As a Christian, I assume that I’m going to be attacked by Satan. I assume that I’m going to be engaged in battle against “the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). That battle is going to come on many, many levels. But one avenue of attack that Satan tries to crush us with is doubt.
Every Christian who’s ever lived has experienced doubt. Doubt is not an indication that you’re not saved. Doubt is a sin, but like all other sin in the life of a believer, it is forgivable. And by Scripture and the work of the Spirit, we overcome it. Satan wants to come in with crushing blows of doubt, but we have on a helmet, which is the hope of salvation. Hope, then, defends us against Satan’s attacks.
But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. (1 Thessalonians 5:8-10)
For many believers, there are times when we wonder whether we’re really saved. Maybe you have the fleeting thought, “I don’t even know if this whole gospel business is true. I wonder if I’m believing in a fantasy.” Or maybe your thought is, “I don’t know whether the Lord has really saved me. I’m so sinful, I’m not sure I’m worthy. I don’t know whether I’m in or out. Maybe the Lord has decided to let me go. Maybe I only thought I was a Christian.”
Those battles can rage on and on. So, what can you anchor yourself to in the midst of it? You go back to the hope of salvation which is given you in Scripture by grace, guaranteed by the resurrection of Christ and confirmed by the wonderful internal witness of the Holy Spirit, who continues to affirm that you are the child of God.
Hope defends us against Satan. Because no matter what goes wrong in this world, we know there’s a better life to come. No matter what trouble and trial and struggle and illness and disease and disaster and death comes, we know that there’s something better to come. And we eagerly wait for that. When Satan is hammering us with doubt, we go back to the revelation of our hope. This is what Paul encourages us to do in 1 Thessalonians 5:8-10, and this is the same thing he encourages us to do in Romans 8:31-35:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?
Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
We know by faith that God is indeed for us, and that this means He will save and grant eternal life to those who trust Him. And remembering this hope makes us stronger than any doubts that can assail us.
No one can successfully condemn us because Christ has already died for us. No one can separate us from the love of Christ. Paul knew this from personal experience, having suffered many things in the name of Jesus without ever being abandoned by Him.
So, hope is what defends us against the onslaught of Satan when he hits us with doubt. Hope is confirmed and strengthened through our trials when we see the protective, preserving hand of God, and when we suffer pain that makes us long even more for the bright reality of our eternal hope. As Jeremiah says,
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord
And whose trust is the Lord. (Jeremiah 17:7)
When you have your hope in Him, that hope becomes the source of your truest and purest and highest joy. And this is because God is a rock; He is unchangeable, faithful, and sovereign. No one can hinder His unfolding purpose. So then, as we will see in the next post, this sort of hope leaves no room for fear.
This post is based on a sermon Dr. MacArthur preached in 2003, titled “A Theology of Hope.”
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