Core Ideas of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Posts tagged ‘childlike faith’

Childlike Faith vs Childish Religion

childlike-faith

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.

 

Advertisements

Kids Always Fly First-class

BALLOON WITH KID

There is always more to the Bible than first meets the eye. I’ve known that for a long time, but I seriously thought I had mastered a few concepts by now.  For instance, when Jesus says, “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it,” I was sure I had nailed child-like faith. Kids trust their parents absolutely; we have to trust God that way.  That’s true, of course, but there’s more. Wow!

I spent a few days with my three grandkids last weekend.  En route I picked up a box of long, skinny balloons complete with a pump and directions for twisting them into colorful animals and funny hats!  I was sure this would be a blast, and I couldn’t wait to impress my favorite tykes with some amazing, inflated dogs and monkeys and elephants.

So the moment finally came and we gathered on the floor where granddad was prepared to create a few dazzling masterpieces of plastic and air.  As I opened the box, my strategy was simple and direct: inflate a dozen balloons, let the kids pick which animals they wanted, and begin twisting latex.  I took the pump in one hand and used the other to slide the first green balloon onto the tip.  That’s when chaos exploded onto the scene.

The five year old wanted to try the pump for himself.  The three year old plunged his fingers into the wriggly stack of uninflated balloons and threw them into the air like confetti.  The seven year old wanted to choose her own balloons and blow them up.  Within ten minutes the room looked like a gummy worm factory on steroids.  I couldn’t believe these ungrateful children were running amok with my carefully charted plans for fun!  “You’re popping all the balloons!” I was growing more tense and frustrated by the second. What about all the fun we were supposed to be having?

That’s when I realized: they are having fun!  They were using the inflated balloons for goofy sword fights.  They popped them and screeched with delight!  They twisted them into shapes unlike any animal ever beheld on Planet Earth, and giggled at the sight.  And yes, the three year old picked up the uninflated balloons I had just returned neatly to the box and hurled them into the atmosphere again, watching them rain down upon our heads. “Granddad, this is so fun!”

So I laughed and joined them in their excitement!  The balloon frenzy lasted for nearly an hour, which is almost eternity in a kid’s world!  A meaningful balloon shape never emerged from the bedlam, but we did manage a cool hat for my grandson. Like a balloon in a gentle breeze,the idea of childlike faith  unexpectedly came floating aloft into my head.

Surely, small children trust their parents completely, but they also approach life differently than adults.  My idea of fun was creating inflated works of art worthy of display on Facebook and in family albums for generations to come!  Their idea of fun was rolling on the floor, releasing balloons to squirt around the room like rockets, and making as much noise as possible.

It dawned on me that’s one reason why church can seem so frustrating at times. As leaders, we arrive on the scene armed with our brilliant plans for ministry; complex strategies certain to succeed.  Meanwhile, all these undisciplined volunteers can’t seem to catch the vision: they delay, get sidetracked by silly jokes, and miss some of the steps.  They are so determined to enjoy the moment and the shared community that they seem to us like- well, like children.  I once heard a successful GM exec throw up his hands as AWANA leader, confessing to me, “I hate this volunteer army!”

Children are learning even as they enjoy the moment.  Sometimes we in the church need to remind ourselves that we’re constructing more than a ministry plan: we are building a community.  And with a little more childlike faith and a little less vainglory, we could occasionally laugh with the Father and enjoy the company of His children.

Lift up the cross.

Tag Cloud