In a world where people display the constancy of butterflies and changefulness of chameleons, be a sequoia. Sequoias are not only the largest trees in the world, but possibly one of the oldest living things on earth. They are broad, sturdy, tall, aged, and if they can be said to do anything, they stand. They stand there, year after year, growing in height and breadth. I think we may safely call them steadfast.
We should be steadfast too. The prophet assures us:
The steadfast of mind
You will keep in perfect peace,
because he trusts in You.—Isaiah 26:3
This steadfastness doesn’t grow out of confidence in ourselves, but out of trust in God. We can become rooted in the surety of God’s promises and the constancy of His character. We can lay hold of hope in God’s promises in such a way as to anchor our souls (Hebrews 6:18–19).
Though these things are true, still we waver. Is there a Christian in the world who hasn’t struggled with assurance of faith? Don’t we all have times when questions haunt the dark hours of the night? Why do I keep messing up? Shouldn’t I be more joyful? Why is my heart sad? Why don’t I understand what God is doing in my life? Why do other people harvest blessing upon blessing from God, while I glean problems, and waiting, and worry? Keeping a secure hold on our assurance of faith is not easy when doubt greases our grip.
The good news is that the security of our souls is not held up, even in part, by our feelings. Now, this may seem utterly obvious to you, but to me it was a blessed revelation. Sometimes the obvious isn’t so obvious. Doubt, I notice, isn’t a new thing. The heroes of ages past were plagued by the same inner turmoil which stirs in us. Take a look at the book of Psalms some time and see the Psalmist’s many pleadings of, “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me?” The answer he gives his own troubled soul serves our questioning spirits well, “Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.” The Psalmist knows he must take heart in the stability of God’s character whatever his own emotional misgivings.
Our assurance doesn’t rest on our abilities or our feelings, it rests on God’s character and the strength of His promises.
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.—Philippians 1:6
Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.—1 Thessalonians 5:24
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.—Hebrews 10:23
He does not begin what He does not intend to complete. He is faithful, forever and ever, amen.
Root of Worry
If we find ourselves in a state of worry over whether or not we are saved it may be a signal that there is something wrong that needs attention. Two good questions to ask yourself are: Do I have a distorted view of God’s character and work? Am I harboring unrepentant sin that is causing me to question my standing before God? Both of these things can cause us to feel unsure of our faith, and there is help for both in the pages of our Bibles.
Do I have a distorted view of God’s character and work?
The answer to this question is often, yes. A good way to combat this problem is to make note of God’s character as you are reading His Word. Knowing God for who He is inevitably inspires confidence in us. Knowing that He is faithful and unchanging, for instance, helps calm fears that He will care for us one day and then drop us the next. Knowing that He is full of goodness and truth dispels nagging fears about His motives in bringing trouble into our lives. These traits and many more are declared in God’s word and demonstrated throughout the stories of God’s people in times past. Good theology may seem boring when things are going well for you, but you will find that a healthy root system of understanding God through His Word will cause you to stand steadfast like a sequoia when trouble comes.
Am I harboring unrepentant sin that is causing me to question my standing before God?
God has not left us adrift of practical ways to assess ourselves to see if we are living a faithful life. The book of 1 John is a great place to go since it was,
“Written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”
We are told in this book to look at the fruit our lives are bearing, not as something that earns us eternal life, but as evidence of the Spirit working in us. John mentions things like loving our brothers, repentance for sin, obedience to God’s commands, and so on. These are the natural fruit of love for God. When these things are lacking we have cause for concern. If we don’t see an increasing crop of good fruit in our lives, the answer isn’t to doubt God’s work, but to repent.
The Christian life is one of repentance. As John Owen memorably stated it: “Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.” As we become better acquainted with God and His word we will naturally see many areas of sin in our lives more clearly. When this happens we don’t despair, we simply keep on believing what we have always believed: that Christ died for sinners and He calls us to repentance. He not only made it possible for us to be saved eternally, He made it possible for us to defeat sin daily. Sin only has a hold on us as long as we don’t repent of it, so we repent, and we keep on repenting through the course of this life.
Planted Like a Tree
In the end we will only be as steadfast as the One we serve. Our Creator promises to make those who serve Him like a tree, and what He has said, He will do. This we may steadfastly believe.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.—Psalm 1:3