The Hope of Assurance
For many years, I had two excellent Christian women in my congregation who had very different experiences regarding their assurance. One had the strongest assurance of faith that I have known. She could never sing some hymns of William Cowper and could not understand how others could sing them. Lyrics such as “Where is the blessedness I knew when first I saw the Lord?” were quite alien to her own heart’s conviction. On the other hand, Frances Crosby’s “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine” she could sing from her heart. She worked with the young people, wrote weekly letters to her children when they went to college, never missed a prayer meeting, took her place humbly when the means of grace were dispensed, and never overwhelmed others with her personal convictions of her safety in Jesus. In her seventies, she contracted cancer, and when she drank that cup that God had given her, she said, “Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.” She died with the same peace and anticipation that she had shown all her life.
The other woman had little assurance. Those sermons I preached that were aimed at awakening and warning the careless she took as delivered to her personally. She expressed to her husband her feeling that she was not a true Christian. He asked me to tone down or balance my preaching. So it was for many years, but more recently she has experienced more hope in the Lord, that He is her Savior, and one day she will be with Him.
In the more than forty years that I have known her, she has labored for the Lord and His people. She is exceedingly zealous in the things of God. She is full of good works. There is not a person in the church who falls sick who does not get a card from her with suitable sentiments and verses. She makes cake and food for needy people. She never hurries away from church meetings. She is exceedingly supportive of me as her pastor. It has been a blessing to be prayed for and encouraged by her for so long. And yet, for decades, she lacked the joys of full of assurance of faith.
Two women, so very different in the degree of assurance that they have possessed. And yet, the one who lacked that assurance excelled almost everyone else in the congregation in her work of faith, labors of love, and patient hope in Jesus Christ. What does that tell us? We must beware of using our lack of assurance as the reason we are remiss in speaking and praying and working in the church for our Savior.
How can God expect me to be active for Him when there are periods when I do not feel that I have Him? we sometimes ask. The second woman has learned the great lesson that her feelings are not to be the touchstone of her duties. She works zealously for God because that is God’s will for her and for every Christian. “Let fancies fly away . . . I’ll labor night and day to be a Christian,” John Bunyan wrote. That is essential in the Christian life. There is never an excuse for becoming lukewarm, especially in pleading a lack of assurance. That is unbelief. We are to strive always to do the will of God our Creator and Judge. If you have some trembling hope, then do it for Him who gave His life for you. Love so amazing, so divine, demands your soul, your life, your all. In obeying God, assurance revives and faith is strengthened.
Again, we learn that though the comforts of the absence of full assurance must not and may not prevent us from living the Christlike life we should be living, this lack is a deficiency when troubles and doubts overcome our duty to be rejoicing in the Lord always. How can we rejoice when we are not sure if we have Him as our Savior? Then we must confront our feelings with the foundational truths of grace. Not our feelings, not our attainments, and not our understanding will be the reason why we enter the place of bliss, but only because of the life and achievements of another, namely, the Lord Christ. He makes us acceptable. The best that Christians have done, even in the person you most admire who is full of faith and peace, is all imperfect and needs to be washed and cleansed in the atonement of Golgotha. That is the only way. We look to Him and we say, “Whatever my spiritual state, my only hope is in the Redeemer.”
I have often said to the second lady and to the congregation, “Do you say, ‘I don’t know if I have Him, but I know that if I had Him then I’d be safe’?” Then know this: only a Christian thinks like that. You are a Christian if you have that conviction. The hope of assurance is found in Christ alone.