By Drew Zuverink
"Hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrated his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, while we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!"
Many genuine Christians are tormented by fears and doubts about their salvation. I use the word, tormented, because that's exactly what it feels like, I would know - I've experienced it. These Christians have trusted in Jesus but they also know how sinful and messed up they are. And after all, doesn't the Bible say that we will recognize a Christian by their fruit? Matthew chapter 7 is another terrifying passage where Jesus says that there will be some people who believe that they're Christians, and believe that they'll go to heaven, only to hear Jesus say, "I never knew you, away from me." The Bible does teach that just because you say you're a Christian, and just because you think you're a Christian, doesn't mean that you actually are. This can cause us to wonder, "Will I be one of those people? Is my faith real? Am I truly saved? Can I really not fear death?" These thoughts are incredibly painful and utterly devastating to a person's faith.
God does not want any of his children to be tormented by doubts. Paul speaks of God's heart in Romans 15:13 saying, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." God wants us to experience real joy and total peace when we trust in him, he doesn't want us to worry and doubt. It breaks my heart to know that many genuine Christians do not experience peaceful or joyful thoughts when they think about the judgement to come.
God demonstrated his own love for us, a better love that the world had never seen before, when he died for us while we were still his enemies. People had died for loved ones before, but dying for an enemy was something completely new. All throughout scripture God reminds us that he does not enjoy punishing people, even if they're wicked. He's slow to anger but quick to forgive. He's incredibly patient, waiting and waiting and waiting for people to turn to him. What God wants more than anything is for human beings to trust in him. In fact, he wanted this so badly that he was willing to die for us before we even showed him any love whatsoever. I don't think I could overstate how ready God is forgive you.
You see, once you realize your sin and cry out to God for forgiveness, he's right there ready to adopt you into his family and pour out his love into your heart. Because you asking him for forgiveness is exactly what he's been wanting to give you for a very long time. When we doubt this and are afraid of receiving his wrath instead of his love, oh how it must break his heart. I have a wonderful earthly father, who isn't perfect, but I know he loves me. I would never ever be afraid that one day he would come over and kill me. That is so opposite of his heart, and if I actually worried about that I'm sure he would be heart broken. I think God must grieve in a similar way when we, his children, worry that one day he will pour out his wrath on us. I don't mention this to add more shame to those of you that struggle with doubt, I simply hope to show you how ludicrous it is to think that God would ever want pour out his wrath on us. The only thing he wants is for us to know how much he loves us.
Like I said, my Christian journey was once plagued by doubts of my salvation. But over the years I have grown to trust God as I've learned to understand his heart. The famous theologian A.W. Tozer once said, "What comes to our minds when we think of God is the most important thing about a person." I could not agree more. When I was struggling to rejoice in my salvation it was because I didn't really understand God's heart yet. I didn't know just how ready and excited he is to forgive and I didn't realize how much he didn't want to send people to hell. I still don't think I understand just how much God loves people, one day I think I'll be shocked. Over the years as I have read through the Bible, I learned what God's heart is really like - I learned to trust him.
Fears and doubts are normal for a person to experience but there must come a time when you trust God completely. I do think that it is possible for a Christian to hold onto their doubts for too long - and I think that's sinful and hurtful to God. Do not allow your sinful flesh or the devil's lies to rob you of the joy that's yours in Christ. Read scripture often, for inside of it we learn God's heart. You can't make yourself trust God, you have to get to a point where you actually do trust him. That comes through getting to know him. Trust always comes from getting to know a person.
So if you struggle with doubts I can tell you there is hope. You do not need to suffer forever, it is possible to experience peace, hope, and joy when you imagine eternity. Those things are found in the character of God, get to know him, and you will find him to be more loving and trustworthy than you could possibly imagine.