One night, my three year old son had been running fever. As he lay cuddled close to me on the couch with his head to my heart he exclaimed, “Mommy, I hear Jesus inside your heart. He’s sleeping.” Immediately, my mind began to think of all the ways in which his statement was theologically incorrect. However, rather than rebuking my son’s ignorance of proper Christology, I simply embraced my son and appreciated the simplicity of his faith. He knew Jesus was with me which was at the heart of the matter. The details can be worked out when he gets a little older.
The last five years of my life have been marked by a series of trials that made me lose a sense of my innocence towards the Christian faith. Through a season of being in a leadership position at a church, I saw the ugly side of religion that leaves one on the edge of bitterness. During this time, I was also in seminary, where faith was anything but simple. As my family moved back to our home state, I realized that it was time for me to spiritually return home as well. While I had achieved a Masters degree, I felt farther from than I had been before I started school.
Shortly after we moved home, on a summer day in 2010, I watched my son play with his older cousin. Their laughter was filled with joy. They ran with a sense of inhibition and freedom. As I sat on the swing, tears began to fall down my check as I realized the Lord was showing me that this was what a relationship with Him was supposed to look like. It is joyful and free. It is embracing and enjoying every moment. It is letting go of all inhibitions and being who God created you to be. It is everything that I was not. I prayed a prayer of thanks that day and asked the Lord to teach me to enjoy Him the way they were enjoying the afternoon sun.
The following day, I was in the pool with my son. Wearing his swimmies, he climbed up uninhibited to my awaiting arms. There was no hesitation. There was no questioning or mention of doubt. The only characteristic bursting out of my son was trust which led to a great adventure. It was in that moment I felt God tell me that He could teach me a lot through my children. I knew I had much to learn.
I made a commitment to the Lord that I would be teachable. In my quest to find spiritual maturity, I had lost my sense of a childlike faith. My desire had been to gain knowledge and wisdom. I had taken scores of classes on God’s Word, studying it in Hebrew and Greek. I had even served within a church. Yet, all the while, somehow, I had lost my sense of wonder, amazement, trust, and vulnerability. I decided to become a student again in quite a different way. I began to study my children and allow God to teach me through them.
This book is a result of my quest to recapture my childlike faith. If you are reading this, then maybe you can relate to some element of what I am saying. Perhaps you have been disenchanted by the establishment of religion and have let that affect how you delight in the Lord. Or, maybe, in seeking to know more about God, you have lost your sense of fellowship with Him. Perhaps you have been led astray by the world and its desire so the last thing you want to think of yourself is exposed and vulnerable before God. There are hundreds of reasons why we might struggle in having a childlike faith including pride, bitterness, greed, lust, gossip, etc. However, we are children of a God who loves us and desires to teach us.
There are several qualities that I have noticed children possess that we seem to lose as adults. When incorporated into our faith however, it is exactly what God desires of us. These qualities include: amazement, boldness, contentment, devotion, exposure, forgiveness, and grace. For young children, these characteristics seem to come quite naturally and are especially expressed to their parents. However, as adults, we tend to replace these qualities with disbelief, compromise, discontentment, apathy, feeling invincible, ruthlessness, and legalistic. While this is a difficult list to read, it is even more difficult to have the kind of relationship with God that he desires to have with us as long as we possess these qualities.
Throughout the book, we will examine each of the above mentioned qualities exhibited by children. We will first look at how a child shows these in life and then look at how God calls us to demonstrate them in our daily walk with Him. We will then look at a biblical character who grew in and exemplified each characteristic. After we have defined and described the quality, we will then look to see how we can implement each one into our daily faith walk. Finally, we will examine areas that will hinder our quest for a childlike faith. This journey may seem simple to some, but as I have come to realize, going back to simplicity is much harder than it seems. I hope that you will trust Christ enough in this journey to let yourselves go and allow Him to carry you through, so that you can experience His grace, His power, His sufficiency, His love, and His forgiveness on a whole new level.
Before we look at what a childlike faith consists of, I believe it is important to have a solid biblical background for why we need a childlike faith and understand how a childlike faith is different from childish faith.
In discussing how to recapture a childlike faith, it is of the utmost importance to differentiate how a childlike faith is different from childish faith. In Matthew 18:3, Jesus states that unless you become like little children, then you will not inherit the kingdom of God. He is not arguing for simplicity of faith, but rather the manner by which one approaches Christ. Paul argues against being simple-minded or childish when it comes to spiritual matters. In 1 Corinthians 14:20, he writes, “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking, be mature.” Therefore, to say that a childlike faith is a simple minded faith is simply incorrect. Scripture endorses the study of God’s Word (NEED VERSES) and condemns ignorance.
In the Ancient Near East, children were regarded lowly. They were not held in high esteem. Therefore, the way in which they would approach Jesus would be filled with humility. In Matthew 18:2-4, Jesus called a little child to him and placed him among his disciples. He said, “Truly, I tell you, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
Imagine you were the child who Jesus summoned. Here is this man of whom you had heard your parents speak. You had heard of the wonders he had performed and might of perhaps witnessed one yourself. When you arrive to where he will be teaching, you hope that you might be able to get a glimpse of the great Teacher that some proclaim to be the Messiah. All of a sudden, you hear the sound of a calm baritone voice calling for a child. Before you can realize what is going on you are met face to face with Jesus. He places you in his lap and smiles a gentle smile at you. He then tells the crowd the words of Matthew 18:3-4. You think to yourself, "He is using me as an example, he must be mistaken! No one even acknowledges me. I have no say in decisions. I must trust in my Father's plan for me and follow in obedience." Jesus looked down at you with a warm smile, kisses your forehead and leads you back to your parents. You know your life will never be the same.
Jesus calls us to be like children, in that we are to have the humble attitudes of the heart of a child. A child is utterly dependent upon their caregiver and understands that need. Therefore, they recognize that their greatness is reliant upon someone greater than themselves. Small children innately understand the concept of respect because they are physically smaller and weaker than others, thus making humility an easier concept to grasp.
As we grow into adulthood, we inevitably become more independent. That independence usually leads to pride. Pride is the antithesis to the kingdom of God. To admit we are sinners that need God's grace and forgiveness (that is brought through Christ) takes humility. It takes humility to abandon our own wants and desires of this world and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Yet, when we are able to recognize what our true position is as humans compared to the glorious nature of God, humility can be found.
Underlying this entire study is the concept of humility. With each other characteristic we study, we will look at it through the lenses of humility. It is the quality Jesus so admired in the little children and it is the one He so greatly exemplified on earth.