Quite often, the Christian who struggles with the assurance of his or her salvation is actually struggling with feelings... versus facts. You may not feel like a Christian; however, if you have accepted Jesus Christ then, the fact is, your salvation is secure and sure. Not only that. The fact is that you are loved, forgiven and accepted by the God of the universe.
You may not feel God’s presence. While it may be frustrating for us, from our human perspective, more often than not, God meets Christians with only “a still, small voice”... if that. The problem is, we expect God to meet us, instead, in grand, emotional and miraculous ways. At those times of struggle, it’s helpful to remember 1 Kings 19:11-12, “The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”
When we question God’s work in our life, the assurance of our salvation and the implications of faith, sometimes that question reflects a classic Christian problem, and that is the problem of missing the clear teaching of the New Testament on God’s grace made possible in Jesus Christ. There is no way to “fall off the path”... simply because of God’s grace and love for you.
Grace is a function of God’s love; it is not based on our actions or behavior. As Christians, we have been called to live in the freedom of Christ—His gift to us. The fact is, as hard as it is to accept at certain times, Christ has already paid for our sin, struggles and guilt. Shame should lead us back to God, but it often causes us to turn from Him.
As a Christian, your natural desire is to please God—even when you continue to mess up and to struggle—not because He will punish you if you don’t please Him, but because of His great love for you. The point is this: Our obedience comes from freedom... not freedom from obedience.
Remember that no one is always content or happy or even aware of God’s work in his or her life. (Aside from actual life right now, the Bible is full of examples—David in the Psalms, Job and Paul, among others). The problem with being human is that so often our feelings (or lack of them) get in the way. So, if I don’t feel like a Christian today... if I don’t feel joyous today... if I don’t feel loving today... if I don’t feel God’s presence today, then, it must follow that I’m not living my life as a Christian and something must be wrong. That mistaken thinking is just not true! Just because you don’t feel a certain way today has nothing to do with the facts—of God’s presence, of His acceptance, love and forgiveness, or of your salvation.
Remember that no one is always content or happy or even aware of God’s work in his or her life.
As an aside, the problem of feelings is especially true if we’re in the midst of pain, stress or trouble. This tends to directly “color” our view of life which, in turn, affects our relationship with God. Other things affect our relationship with God—our relationships with our family (especially with our parents), past issues, physical pain, relationship/job/family problems, anxiety, depression and the like.
Let me ask you a few questions: If you knew you were forgiven, no matter what, would you then find the joy restored? If you knew that God loved you and accepted you, no matter what, would you then be free? If you knew that you belonged to God and that He would never let you go, no matter what, would it be easier to worship and serve Him as Lord? If you answered “yes” to those three questions, then your problem is solved. Why? Because if you are a Christian, you are forgiven. You are loved and accepted. You belong to God and He will never let you go. Check out the following Scriptures (among others)... Matthew 11:28-29; John 10:27-30; Romans 8:1-2; 8:28-39; Philippians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 as well as 1 John 1:9.
When Christians struggle with the assurance of their salvation, it reminds me of a swimmer who is drowning. The more that swimmer flails his arms and legs in a desperate attempt to save his life, the closer he comes to drowning... When, all along, if the swimmer were just to relax and let the water hold him up, he would be safe. The water—God Himself—can hold you up and you can trust in that fact.