Nine reasons why you may lack assurance

A few weeks ago Dr Joel Beeke preached on assurance and gave five reasons why believers may lack assurance of faith.

Dr Beeke gave five reasons that were specific to our own congregation:

  • False Conceptions of the Character of God
  • Lack of Clarity on Justification by Faith
  • Disobedience and Backsliding 
  • Ignorance of Satisfying Evidences of Grace 
  • Lack of Acknowledging What God has Done

Let me add another four reasons that I’ve come across:

Temperament: Just as people who are confident by nature are much more likely to have spiritual confidence, those who are constitutionally more timid and hesitant than others will usually find it harder to attain to assurance of faith. The confident among us need to be extremely sympathetic to such trembling souls. From what I’ve seen, the little assurance that a naturally fearful person may have can be a greater spiritual triumph than the chest-thumping confidence of the naturally buoyant personality.

Events: When a person passes through a series of difficult providences – loss of health, work, loved ones, etc – it can be devastating to assurance. Again, those of us who are surrounded by multiple evidences of God’s blessing should be very slow to condemn a questioning believer whose providence is screaming from every direction “There is no God!” or at least, “God is not love!”

Father or Pastor: When a person has been brought up by a perfectionist or demanding Father who rarely expressed appreciation or love, their view of God as a loving and assuring Father will be seriously damaged. Similarly, if the preaching we have been exposed to has been angry, impatient, hectoring,  demanding, unsympathetic, frustrated, etc., then we will view God similarly and lack spiritual comfort.

Sovereignty: Sometimes it’s not us or anyone else. It’s simply God. In one of the most pastorally helpful sections of the Westminster Confession of Faith we read:

The most wise, righteous, and gracious God, doth oftentimes leave for a season his own children to manifold temptations and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends.

For sundry other just and holy ends! You might want to ask Job about that.

Check out

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That’s the name of Kevin DeYoung’s forthcoming book. If you want a taste, then you can read a synopsis from his excellent address at T4G yesterday in Louisville. Here’s Aaron Armstrong’s notes, and here’s Justin Taylor’s.

Broken Homes in the Bible

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The Martyn Lloyd-Jones recording trust releases all MLJ’s sermons for free.



Are you like Apple or Google?

Walter Isaacson is frustrated. Reviews of his Steve Jobs biography have focused mainly on what he wrote about Jobs’ weirdness: his faults, flaws, rough edges, idiosyncrasies, extreme emotionalism, etc.

Jobs did not deny his weirdness, and in fact instructed Isaacson to write it into the book. (Maybe he didn’t think Isaacson would take him so literally!)

However, Isaacson wants people to focus on Jobs’ focus; his ability to cut out not only bad things, but even the good things, in order to focus on the great things. Two examples:

When Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, it was producing a dozen versions of the Mac and a random array of numerous peripherals:

After a few weeks of product review sessions, he’d finally had enough. “Stop!” he shouted. “This is crazy.” He grabbed a Magic Marker, padded in his bare feet to a whiteboard, and drew a two-by-two grid. “Here’s what we need,” he declared. Atop the two columns, he wrote “Consumer” and “Pro.” He labeled the two rows “Desktop” and “Portable.” Their job, he told his team members, was to focus on four great products, one for each quadrant. All other products should be canceled. There was a stunned silence. But by getting Apple to focus on making just four computers, he saved the company. “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do,” he told me.

Jobs also took his top 100 people on retreat every year. In front of his beloved Whiteboard, he would ask, “What are the 10 things we should be doing next?” When the group came up with their top 10, Jobs would slash the bottom seven and announce, “We can only do three.”

Near the end of his life, Jobs met Google CEO Larry Page, and in a rare display of goodwill towards his great rival, he told him to pick five Google products out of Google’s smorgasbord and focus on these alone.

Focus is one of the hardest things to achieve in ministry and in Christian service. Whether we are pastors, elders, deacons, or church members, there is not only so much to do; there is also so much opportunity to do it. There is such huge need around us, and we could (and often do) attempt to supply each and every need to some extent.

