Defeating Doubt (2:1-3)
Doubt or uncertainty isn't always bad. It can often be productive, by driving us into deeper study and investigation. If we are absolutely convinced about everything, beyond the shadow of a doubt, we face the even bigger problem of arrogance and pride. Doubt humbles. It reminds us that we are finite and that our knowledge is always subject to improvement and increase.
But doubt can also be crippling in a way that undermines our relationship with God. If we are constantly doubting his word or wondering if he will fulfill his promises or are cynical of his stated intentions, it's hard to grow spiritually.
I've known many who are tormented by fears that God can't be as good as he portrays himself in Scripture. Or they are paralyzed by uncertainty concerning the forgiveness of their sins. Some experience a gnawing anxiety about whether Jesus was really God and whether he can be trusted with their lives. This sort of incessant second-guessing of God's revealed purposes is ultimately counter-productive to a healthy relationship with him and others.
This is why Paul's statement in Colossians 2:2 is so important for us. One of his goals in praying for the Colossians was that they might "reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding."
Let me note three important things in this statement. First, "full assurance" is a very real possibility for us. That doesn't mean we will never again scratch our heads in bewilderment or wonder if a biblical statement can really mean what it seems to mean. But it does mean there is a degree of certainty concerning the most basic and foundational truths in Scripture that is attainable in this life. Our knowledge will never be infallible or exhaustive, but it can be sufficiently accurate and adequate to sustain our hope and energize our hearts to persevere in what God has called us to do.
I don't think it's possible, at least not this side of heaven, for us to banish every wayward thought that might run counter to what God says in his Word. Until Christ comes, Satan will continue to sow the seeds of doubt in our minds. Adverse circumstances, what appears to be unanswered prayer, an affliction that isn't healed, a friend who abandons us in a moment of profound crisis, among other things, all have the potential to undermine, in varying degrees, our confidence in who God is. But that doesn't mean we can't experience what Paul refers to as "full assurance" (v. 2).
Second, this assurance or conviction concerning the truth of the gospel is characterized by "riches" or "wealth". There is great treasure in knowing that the gospel of Christ is true. There is indescribable spiritual value in resting confidently in the veracity of God's Word. I think this is Paul's way of saying that indescribable blessing and unfathomable joy and ineffable peace fill the human heart when it attains "full assurance" of all that God has made known of himself.
But third, and perhaps most important of all, look closely again at Paul's words: "full assurance of understanding." We could as easily render this, "full assurance that comes from understanding" or "unshakeable confidence that is produced by knowledge" or something similar.
The point is that assurance is a function of knowledge. Our confidence in God's promises is subject to varying degrees, depending on the depth of understanding that we have attained in the things of God. Not everyone is equally confident about what God has revealed to us in Christ, because not everyone is equally informed.
When knowledge is made an end in itself, or is prized for its own sake, it breeds arrogance, pride, and "puffs up" (cf. 1 Cor. 8:1). But when a person humbly applies himself to the pursuit of knowledge and looks to the power of the Spirit to bring illumination and insight, the wealth of our assurance increases and the riches of confident hope expand.
Although we can have full assurance of eternal life the moment we trust in Christ (John 3:16), our confidence grows and intensifies in direct proportion to our cognitive grasp of the broad expanse of what God has revealed. Knowledge is the soil in which the seeds of peace and certainty germinate.
For some, ignorance is bliss. But not when it comes to the assurance of faith. Ignorance of God and his revealed Word is the breeding ground for heresy and skepticism. As our understanding deepens, so too does the peace and tranquility of "knowing that we know" that God is true and will do what he has said he will do.
Simply put: defeat doubt by immersing your mind in the Word of God. This is the ordained means by which the Spirit will indelibly imprint on your heart the joyful and undeniable assurance that what God has said, God will do.
Paul said much the same thing when he prayed that the Romans might "abound in hope" (Romans 15:13b). But abundant hope or full assurance only comes "in believing" (Romans 15:13a) or in connection with and as a result of our faith in what God has made known. Sin-killing, Satan-silencing confidence doesn't fall from heaven like manna, nor do we serendipitously bump into it as we skip blissfully and ignorantly down the yellow brick road to a heavenly Oz. The Spirit imparts hope and confidence and assurance by means of and only in connection with our growth in the knowledge and understanding of God in his Word.
Praying for you to reach the riches of full assurance,