Pillar Journal

Assurance Well-Cultivated Produces Fruits

Assurance enables faith to reach greater heights, from which all other aspects of Christian character flow. This invigoration of faith results in a new release of spiritual energy at every point in a person’s Christian life.

Westminster 18.3 stresses that assurance produces God-glorifying, delightful fruit, so that the believer’s “heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, the proper fruits of this assurance; so far is it from inclining men to looseness.”

Assurance elevates God-glorifying and soul-satisfying emotion. Burgess noted that it “enflames and enlarges the soul to love God.” It produces holy living marked by spiritual peace, humble gratitude, cheerful obedience, tenderness of conscience, freedom in prayer, boldness in evangelism, and heartfelt mortification of sin.1John Owen, Of the Mortification of Sin, in Works (1689; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1968), 6:33–53.

In a word, assurance enables faith to reach greater heights, from which all other aspects of Christian character flow. This invigoration of faith results in a new release of spiritual energy at every point in a person’s Christian life. Thomas Goodwin called it a new edition of all of a Christian’s graces that deepens his communion with the triune God.2Thomas Goodwin, Works (Grand Rapids, Reformation Heritage Books, 2006), 1:251.

Let me highlight four wonderful fruits of assurance.

First, assurance transforms trials. In the middle of Job’s unspeakable trials, he famously confessed unspeakable assurance: “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me” (Job 19:25–27). Notice all the personal pronouns Job uses here: my Redeemer, my flesh, I shall see, mine eyes shall behold. Assurance transforms him while in the middle of the sorest of trials.

There was a father who had a blind son named Johnny whom he took to the hospital for treatment. When the doctor entered the room, he rather coldly introduced himself, walked over to the father, took the child out of his arms, and walked away with him to do a test. The father quickly followed, saying with angst: “Johnny, you don’t know the doctor who is holding you; are you afraid?” Johnny replied, “Father, I don’t know the person, but I know that you know.” That is what the Christian feels in the middle of trials. We often don’t know what is going on or why; we are encompassed with confusion and uncertainty. We have no answers, but we can say, “I don’t know, but I know my Father knows. I know my heavenly Father loves me and keeps me in His heart, His hand, and His eye—and that transforms everything.”

Second, assurance produces contentment. The hymn writer Fanny Crosby was converted as a young girl but she developed an awful flu, and the medicine in those days was very primitive. A doctor tragically prescribed a mustard poultice for her inflamed eyes, and the result was that it blinded her at the age of eight. She was taken to many doctors, including one of the best doctors in New York, who said she was going to be a poor, blind girl. When she heard that, she went home and wrote these words:

Oh, what a happy child I am
Although I cannot see;
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be.

Of course, this is the woman who wrote the verses, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine / O what a foretaste of glory divine.”3Fanny Crosby, “Blessed Assurance” (1873).

So this assurance brings contentment, even in the midst of sore and painful trials. We read, for example, in Habakkuk 3:17–18, “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”

Assurance brings the contentment of being able to say, “my heavenly Father knows what He is doing. He makes no mistakes, so I will trust Him. He does all for His glory and my good. Nothing shall separate me from His love” (Rom. 8:38–39).

Third, assurance heightens holiness. Assurance does not incline believers to “looseness,” the Confession says. In other words, it always distances itself from careless living and moral indifference. Far from making the believer proud, assurance keeps him humble, cheerful, and godly. Burgess said, “By its very nature, assurance cannot breed arrogance or cause one to neglect God and godliness, [since it] is only maintained and kept up by humility and holy fear. When a man ceases to be humble or to have a holy fear of God, his certainty likewise ceases, even as a lamp goes out when the oil is taken away.”4Burgess, Faith Seeking Assurance, 192 (Spiritual Refining, 679–80). Robert Harris wrote that the more a believer grows in gracious assurance, “the more he grows out of himself,” for then “we become more humble and low in our own eyes.”5Robert Harris, The Way to True Happinesse (1632; repr., Soli Deo Gloria, 1998), 2:91.

Finally, assurance hastens heaven. Faith will get us from earth to heaven, but assurance brings heaven to earth. It gives us a foretaste of the heavenly experience. Thomas Brooks wrote, “Genuine holiness will yield you a heaven hereafter; but genuine assurance will yield you a heaven here. He who has holiness and knows it, shall have two heavens—a heaven of joy, comfort, peace, contentment, and assurance here—and a heaven of happiness and blessedness hereafter.”6Brooks, “A Cabinet of Choice Jewels,” in Works, 3:502. And so assurance makes the believer long for heaven. He wishes in these moments of triumph and exaltation that heaven would hasten, that the days between earth and heaven would be shortened.

The apostle Paul had this heaven-hastening assurance in large measure. He says, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7–8). He is, as it were, “hastening heaven” here; he is saying, “Bring it on, bring it forward. Let my corruptible body put on incorruption, and my mortality put on immortality. So I shall ever be with the Lord” (cf. 1 Cor. 15:53–54).

In Romans 15:13, Paul says, “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” Assurance brings this new futuristic perspective to the Christian’s life. It makes him long for heaven much more—to be far more heaven-focused on this earth.

In 1858, four hundred people died when the steamship Austria caught fire and sank in the Atlantic. Some survived, however, and one of them told the story of how several Christian men had done all that they could to get others into lifeboats before the boat sank. In front of them was the inky black, deadly ocean; behind them, the raging fire; under them, the swiftly rising waters. Five of these Christian men formed a circle to encourage each other about the joys of heaven. They joined hands, walked to the edge of the deck, and jumped into the ocean, with the expectation that they would arrive in heaven together. What assurance they possessed as they faced certain death in front and behind!7Samuel Prime, The Power of Prayer (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1992), 160. Assurance hastens heaven.

Samuel Rutherford’s last words on his deathbed were, “Oh, that all my brethren did know what a Master I have served, and what peace I have this day! I shall sleep in Christ and when I awake I shall be satisfied with His likeness.”

May God grant to each of us who trust the Lord that wonderful assurance — more of it, longer spells of it—and may it transform our lives.8I am indebted for several thoughts in this last section to David Murray for an address he gave on the blessings of assurance.

Excerpt from
Growing in Grace
By Joel Beeke