Assurance of Salvation
Am I Saved?
In Jane Smiley’s novel Horse Heaven, Buddy Crawford, a horse trainer, has a “born again experience but things don’t go according to plan. This is his prayer:
“One night, when he was praying his usual prayer, he suddenly got up from his knees and sat down on the bed. He looked out the window, up toward the full moon, in whose region he imagined Jesus to be, and he said, “Okay. Here’s the deal. I thought I was saved.
That was what was advertised. I would accept you as my personal savior, and there we were. And, you know, I felt it, too. I felt saved and everything. I was happy. But I find out all the time that I’ve got to keep getting saved. Am I saved? Am I not saved? What do I do now? Did I do the wrong thing? Should I be remorseful, or just go on and try to do better? Are you talking to me? Are you not talking to me? Am I good? Am I a sinner? Still a sinner? You know what? I’m tired! I’m only fifty-eight years old!
My father’s eighty-six, and he’s still alive, and his father died at ninety-three! That’s thirty years of this! I’m exhausted at the thought! I can’t do it!” And he did something only a loser would do, he burst into tears.”
Assurance of Salvation is Freedom
Now assurance goes far to set a child of God free. . . .It enables him to feel that the great business of life is a settled business, the great debt a paid debt, the great disease a healed disease, and the great work a finished work; and all other business, diseases, debts, and works, are then by comparison small. In this way assurance makes him patient in tribulation, calm under bereavements, unmoved in sorrow, not afraid of evil tidings; in every condition content, for it gives him a FIXEDNESS of heart.
It sweetens his bitter cups, it lessens the burden of his crosses, it smoothes the rough places over which he travels, and it lightens the valley of the shadow of death. It makes him always feel that he has something solid beneath his feet, and something firm under his hands—a sure friend by the way, and a sure home at the end. . .
There is a beautiful expression in the Prayer-book service for the Visitation of the Sick: “The Almighty Lord, who is a most strong tower to all them that put their trust in Him, be now and evermore thy defence, and make thee know and feel that there is none other name under heaven, through whom thou mayest receive health and salvation, but only the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Assurance of Salvation Should Be Discerned in Community
I can’t stress enough that this important process of examination can only be properly done in the context of a local church. You need other Christians who are committed to your spiritual well-being. They are the ones who will be able to get to know you and identify the fruit of the new birth in your life….
We are not good judges of our own hearts. Some people are entirely too easy on themselves. They imagine that their sin when in reality there is none. Others with a tender conscience are far too hard on themselves. They take every weakness and failure as evidence that they are hypocrites and false Christians. Being involved in a local church is immensely helpful for both kinds of people.
Do You Know Who I Am?
In a story circulated among an ancient monastic community, a vicious warlord intimidated whole villages, sending it’s entire population into the hills to hide in caves, waiting for the ruler to move on. One day the warlord entered a small village and asked, I presume all the people have fled by this time?” “Well, all but one old monk who refused to flee,” the aide answered. The warlord was beside himself.
“Bring him to me immediately,” he snarled. When they dragged the old monk to the square before him, the commander shouted at him, “Do you not know who I am? I am he who can run you through with a sword and never even bat an eye.” And the old monk gazed up at the commander and replied, “And do you not know who I am? I am he who can let you run me through with a sword and never bat an eye.”
Stuart Strachan Jr., Source Material from Joan Chittister, Between the Dark and the Daylight, 2015, The Crown Publishing Group.
How Do You Know?
In his book The Case for Grace, pastor and author Lee Strobel describes a dream he had as a child after having a significant argument with his father. Strobel does what most of us would do at that age: resolve to work harder, perform better, and get into his father’s good “graces.” The dream that followed demonstrates, even at an early age, that grace would inevitably seep into Strobel’s life, and that the performance treadmill he had learned as a child would never get him where we wanted to be:
One evening when I was about twelve, my father and I clashed over something. I walked away feeling shame and guilt, and I went to bed vowing to try to behave better, to be more obedient, to somehow make myself more acceptable to my dad. I can’t recall the details of what caused our conflict that evening, but what happened next is still vivid in my mind fifty years later.
I dreamed I was making myself a sandwich in the kitchen when a luminous angel suddenly appeared and started telling me about how wonderful and glorious heaven is. I listened for a while, then said matter-of-factly, “I’m going there” — meaning, of course, at the end of my life. The angel’s reply stunned me. “How do you know?” How do I know?
What kind of question is that? “Well, uh, I’ve tried to be a good kid,” I stammered. “I’ve tried to do what my parents say. I’ve tried to behave. I’ve been to church.” Said the angel, “That doesn’t matter.” Now I was staggered. How could it not matter — all my efforts to be compliant, to be dutiful, to live up to the demands of my parents and teachers. Panic rose in me.
Words wouldn’t come out of my mouth. The angel let me stew for a few moments. Then he said, “Someday you’ll understand.” Instantly, he was gone — and I woke up in a sweat. It’s the only dream I remember from my childhood. Periodically through the years it would come to mind, and yet I would always shake it off. It was just a dream.
A Saint Like Us
For the most part, when we think of saints or heroes of the faith, we think of people who are altogether different than we are. They seem to embody a quality of communion with God that is impossible for the rest of us. On closer inspection, we find that most great “saints” are ordinary people who, in the midst of daily living, discover and interact with the reality of God’s presence.
One man like this was Nicholas Herman. His life seemed much like our own. Nicolas had a number of jobs in his life, starting out in the military and then in the transportation industry. After that, he found work in the food service industry, serving as a short-order cook and bottle-washer.
Eventually Nicholas became deeply discouraged by his life. He spent a lot of time, like us, thinking about himself. “Am I saved” was a particular question that burrowed deep into his soul. He struggled deeply with worry, until one day when everything changed. On that day, he was looking at a tree, not the most thrilling exercise, but something occurred to him: what makes a tree flourish is not its self-reliance, but it’s rootedness in something other than and deeper than itself.
With this in mind, Nick began an experiment to have a habitual, silent, secret conversation of the soul with God. Today we know Nick as Brother Lawrence, whose book, The Practice of the Presence of God has become a spiritual classic, continuing to beckon readers to a deeper, more intimate relationship with God 300 years after it was first written.
Stuart Strachan Jr.