Pillar Journal

Assurance Must Be Actively Pursued as a Duty

God commands us to pursue assurance prayerfully and fervently, promising that He will bless it.

Westminster Confession 18.3 says that “it is the duty of every one to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure” (cf. 2 Peter 1:10). As concerned souls, we should never rest until we can say that God is our God.

In a sermon on particular election, Charles Spurgeon stressed that our duty to make our calling and election sure is not a duty we pursue “towards God, for they are sure to Him: make them sure to yourself. Be quite certain of them; be fully satisfied about them.” Spurgeon went on to say that the way to go about this is to give “all diligence” to this task. God’s ordinary way of bringing believers to assurance of faith is not “by some revelation, some dream, and some mystery,” he added, but through diligent labor: “Idle men have no right to assurance…. If thou wouldst get out of a doubting state, get out of an idle state; if thou wouldst get out of a trembling state, get out of an indifferent lukewarm state; for lukewarmness and doubting, and laziness and trembling, very naturally go hand in hand. If thou wouldst enjoy the eminent grace of the full assurance of faith under the blessed Spirit’s influence and assistance, do what the Scripture tells thee—‘Give diligence to make your calling and election sure.’”1C. H. Spurgeon, “Particular Election,” Spurgeon’s Sermons, vol. 3, sermon no. 23 (New York: Robert Carter and Brothers: 1883), 350.

In short, God commands us to pursue assurance prayerfully and fervently, promising that He will bless it. “A good improvement of what we have of the grace of God at present, pleases God, and engages Him to give us more,” Bunyan wrote. “Therefore, get more grace.”2Cited in Richard L. Greaves, John Bunyan (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969), 149.

William Guthrie explained succinctly how that works: “Learn to lay your weight upon the blood of Christ, and study purity and holiness in all manner of conversation; and pray for the witness of God’s Spirit to join with the blood and the water; and His testimony added unto those will establish you in the faith of an interest in Christ.”3William Guthrie, The Christian’s Great Interest (1658; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1969), 196.

Thomas Brooks provided a helpful list of ways for you to pursue the duty of maintaining and strengthening your assurance: (1) be diligent in using the means of grace and spiritual disciplines through which you first gained assurance, such as prayer, reading and hearing the Word, the Lord’s Supper, and the communion of saints; (2) meditate often on your spiritual and eternal privileges, such as your adoption, justification, and reconciliation; (3) value Christ even more than your assurance and your graces; (4) use the degree of assurance you have to strengthen your soul against temptations and corruptions, and to improve your Christian resolutions, affections, and life; (5) walk humbly with your God; and (6) guard against those sins that have damaged the assurance of other believers, and consider solemnly the dreadful evils that would accompany your loss of assurance—including the difficulties of reviving it.4Thomas Brooks, Heaven on Earth (1654; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1961), 306–11.

Moreover, this duty—when seriously engaged in—will assist us in other duties of the Christian life. The Puritan stress on duty reinforced the conviction that assurance must never be regarded as only the privilege of exceptional saints. The failure to believe that at least some degree of assurance is normative for the believer tends to leave us in a fruitless spiritual condition.

Excerpt from
Growing in Grace
By Joel Beeke