We try to do way too much and end up doing nothing really well. We end up like Google instead of Apple.

When Martyn Lloyd Jones heard the much-loved Scottish Pastor Douglas Macmillan preach, he sought him out afterwards and said, “Douglas you are a fine preacher. Keep off the committees!”

As Steve Jobs said, “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.”

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A Christian Understanding of Work
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5 lessons I’m learning in my first year as a lead pastor
I liked #5 especially.

The myth of private sin
The older I get, the more convinced I am there is no private sin.  They don’t all wind up on page two, but the surface of the pond is never undisturbed by the pebble. The ripples move well beyond ourselves, and, in many cases they radiate through generations. (via Zach Nielsen)

The joy of paying taxes
Talking of private sins!

Anxiety: Anatomy & Cure
I read this when it was just a manuscript and it’s worth a read.

Some thoughts on Santorum’s Exit
Denny Burk with some regrets.

I don’t like the direction David Frum’s gone in since he left George Bush’s speech-writing team. However, I agree with his major point in Santorum’s Good Idea: “Rick Santorum had a brilliant idea. The Republican Party has become the preferred political vehicle of America’s white working class. There should, therefore, be room in a Republican primary for a candidate who championed the interests of the non-rich; who offered an economic message that offered genuine hope for improvement to voters who have been hit hard by the 2008-2009 crisis and by the long years of middle-income stagnation before 2008. It was a powerful concept, but Santorum could not manage to execute it.” If he had, it wouldn’t just attract and help the white working class. Opportunity lost.

The dirty little secret of overnight success

Do you want to know what it is? The secret is that there is no secret. As Fastcompany recently pointed out, overnight success is extremely rare.

  • Angry Birds, the best-selling Apple App was software maker Rovio’s 52nd attempt at successful software in 8 almost-bankrupt years.
  • James Dyson failed in 5,126 prototypes before perfecting his revolutionary vacuum cleaner.
  • Before Oprah was Oprah, before Jobs was Jobs, they were labeled as misguided dreamers rather than future captains of industry.
  • WD40 lubricant got its name because the first 39 experiments failed. WD-40 literally stands for “Water Displacement–40th Attempt.

The basic difference between successful people and the rest of us is that they’ve learned to fail well. They humbly embrace their mistakes, use them as opportunities to learn, and persevere until each shot got them nearer the bullseye.

  • Apple founder Steve Jobs ascribes his present success to reevaluating his life after three setbacks: dropping out of college, being fired from the company he founded, and being diagnosed with cancer.
  • J.K. Rowling lost her marriage, parental approval and most of her money. But then, with nothing left to lose, she turned to her first love – writing. “Failure stripped away everything inessential,” she said. “It taught me things about myself I could have learned no other way.”
  • Michael Jordan said: “I have failed over and over and over again, and that is why I succeed.
  • The American chess master Bruce Pandolfini, who trains many young chess players, said: “At the beginning, you lose – a lot. The kids who are going to succeed are the ones who learn to stand it. A lot of young players find losing so devastating they never adapt, never learn to metabolize that failure and to not take it personally. But good players lose and then put the game behind them emotionally.”
  • Philip Schultz wrote a book of poems about his writing failures. Entitled, Failure, it won a Pulitzer prize!

If we have learned to fail well:

  • We will have realistic expectations of ourselves and our work.
  • We will not soar too high on success, and we will not sink too deeply upon a setback.
  • We will not resent or envy the “success” of others, nor will we get caught up in trying to imitate them.
  • We will diligently and patiently labour in our vocations, gradually developing our talents and skills for God’s glory and the good of others.
  • We will confess our failures, seek our Lord’s forgiveness, and pray for His re-directing guidance.
  • We will emerge from our failures humbler and weaker, but wiser and happier too.
  • Eventually we will see how God can transform our ugly failures into something profitable and even beautiful.

As the Apostle Peter might say: “Sometimes, failure is the best thing that can happen to us.”