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3 Questions to Ask a Child Struggling With Assurance of Salvation

Written by Greg Palys on

Do you ever wrestle with assurance? By this, I mean a settled conviction that you are truly a Christian?

Whether or not you struggle with this question, your child might someday. Growing up in a Christian home is a tremendous blessing to children (1 Cor. 7:14; Eph. 6:1-3). Yet children who come from believing homes and themselves decide to become Christians can wonder, “How do I know I’m saved if I don’t really remember my life before Christ?” Or even, “How do I know I’m not just doing this because my parents want me to?”

Thankfully, God’s Word promises assurance to all those who are truly his. Here are three questions you can ask when the time comes to wrestle with assurance.[1]

1. Do I have a present trust in Christ for salvation?

Many people root their assurance in a past decision. They point to a time at camp, with their parents, or alone in their room when they cried out to God and asked for forgiveness. To be clear: God certainly does save in a moment, and he does so not by our works but by his grace (Titus 3:4-7). However, our perception of the past can be notoriously fuzzy. When doubts assail us in the present, we can wonder, “Did that work? Was I sincere enough?”

If your child is struggling with assurance, instead of asking them to recall “when was I saved,” instead encourage them to ask, “Am I trusting in Christ now?” This does not mean that we need to continue to “rededicate” our lives to the Lord or worry that we lost our salvation. However, a surefire way to know whether you are a believer is whether you believe now. God is most concerned with how we finish (Col. 1:23; Heb. 6:12), and he will complete the good work he began in us (Phil. 1:6).

2. Is there current evidence of a regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in my heart?

This question is similar to the first but is focused on fruit. Put simply, a Christian will bear fruit. Some Christians have shown little fruit in years yet find assurance due to a past spiritual experience. They have been taught “once saved always saved.” In one sense, this is true; God does not abandon his elect (John 10:27-28). However, this implies the person is elect (Matt. 7:21-23)!

We can’t determine the definite spiritual state of every person. However, Scripture gives us every reason to doubt the salvation of a fruitless, professing Christian (Matt. 18:17; 1 John 2:4). If your child is not bearing fruit, it would be wrong to give him or her assurance. We need to point them to their need for salvation.

However, on the other hand, if your child is bearing fruit, however small, your child should be encouraged. Only the Holy Spirit can produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22). Your child should be greatly assured if he or she sees these fruits present and increasing.

3. Do I see a long-term pattern of growth in my Christian life?

The first two questions look to the present. However, once we find reasons for assurance in the present, we should confirm our perceptions with additional assurance from the past. Our perception of the present can be just as deceiving as that of the past. Don’t we all know someone who seemed to be “on fire for Jesus” yet flamed out when the sun got hot (Matt. 13:20-21)?

A key indicator of future perseverance is past perseverance. Faith will have a track record. Christians will look more like Jesus when they die than when they first believed (i.e., progressive sanctification) (Rom. 8:29-30; 2 Pet. 1:5-10). Therefore, even if a Christian feels as if they are struggling in the moment, they can be encouraged when they consider how far God has already brought them.

How then should parents encourage assurance in their children? This will depend on several factors. First, parents should make sure children understand the gospel and then look for signs of faith and repentance. Second, parents should be slow to grant assurance when a child is young and untested, though quick to encourage any sign of spiritual interest. Third, parents should make sure they themselves are members of a local church. The church grants assurance to members when it welcomes them into the fold (Matt. 16:18-19). Likewise, these fellow believers will be able to testify to the faith and fruit (or lack thereof) in the children among them.

Finally, if these factors are present, parents should help their children consider these questions when they are discouraged and, if the answer to all three is yes, encourage them to find great comfort and assurance.

[1] I am borrowing these questions and many supporting Scripture references from Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Second ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 2020), 986–89.

Greg Palys

Greg serves at College Park as the Assistant Pastor of Children’s Ministries. He is passionate about equipping families to instill the goodness and truth of God’s Word in the next generation. Greg received his MDiv from Faith Bible Seminary and his ThM from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also a certified biblical counselor. Greg enjoys spending time with his wife Sarah and their children Ruth, Ezekiel, James, Eden, and Luke.

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