The Bible has particular good news about the security of our salvation in Jesus — our assurance. This article examines the five most common doubts we struggle with, and shows how to resolve them the way Jesus did.
The sowing of seeds of doubt — an old, old strategy
A lot of the spiritual battle of life happens inside our heads. That’s where the devil tries to insert thoughts that we can be deceived into thinking are our own. In reality, they come from the sneaky suggestions of the master liar, the “crafty serpent” of Genesis who, right at the beginning, put a seed of doubt in Eve’s mind with the question: “Did God really say…”1. And so Adam and Eve swerved from dependence on God to independence from God, and sin came into the world. This tactic of tempting us to sin has served him well. He tried it on Jesus, and he is using it on us today. Like Jesus, we learn to disable doubts and show their lack of substance by using God’s word — the truth that sets us free ((Luke 4:1-13; John 8:31-32)).
Doubt no. 1: “Am I really saved?”
“Are my sins forgiven just by believing and receiving Christ — surely that can’t be enough?”
What God says about that, needs to be internalised and set alongside that doubt, to topple it.
“And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life, he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” — 1 John 5:11-12
Doubt no. 2: “Why would God hear or answer my prayer?”
.”Is God, who is far away and concerned with BIG things, really be concerned with me and my prayers. Why would He hear them and answer them?”
God loved the world so much that He gave… the most anyone could give, His Son2. And Jesus gave His life for you, on the Cross. He wants you to come to Him in every situation:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. — Philippians 4:6
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. — Hebrews 4:14-16
The night before He died, Jesus spoke to His disciples. Over the three years they had all asked Him many things, but He tells them they had not yet asked in His name — as those belonging to Him. Our assurance of answered prayer comes because we can belong to Him, by choice, and we can ask in His name, as He taught the first disciples:
“Until now you have not asked for anything in My name. Ask and you will receive and your joy will be complete” — John 16:24.
Doubt no. 3: “I’m a failure — I can’t seem to resist sin.”
“I feel a failure as a believer, when I find I cannot live right and resist sin.”
He empowers us by His Spirit to say ‘no’ in the Name of Jesus, to resist, to live over and above the temptation. But He has also given us a place that we can go back to again and again, the Cross, and there we can receive forgiveness.
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful, He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” — 1 Corinthians 10:13
Doubt no. 4: “Am I really forgiven?”
“There are things in my life which won’t go away; they haunt me and I feel guilty.”
Satan’s ploy is to try to trap us in thoughts or actions which go against God, and then hit us with the guilt of it, to reinforce and compound doubts 1-3 and deal a mortal blow to our self-esteem.
The reality is, we make mistakes. Relationships go wrong, marriages fail, people get hurt as a result of our actions or words, and these and all the everyday failures things grieve God. But in Jesus, God who became man, we have a Saviour who both understands the pressures and difficulties, and at the Cross has provided a way out for us.
If we are in fellowship with Him and others, and we are being honest with Him about where we have given in to our independence or our selfish desire, His blood cleanses us from all sin. “All” does mean all. And, if you have given your life to Jesus, and your life is therefore hidden in His — “in Christ Jesus” — there is no guilt weighing you down. The guilt has been removed, leaving only the suggestion of it.
“If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”— 1 John 1:7-9.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus — Romans 8:1
Doubt no.5: “What is my destiny?”
“What is God’s guidance for my life, and am I able to receive it?”
God’s guidance is often not easy to discern. We don’t often get a Holy Spirit-inspired future-revealing dream, or a visit from an angel. The prompts come in much smaller and more ordinary ways, and we can easily miss them — with the enemy sowing confusion and every kind of distraction to put us off. However, a bit like promises of assurance, promises of God’s guidance are all over Scripture, and He can use any part of it to speak to us to give us a little redirect, right at that moment. But here is a foundational verse to commit to memory, to use against that confusion, and to return to as a solid promise that God will meet us as we come to Him with our little bit of faith:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” — Proverbs 3:5-6.
Some people find memorising Scripture easier than others, but the principle for all is straightforward — reference, repeat and revisit. Know the reference for where to find them, marked up in your Bible; read them out loud and repeat them whenever you can; and go back to revisit to consolidate your learning.