3/7/2017 10:28:44 AM
Can You Have Assurance? Part Two:"When You Don't!"
I began this little series here. In that first post, I pointed out that the Bible teaches it is possible to have assurance and complete confidence in God, and that's an encouragement for us. So often, we're actually discouraged because we don't believe there's any way for us to be like that. God, however, says there is so don't give up. Don't drop your shoulders and walk off dejected yet.
There’s a second truth here. If you’re struggling to believe the first point I made, then you need to hear this one.
It is also possible to not feel that assurance and still be saved.
The father’s cry in Mark 9 rings in many of our hearts. "I believe, help my unbelief!"
This father is a bruised reed, still standing in the field but tipped over and horribly weakened. He is a candle flame that is guttering and tiny, but is still burning a little. And God has said in Isaiah 42:3,
"A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice."
So, understand that a man or woman can be weak like this father. They can struggle to believe. They can doubt, and yet they’re still coming to Christ and asking him for help. Sure, they might be saying, “if you can..” but they’re in Jesus' presence, asking the Son of God for help. Notice this truth: He doesn’t turn this man away.
John Bunyan, a man who struggled all his life with confidence in God, listed 5 reasons why faith is weak.
One, there’s a sense of unworthiness. I don’t deserve God’s mercy and grace. Other people might deserve God's notice but I do not. This person will encourage others that the Lord will of course listen to their prayers, but she doesn't believe that God will hear her own. She believes that there must be something more inside her to attract the attention of God and hold it, and she's missing whatever it is that she needs. And so, tragically, she is always slipping away into her own darkness, not because she wants to but because shes feel she doesn't have a choice. There's no place in God's Kingdom she deserves to be.
Two, there’s guilt in conscience. Sin, in other words, destroys assurance. And the truth is we are in the midst of a war within our souls, and sin is pulling us apart. And when we fall, our guilt tells us there’s no hope for us. You can’t have assurance, you can’t have faith, and you shouldn’t if you are continuing to live however you want, do whatever you want, and sin whenever you want. Jesus doesn’t call us to stay living our lives of self centeredness and sin. Guilt destroys assurance, and to be frank, it really should. The question is- what do we do with our guilt? Sadly, the answer so many people give is to head further into their guilt until they find themselves so far from the cross they can't get back.
Three, there's natural reason. What Bunyan's talking about here is our instinct to focus on our self. We don’t have assurance because we try so hard to rely on our strength and not on God. The disciples were doing this. Jesus tells them at the end of the storyabout this doubting father that this kind comes out through prayer. Why that? Because they aren’t praying. They aren’t depending on God’s power. Possibly, they’re thinking, we’re disciples of Jesus. We can do this. We’re special. We’re unique. People are watching us and we should be able to do it. That’s natural reason at work. They can’t do anything. Jesus is the one who can. He tells them, "you want to cast out demons like I asked you to? Then throw away any notion that you’re special and unique and it’s your power that does good. Pray instead and rely on me!" How often do we rely on our power when we should be strengthening ourselves in the Lord our God?
Four, unbelief, plain and simple, destroys assurance. Allowing your self to soak in doubt kills assurance. Soak in the Gospel promises instead. So many of us would be more confident if we stopped saying "woe is me" and started reciting the gospel truths to ourselves. When you are constantly reinforcing your own doubts and weakness, your doubts and weaknesses are going to be the things you actually grow stronger in!
And five, Satan seeks to destroy assurance. Bunyan puts it eloquently. He calls Satan's lies to you, "arguments forged in hell that are designed to destroy your assurance."
It’s no wonder men and women are weak. There’s a lot stacked up against your faith. And so some just give up. It’s too much.
This father doesn’t give up though. He was convicted by that weakness. He was convicted by that lack of faith. I hope you are too. And what does he do? He doesn’t say, "It’s hopeless! I may as well go home and forget everything I thought I knew about Jesus and God. I may as well just keep living in hopelessness."
He fights that doubt, and he fights that weakness. He does it through prayer! He cries out to God. He centers his attention on God, not himself. I’m going to tell you a secret: so much doubt and lack of faith comes because we are focusing all our attention on ourselves and have not lifted up our eyes and said, "What is God doing? What has God done to fix this problem? What has God promised in His Word that He will do?" We’re either too busy saying Woe Is Me to focus on the beauty of the Gospel and God's Grace in Scripture, or we want God to fix our problems in exactly the way we think they should be fixed. If he doesn't do exactly what we're hoping he would do, we believe he's not listening to us. Isn't that just a form of pride and selfishness?
And notice the beautiful part of this story. Even though the man’s faith is faltering and weak, Jesus still heals the boy. He doesn’t reject him. He doesn’t turn away from him! The faith may be weak, but it’s there. It may be so weak that you doubt it even exists, but pray! If your faith is weak, fight that weakness. You come to Christ and he won’t turn away your weak and little faith. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. But your faith doesn’t stay little or weak. You fight for a growing faith and assurance. And your weapons in that fight? Your weapons are prayer. If you’re not praying, of course you’re going to be doubting. Your weapons are the word of God, and it’s truth.
The truth of Scripture combats all those things that feed your doubt. No one is too unworthy for God’s grace and mercy. He sought out enemies of his, people who were dead, and deserved nothing. You don’t need to deserve grace. That’s the whole point of it! The person who feels unworthy is exactly the person who can understand the Gospel truth: No one is worthy of God's grace. Your unworthiness is exactly what makes you fit for grace.
Scripture also combats guilt. If you sin, John says, there’s an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He’s righteous because we’re not. If you live a life of turning from sin, and you also live a life where you act on belief in Jesus regularly, you grow. You never stay in sin, but you should always run to your Father after you've stumbled and fallen because He understands your battle and is calling you to come to him and find hope. Don't hide from God anymore.
Scripture combats our desire to rely on our own strength. We have nothing to boast in but Chirst. When we’re weak, he’s strong. "He who began a good work in you..." You didn’t save yourself and it’s God who will ultimately bring that salvation to completion.
And Scripture combats Satan’s lies. Satan is a liar, and he will be destroyed.
So fight for faith!
JC Ryle says,
Yes! brethren, though a man’s faith be no bigger than a grain of mustard-seed,—if it only brings him to Christ, and enables him to touch the hem of His garment, he shall be saved,—saved as surely as the oldest saint in paradise,—saved as completely and eternally as Peter, or John, or Paul. There are degrees in our sanctification. In our justification there are none. What is written, is written, and shall never fail; “Whosoever believeth on Him,”—not whosoever has a strong and mighty faith,—“Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed.” (Rom. 10:11.)
This father’s faith was enough to bring him to Christ, and that’s all that was needed. Brother or sister, you may be down and doubting. But in this moment, you may come to Christ beaten down, bruised by your own thoughts and what you’ve told yourself, or what others have told you. You may come struggling and weak, BUT that’s how you should come to Christ. if you cling to the cross and to the Gospel, I promise you this. You may come beaten down, but you will come to Christ and that’s all that matters!
You may be weak now, but you won't always be if you're regularly coming to your Father for his growth.