the 'conviction' of our heart. We find we pursue one direction more than another - maybe not all the time, but this particular choice rises to the surface repeatedly. It may be a good direction to choose, or it may leave us feeling a little out of sorts because we know it wasn't the best choice at all. It is our actions, not so much our words, that reveal the real convictions of our heart. We always hear that we "cannot judge a book by its cover" and this is so very true. I have learned what is hidden in the heart is what is manifest in the actions - if not openly, then in secret. We have a huge opportunity to affect how the world sees Jesus based on what actions we reveal to the world. We have an equal opportunity to affect how we see ourselves by the choices we make in secret! Remember this - our faith is revealed in our works - both those openly performed and those secretly pursued.
"You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom. Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable." (Matthew 5:10-12)
Conviction is defined in several ways. Personally, conviction is being fully convinced by the evidence so as to be able to stand firmly on the facts presented - unmovable, resolute, and wholly determined to pursue that truth. We become a dynamic evidence of God's grace when we model that grace to others. We are "evidence" that helps to convince others of the unmerited favor of a holy God. Conviction is also the state of standing "confident" - in times of public action and in those of secret choice. There is nothing that conveys living a really "solid" life than being able to speak and act with assurance - knowing what we believe and in whom our trust is fully placed. Equally, making consistently right choices is evidence of the grace of God working in our lives.
Conviction also carries the idea of being convinced. Conviction comes from a Latin word "convictus" - meaning to convince. When we are "convinced" of something, we move from a place of just being acquainted with the evidence at hand into a place of belief, agreement, and consent. The evidence results in a transition - we have a solid footing upon which to stand. Jesus challenged his disciples with the idea of persecution - telling them that it would actually cause them to be drawn closer to the Kingdom of God. What he is saying here is that persecution actually drives us closer to the heart of God - it urges us to turn to what we know we can trust. The outcome of that closeness to God's heart is that we have a testimony that presents the evidence of God's grace, justice, and love. This kind of "evidence" makes people who don't know God in the same way do just a little uncomfortable - it affects the status quo.
Jesus was not giving his disciples (and us) the marching order to "mess with people's minds" or even our own minds. He simply is telling us to live in such a way that we are totally convinced of what it is we believe and allow that "firmness of faith" to become that which brings the conviction to our heart and then to the hearts of others. We are simply presenting the evidence - the conviction is delivered by the evidence! We cannot judge a book by its cover, but we can learn much about the "author" by exploring the pages. Our depth of conviction is revealed in what the "author" of our lives has written on the pages of our heart. The best thing we can do is live our lives as open books! In open and in secret. With others and with ourselves. Just sayin!