Kids take the winding path when adults choose the short cut.
Children wish they could make time move faster, but grown ups want to slow it down.
Little guys would rather play than eat. Big people want their meals on time.
And none of those distinctions were in the mind of Christ when he coached his budding apostles, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3) When the Lord called for childlike faith, he had a specific quality in mind which he explained with his next statement: humility.
That is, kids realize they’re small and need the care of more powerful individuals. That’s why toddlers become so clingy and insecure when one parent is away: they want as much adult care as possible. As a result, little kids are comfortable being out of control. Sure, there are those terrible two’s and occasional tantrums, but kids spend most of their time living comfortably under the authority of bigger people.
New Testament faith is the cultivation of that kind of dependence among the children of God. Have you ever noticed how often people of faith are compared to children in the Bible? I’m thinking children of Israel; the warning about causing one of God’s little ones to stumble; the directive to call upon your Father who is in Heaven. Have you ever wondered why the model prayer set forth by Jesus includes a plea that God will provide us with our daily bread each day?
Childlike faith is the recognition of my scale in the universe: small, lacking in resources, and dependent on outside intervention from someone more powerful. Turning to God is not a last resort for people of faith; it’s the first line of defense in a world that seems seriously out of our control!
I have come to believe that’s why awe and wonder are so lacking in the Christian Faith of this particular generation. Awe is a combination of love, fear, and surprise that leads to reverence. An awesome motion picture leaves the audience sitting in stunned silence. An awesome rocket launch leaves masses gazing quietly at the empty sky. Moments of wonder leave us feeling small; speechless in the presence of something vast and beyond our reach.
The trouble with grown ups today is that we have fallen in love with devices we believe can give us complete control. My smart phone gives me mastery of my calendar, my photographs, favorite music, plus instant access to all my friends wherever they are. Alexa orders flowers for my wife and turns the AC up or down! That sense of personal power is a carefully curated illusion, but an illusion all the same.
In fact, cherished relationships can crash and burn quite suddenly- often completely apart from our actions. Circumstances change, health conditions spiral downward, finances go south, best laid plans hit the wall, and cars come crashing through restaurant windows. Just last month a friend diagnosed with Stage IV cancer early in December was gone to be with God by Christmas Eve! In the most important areas of life, the only thing I can affect is my own behavior; which can often seem useless at best.
Childlike faith doesn’t chafe at the authority of God. Neither does it need to understand what God is thinking when he takes a particular course of action. Children learn to deal patiently with major decisions whose only explanation is “because I said so.” So do children of God. Because unless we are converted to childlike faith, we will never enter the Kingdom.
Take some time to be dazzled by the presence of God and the timeless power of His Holy Word. Go out of your way to offer God true worship this week. And lift up the Cross!
For last week’s message, The Trouble with Grown Ups, click here.