THE FAITH OF A CHILD
Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of [the disciples], and said “Assuredly, I say to you unless you are converted and become as little children you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18: 2–3.
In Jesus’ day children were not the epicenter a family life. To the surprise of everyone gathered around Him one day, Jesus called a child to come over and sit with him. He pointed to the little child and said to the adults, “You need to become like this little guy”.
Jesus wasn’t suggesting that adults should act like immature kids. No, the message is about faith, not age. Children have a simple faith. They believe because some one in authority tells them something it is true. They don’t over analyze, and they don’t get bogged down in all the what if‘s. They take things at face value, which is how Jesus wants us to take him.
Children also gladly receive gifts without second guessing or feeling guilty. At Christmas, many adults carefully unwrap presents to save the wrapping paper, but kids tear into it with reckless abandon! In the same way Jesus wants us to receive the gifts He gives us (forgiveness, adoption into God’s family, promises, truth, and so forth) with unfettered gratefulness.
Immaturity isn’t something to aspire to, but child-like faith is a valuable commodity in God‘s kingdom. We can be so complicated, full of questions and doubts and excuses for not believing. But we can begin where the disciples began that day, listening, watching, and marveling at the lesson Jesus taught, and we can ask him to produce that child like faith in us too.
“ God sends no one away empty except those who are full of themselves”
D. L. Moody
Here is another paradox of the kingdom of God. We talk quite a bit about spiritual maturity, but spiritual maturity isn’t memorizing the entire Bible or knowing the proper practice of every church ritual and able to give stellar performances. It isn’t even the ability to live a holy or righteous life. The paradox of spiritual maturity is to become like a little child who trusts implicitly, who gazes in wonder at God’s creation and who still believes that every thing Jesus said is so. Jesus was telling the disciples and us that the gospel and a living relationship with the Father wasn’t complicated but simple. The Pharisees and scribes had taken God’s words and made them so complicated that only the trained and the religious elite were able to “clearly” understand them. It reminds me of the news today when the commentators feel the necessity to explain the news to the rest of us because apparently we aren’t smart enough to understand the raw data. So Jesus comes along and takes the complicated things and makes them so simple that a little child can understand. What I’m going to say something that might challenge some of us. We have made Christianity an adult religion. I’ve heard people say that children aren’t old enough or educated enough to become Christian as though being born again is knowledge based rather than spirit based. As a pastor I’ve observed the even little babies are sensitive to the moving of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we are so focused on the fact that we are natural humans that we forget that we are also spiritual beings and that we don’t comprehend the things of God mentally but receive them by the Spirit. Jesus was clear that we worship in Spirit and Truth and even little children are capable of such worship.
The disciples were convinced that they needed to be “deep and spiritually mature” to be useful in the kingdom of God, so Jesus picked up a little child, sat him on His lap and said, “Unless you are converted- changed, and become like a little child(in faith) you will by no means enter the kingdom of God.” There it is.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and set him before them, and said, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless you repent [that is, change your inner self—your old way of thinking, live changed lives] and become like children [trusting, humble, and forgiving], you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 Whoever receives and welcomes one child like this in My name receives Me; 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble and sin [by leading him away from My teaching], it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone [as large as one turned by a donkey] hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
The simplicity of the Gospel that even little children can understand and apply is that we all do wrong. We can’t help ourselves or make ourselves to do right all the time so we need a Savior, Jesus. God sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins and if we ask He will forgive us and make us His children. One day when we die, we will go to live with Him in heaven.
How complicated is this? Yet we struggle with this simplicity because it doesn’t leave anything for us to do to earn, qualify ourselves or to get a pat on the back for our efforts. So the paradox of the kingdom is to lay aside all our own efforts and surrender and submit to the will of the Father with the same trust that a little child has.
For those who may be skeptics of this simplicity let me share a personal story. When my youngest son was about 4, one day after having gotten into trouble, he crawled up into his mom’s lap and said, “Mommy, I try real hard to be good but I can’t. Will you help me ask Jesus to make me a better boy.” As he was saying this, he was crying. Sherry prayed with him that day and the change began to happen. Not long after this moment, one of his uncles was in a crisis. As he heard us talking about it, he said, “Why can’t we ask Jesus to help him the way He helps me. And you should have heard the prayer for mercy from a 4 year old. And you know what? The next day we got word that God had intervened,
That’s what Jesus was saying to us. Simple faith. Oh that God would help us to get past our cynicism and skepticism and take at face value everything that God has said as truth. Only then can we enter the kingdom by getting rid of our pride and ego and becoming humble as a trusting child.
Dr. John Thompson