Doubt. For some it is the seedbed for growth and for others it is a miserable, dark and depressing pit. Everyone has doubts about things. For instance, I doubt I will ever climb Mount Everest, go to the moon or live to see the Detroit Lions have a winning season (sorry Lions fans). But while these are doubts that have little to no impact on my life, what about doubts that hit closer to home? What about doubts that strike at the heart of our personal beliefs which shape our decisions and everyday lives? What about doubts that center around our deepest held religious beliefs? What if I doubt the genuineness of my own faith in Jesus Christ as my Savior?
Doubt is a normal part of the Christian life and seeking to address this issue, John Stevens has written How Can I Be Sure? And Other Questions About Doubt, Assurance and the Bible as part of the Questions Christians Ask series from The Good Book Company. In this short and accessible book, Stevens scratches the surface on the problem of doubt in the Christian life and how to handle it with Biblical counsel.
Many Christians have false ideas and impressions about the nature of doubt and its place in the Christian life. Perhaps it is these false ideas about doubt that cause too many Christians to struggle with it as mush as they do and for as long as they do. After all, if a doubting Christian were looked down upon by his or her peers would they be more likely to tell someone about them?
Stevens wants doubting Christians to be freed from the chains of doubt in their lives by helping them to understand the nature of doubt and how to address its root causes as well as attending symptoms. While there are many things a Christian can doubt about the content of their Christian faith, Stevens hones in on the doubt some Christians struggle with in regards to being saved at all. For some professing believers, doubt about their own salvation can lead to a strong assurance of their salvation, while for some others, doubt leads them to leave the faith all together. Stevens hopes that doubting Christians can learn that “the very circumstances that cause us to doubt may be the means that God uses to test, refine and strengthen our faith.” (35)
So what is the answer to doubting ones salvation? Simply put, Stevens responds with the gospel itself. It starts with trusting in what Jesus has done for sinners. It is understanding the basics of the salvation message that we are called to believe that form the grounds for our assurance of salvation. Further, it is seeing the fruit of the work of the gospel in our lives that can bring us more assurance of our salvation. Too often traveling evangelists and preacher will try to cause Christians to doubt their own salvation by telling them, “If you can’t remember the time and place when you were saved then you probably are not saved! Come down the aisle today and seal this day in your minds! Write it down in the front of your Bible so you don’t forget!” But this gives saving power to the memory of a person which is not the focus of the Bible. No doubt God calls us to remember many things lest we forget them, but the consistent witness of Scripture is to what one believes in the present. Stevens responds well to this when he says,
The good news is that it doesn’t matter that you can’t date the precise moment that you came to faith in Christ. That time is known to God. What matters is that you are trusting in Jesus now. Present faith is the primary evidence that you have been born again and received the gift of God’s salvation. (43-44)
With all of the many helpful things Stevens addresses in how to deal with doubts, I think the above statement succinctly states the heart of the matter. This is where to start when dealing with a believer’s doubts about their salvation. Who and what are you trusting right now for your salvation? Is it Jesus or someone/something else?
How Can I Be Sure? is a wonderful, clear, Biblically based response to the Christian struggling with doubts about their own salvation. Stevens strikes a good balance between offering Biblical counsel with gentleness and yet not beating around the bush with the seriousness of the situation – the destiny of ones soul and eternal relationship with God. I recommend this book for new Christians who are still wrestling with their new found faith and even more for seasoned Christians who may be struggling with doubt as they walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
About the Author
John Stevens lectured in law at the University of Birmingham before entering full time ministry. He is the National Director of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches in the UK, and co-pastor of a church plant in Market Harborough, Leicestershire, England. John is married to Ursula and they have four children.
About the Questions Christians Ask Series
Important questions dealt with and explained. Short, readable and to the point, these books are perfect for students, small groups and anyone genuinely interested in the questions we have all asked.
Craig Hurst received his BA in Church Ministries from Clearwater Christian College and his MA in theology at Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary in Lansdale, PA. He currently lives outside of Grand Rapids, MI and attends Grace Community Church, where he serves as a volunteer youth worker (along with his wife), and teaches some elective classes. He blogs at Theology for the Road.