Doubt is one of the greatest enemies that the Christian must face. Doubt cannot be ignored for long. It cannot be talked down. It cannot be willed away. Doubt is strong. Its grasp is nearly unbreakable.

In the story of Pilgrim’s Progress, doubt is a castle with a large and terrible dungeon. It is ruled over by the giant Despair. Giant Despair had offered them the means of putting themselves out of misery, even while he promised to make life more and more miserable. The weight of doubting castle and the viciousness of the giant brought the pilgrims Christian and Hopeful to the end of themselves. Though they held on as long as they could, they both came to the conclusion that they would die in their prison. The briefest glimpses of sunlight strengthened them slightly, but, being without bread and water, they were failing.

Those who have read Pilgrim’s Progress know that it is an analogy of what Christians face in this life. This book is filled with wisdom and truth to guide us to our savior Jesus Christ. And so it is in the story that the two Pilgrims who were imprisoned in doubt and suffering at the hands of despair found their only way of escape lay in the key called Promise.

This chapter in the Gospel Mystery of Sanctification has a particularly encouraging application for those striving for the Celestial City. Walter Marshall writes in his tenth direction for believers:

That we may be prepared by the comforts of the gospel to perform sincerely the duties of the law, we must get some assurance of our salvation in that very faith by which Christ Himself is received into our hearts. Therefore, we must endeavor to believe on Christ confidently, persuading and assuring ourselves, in the act of believing, that God freely gives to us an interest in Christ and His salvation, according to His gracious promise.

Christians all have to deal with doubt, but we must first learn how to do so. Otherwise, doubt will entrap up and hold us captive. Those in captivity to doubt will ask questions like, “Is it worth it? Is this ever going to end? Am I ever going to change? Does God really love me?”

These questions don’t just go away without answers. They may be pacified for a time, but their ugly heads will rear themselves again and again, until they either destroy faith or faith destroys them. So where do believers find the grace to strengthen their faith against doubt and despair? The ordinary means of grace, and specifically the promises of God found in those ordinary means.

Though Marshall aims to take his readers to the assurance found in the promises of God, he begins by showing the inadequacy of assurance by good works. He refers to this as reflex act of faith. By this he means that there is some comfort to be found in examining ourselves. We ought to examine our motives, our thoughts, our desires, our words, and our deeds. These things might all manifest the fruit of the Spirit being worked in us.

However, our final source of assurance is not in ourselves and it is not found in reflecting upon our own character, whether it is good or bad. Our source of assurance must be the very same faith that made us cling to Christ in the very beginning of our walk! It is the character of God that must give us assurance. God is faithful, true, compassionate, omnipotent, benevolent, and wise. The Westminster Confession of Faith describes God in chapter 2.

There is but one only living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will, for his won glory, most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him; and withal most just and terrible in his judgments; hating all sin; and who will by no means clear the guilty.

This is where we must find assurance. God is who He has revealed himself to be. This is the key that frees us from the prison of doubt and despair. For God has promised to those who trust in Christ justification, adoption, sanctification, more faith, eternal security, the inner presence of the Holy Spirit, the righteousness of Christ, access to the throne of God, an advocate for us when we sin, forgiveness of sin, cleansing from sin, and on and on this list could go.

This list of blessings belongs to the believer because God is true to his Word. Consider Paul’s words in 2Corinthians 1:20-22, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”

In conclusion, remember the story of Doubting Thomas. Thomas was one of the twelve apostles. He watched Jesus raise at least 3 people from the dead. He watched Jesus perform untold healings. He watched as Jesus calmed the sea with mere words. Thomas belongs to the group of men who would change the world.

Yet, because of his doubt, because he doubted that Jesus was who He said He was, Thomas removed himself from the source of life and hope and found himself imprisoned by doubt and despair. Even when the other apostles brought him the good news of the resurrection, Thomas couldn’t embrace Christ.

Yet, Christ, being very God of very God, having promised that He would lose none of those who belong to Him, came to Thomas and met. Jesus said to Thomas in John 20:27, “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’

Christ made good on his promises to Thomas and Thomas believed Jesus and answered him, “My Lord and my God.”

Christ came to Thomas in his doubt and said, “Touch me.” In the same way Jesus promises that if we will come to him with our doubts and find our assurances in His promises, then we will find the comforts of the gospel, and thereby pursue the works that God has called us to.

Psa 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

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