The Dancing Puritan

Friday, January 4, 2013

Fighting Fear with Assurance

All saints shall enjoy a heaven when they leave this earth.  Some saints enjoy a heaven while they are on this earth.  Joseph Caryl-1653

Do you hope to go to heaven and yet find yourself in a constant struggle over assurance of salvation?  You are not alone. Many true Christians find it difficult to ever gain confidence in the matter of their standing before God.

Fear is one of the results of living without assurance of salvation.  Fear is a constant companion of those who look at a particular situation and imagine all of the potential bad outcomes of that situation.  Outcomes that may or may not happen.

The fearful person often feels overwhelmed, falls into despair, makes bad decisions, becomes frustrated and may live with sense of hopelessness.

J.C. Ryle in his book Holiness writes: ...For one thing...assurance is to be desired, because of the present comfort and peace it affords.  Doubts and fears have power to spoil much of the happiness of a true believer in Christ.  Uncertainty and suspense are bad enough in any condition--in the matter of our health, our property, our families, our affections, our earthly callings--but never so bad as in the affairs of our souls.  And as long as a believer cannot get beyond 'I hope' and 'I trust,' he manifestly feels a degree of uncertainty about his spiritual state.  The very words imply as much.  He says, 'I hope,' because he dares not say, 'I know.'

Now assurance goes far to set a child of God free from this painful kind of bondage, and thus ministers mightily to his comfort.  It enables him to feel that the great business of life is a settled business, the great debt a paid debt, the great disease a healed disease, and the great work a finished work; and all other business, diseases, debts, and works are then by comparison small.  In this way assurance makes him patient in tribulation, calm under bereavements, unmoved in sorrow, not afraid of evil tidings, in every condition content, for it gives him a fixedness of heart.  It sweetens his bitter cups; it lessens the burdens of his crosses; it smooths the rough places over which he travels; it lightens the valley of the shadow of death.  It makes him always feel that he has something solid beneath his feet and something firm under his hands--a sure friend by the way, and a sure home at the end.

Assurance will help a man to bear poverty and loss.  It will teach him to say, 'I know that I have in heaven a better and more enduring substance.  Silver and gold have I none, but grace and glory are mine, and these can never make themselves wings and flee away.  Though the fig tree shall not blossom, yet I will rejoice in the Lord.' (Hab. 3:17.18).

Assurance will support a child of God under the heaviest bereavements, and assist him to feel, 'It is well.'  An assured soul will say: 'Though beloved ones are taken from me, yet Jesus is the same, and is alive forevermore.  Christ, being raised from the dead, dieth no more.  Though my house be not as flesh and blood could wish, yet I have an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure (pp. 132-133 of Holiness, Charles Nolan edition, 2001).

It is certain that many strong believers will have seasons of doubt.  Sometimes it is an ongoing battle with a particular sin that undermines assurance.  Satan will find ways to whisper in the Christian's ear such thoughts as, "how can you be a Christian and think such a wicked thought?" At other times doubts come as a result of weakness of the body.  The strongest believer lives in a decaying body and when great danger comes via sickness, death or in some other way, he may experience great doubt.  Ryle denies none of those things.  He also does not deny that the strongest of Christian will feel the greatest of sorrow over the loss of health, family and friends.

Ryle does encourage us that in the midst of great struggle that we can have a sweetness and confidence deep within. Such a confidence for the believer, sweetens his bitter cups; it lessens the burdens of his crosses; it smooths the rough places over which he travels; it lightens the valley of the shadow of death.  It makes him feel that he has something solid beneath his feet and something firm under his hands--a sure friend by the way, and a sure home at the end.

Do you have assurance of salvation?  Seek it not through presumptuous hopes and dreams.  Find it by understanding and applying the gospel. Search the Scripture, examine your heart, rest on Christ alone and pursue a godly life.  Assurance is a dear friend that will help you to live your life without being gripped by fear.