There are two very different motivations for ministry.
The first motivation begins in doubt, and the second begins in assurance.
That was the experience of Anthony Norris Groves, one of the first “Plymouth Brethren,” and often called “the father of faith missions.”
In his interesting biography, Robert Dann notes how Groves went through both kinds of motivations.
As a young man, Groves sat under the ministry of two evangelical Church of England clergymen. At this time, Dann says, “Groves was drawn to personal faith in Christ” (Father of Faith Missions, p. 19). At this time, Groves professed to be “a disciple of Christ.” However, while Dann seems to indicate Groves was born again at this time, he also notes that Groves’s “heart was filled with doubts. He was uncertain about his future, about Mary, even about his acceptance with God” (Father of Faith Missions, p. 19). Groves was a disciple, but he lacked assurance of salvation (“his acceptance with God”). To me, that means Groves had not yet understood and believed Jesus’ promise of salvation. There were many people who as disciples followed Jesus, but not every disciple was a believer. As I understand it, Groves was close to being a believer, but not quite there.
So what did Groves want to do to gain assurance? He decided to become a missionary! And isn’t that what so many people do? They try to quell doubts of their salvation by engaging in religious work, as if that would make them worthy enough for salvation, or perhaps prove they were truly born again. To me, that indicates a works-salvation mindset.
In any case, Groves wrote to the Church Missionary Society and expressed his interest in missions. But as Dann notes: “His thoughts, though, were still directed to what he could do for God rather than what God had done for him” (Father of Faith Missions, p. 20).
Then Groves met two sisters, Bessie and Charlotte Paget. They were not members of the Church of England, but Dissenters. “Bessie spoke openly to him about his need to accept and believe God’s love for him” (Father of Faith Missions, p. 21). I appreciate that. Much of our ministry at GES is to reach cultural Christians with their need to believe the saving message. Groves was obstinate, but the sisters persisted. And slowly, with their unselfishness and loving concern, they began to win Groves over. But most importantly, Bessie exposed the young man to Scripture. As Dann notes,
“The scriptures she showed him finally brought the young dentist into assurance of salvation. Abandoning all hope of making himself worthy of God’s love, he put his trust completely in Christ as Saviour. Immediately, his missionary longings revived—no longer as a means of finding favour with God, but now as a natural desire to share with others the assurance he had obtained” (Father of Faith Missions, p. 21).
Groves gained assurance when he finally gave up on works salvation (“making himself worthy of God’s love”) and believed in Jesus as his Savior (“put his trust completely in Christ as Saviour”). And far from dimming his desire to serve God, his assurance of salvation fanned the flames of his missionary intentions because now he had a message worth sharing! Groves was no longer motivated to serve to reassure himself, but to share the good news with others so they, too, could have assurance of their salvation in Christ!
If you do not have assurance of salvation, could it be that, like Groves, you are not trusting “completely in Christ as Saviour”? What does that mean? If you lack assurance, is it because you think your salvation depends, even in some small way, on what you must do for God? Maybe you think that Jesus offers the chance to be saved to those who do enough to earn or to keep salvation. Or maybe you think that Jesus will do 99% of the work, but you still need to contribute your 1%. In that case, you have not believed in Jesus completely. You still think you must do something to save yourself. If so, no wonder you have doubts, because who can ever be sure he’s ever done enough or what was required?
The good news is Jesus does 100% of the work in salvation and you do 0%. Salvation is by faith in Him, totally apart from your works (Gal 2:16). Jesus promised that whoever believes in Him has everlasting life (see John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47). If you meet the condition, the gift is yours. It is entirely His responsibility to keep that promise to you. He who is faithful will do it. The only question is, do you believe Him?