2/28/2017 8:56:40 AM
Can You Have Assurance?
I want to bring two Biblical truths about Faith, Confidence, and Assurance in God to your attention. We’ll look at the first one in this post, and the second one in a following post.
The father in the story of Mark 9:14-29 has been on my mind a lot recently. He had a son who was in desperate need but he didn't come to Jesus with whole-hearted faith. After Jesus pointed out his lack of faith, he cried out to the Lord, “I believe, help my unbelief!” Who hasn’t felt that tension? This father was struggling to have faith, confidence, and assurance in God. The disciples in the story were struggling to have faith that they could do what God said. What Christian hasn’t also struggled, or is struggling to have faith, confidence, and assurance in God? So here are two truths for us from Scripture. I’m leaning heavily on an answer that JC Ryle wrote to the question, “Have you Assurance?” and I’m going to quote him a couple times.
The first truth is this: It is possible for anyone to believe and have complete confidence in God.
The Bible teaches us that. Many of us can immediately relate to the dad’s cry in Mark. That’s the cry of a heart that is struggling to have confidence and faith, but wants it so badly. So first, we have to stop listening to how we feel for a moment and see that the Bible teaches that confidence and assurance in God is possible in this lifetime. Let’s look at a number of Scriptures here that show that.
25 For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
27 whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
My heart faints within me!
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
3 You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
Paul is also someone who has total confidence in God.
38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
2 Timothy 1:12
But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me. 13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
The apostle John chimes in too. 1 John 5:13
13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.
I love John's statement. He's writing to those "who believe," but what is his goal? "That you may know!" In other words, they believe but John wants to help them in their confidence and assurance! God understands our hearts.
These passages all show that it’s possible to have assurance and confidence. Now, you might hear that and actually get discouraged. “I just can’t have that kind of confidence. It’s hopeless! I guess I must not be a real christian after all!” Don’t respond that way. The point isn’t to be discouraged, but encouraged. The Bible, God’s Holy Word that can never fail, is telling you it is possible to have assurance like that. You may not now, but you could! God, who doesn’t lie, says so. That’s the good news. You actually could.
Listen to what JC Ryle says here. It’s so beautiful.
"I feel that I am only a poor fallible child of Adam myself. But I must say, that in the passages I have just quoted, I see something far higher than the mere “hopes” and “trusts” with which so many believers appear content in this day. I see the language of persuasion, confidence, knowledge,—nay, I may almost say, of certainty. And I feel, for my own part, if I may take these Scriptures in their plain obvious meaning, assurance is true."
Do you hear what he’s saying? Christians often settle for not having confidence and assurance. They settle for hoping but not being fully confident. And you might get upset at someone saying it’s possible for you to have confidence and assurance. You might scoff and say, "that’s presumptious of you to think I could do that." I get that. But JC Ryle speaks to that too.
He says, “It can hardly be presumptious to tread in the steps of Peter, and Paul, of Job and of John.”
Paul evens tells us to emulate him in faith and confidence. He wouldn't say it if it was impossible for us to do. John says, "I wrote these things so you would have confidence." It’s possible, but not in your strength, and in your ability. It’s possible because you can trust in God’s strength, ability, and promises.
When Jesus tells this dad, “All things are possible for one who believes,” he doesn’t follow it up by saying, “but let’s face it, you could never do that.” How come people read it that way? You might read this and say, “I couldn’t do that. I just couldn’t. You don’t know how hard it is for me.” And what you’re saying is God didn’t mean that for me. And the problem may be that you’ve told yourself for forever that you can’t have assurance because it’s so hard. But even though it’s hard, it’s not impossible. Nothing is impossible for God, even assurance. That’s the first thing you need to know.
In our next post, we're going to cover some of the reasons Christians don't have assurance but we can't begin with the attitude that confidence is impossible.
We are meant to grow as Christians. You may start with a little faith, and that’s all you need. But we’re not meant to stay there. Our little faith can grow as we feed it by trusting in Jesus Christ and relying on the Holy Spirit. That’s my prayer for you!
If you're feeling overwhelmed, then just wait for the second truth. It's a sweet one.