‘Become as little children’ [Mat 18:3] June 6th 2021 ACC D.W.
God’s Word has lots to say about the childlike spirit. This is in fact one of the most important themes in all of Scripture.
The theme is not exclusive to the words of Jesus. The Old Testament speaks of it in Psalms and in Jeremiah.
Let us prophet, Jeremiah,regards himself.
Jeremiah 1:6 ‘Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord Jehovah! Behold, I know not how to speak, for I am a child.’ Childlike trust. Trusting and obeying, for there is no other way to be happy in God, but to trust and obey.
David’s son, Solomon, expresses that same sense of personal inadequacy when called to be king.
1 Kings 3:7 ‘And now, O Jehovah my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child; I know not how to go out or come in.
Psalm 131:1-3 ‘Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty, nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things too difficult for me. Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child [resting] with his mother. My soul is like a weaned child within me [composed and freed from discontent]. O Israel, hope in the Lord, from this time forth and forever.’
Jesus gives us a most solemn warning:
Luke 18:17 “Truly I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall in no wise enter therein.”
Childlike faith is mainly uncluttered by the ‘what if’s’ of life.
Matthew 18:3 ‘Jesus said, “Truly I say unto you, except you turn, and become as little children, you shall certainly not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’
John 3:3 ‘Jesus answered and said unto him, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
John 3:7 “Marvel not that I said unto you, you must be born again.”
Why not ‘make a new start’ or ‘change’?
1 Peter 1:23 ‘Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and abides forever.’
In the N.T., the Apostle Paul addresses some co-workers as ‘children.’
We do not find Paul placing himself above others, quite the contrary, yet he addresses Timothy, Titus, Onesimus and Philemon as ‘his children’. Why not ‘co-workers’? After all, that is what they were. No, ‘children’.
2 Timothy 1:2 ‘To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
Titus 1:4 ‘to Titus, my true’ child after a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Saviour.’
Philemon 1:10 “I beseech thee for my child, (Onesimus), whom I have begotten in my bonds,”
Philippians 2:22 “But you know the proof of him, (Timothy) that, as a child serves a father, so he served with me in furtherance of the gospel.”
Then here are robust, swarthy fishermen at work after Jesus’ resurrection, full grown men plying their trade, and Jesus does not call them ‘brothers’ but ‘children’.
After the resurrection: John 21:5 ‘Jesus therefore said unto them, “Children, have you anything to eat? They answered him, “No”. And he said unto them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you shall find.” They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.
Jesus had called all of His disciples ‘little children’.
John 13:33 “Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, ‘where I am going, you cannot come’.”
What a wonderful picture Isaiah gives us of a little child leading the animals along.
Isaiah 11:6 ‘And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.’
Psalm 116:6 ‘The Lord preserves the child-like: I was brought low, and he helped me.’
The kingdom of God belongs to those who cultivate the spirit of a little child and unless we change and become more and more like little children ourselves, we won’t be able to enjoy the full benefits of God’s kingdom.
Fathers protect their children. It is not by some great miracle that they do this, because that is what good fathers simply do. Today’s promise tells us that God protects those who trust in Him with the simple heart of a child. Having the heart of a child is not limited to those who are physically little. For no matter how old we become, God is much older than us! The Bible describes God as being The Ancient of Days.
While we are not called to be childish, we are encouraged to be childlike. Little children are completely dependent on their parents for everything. To be fed, to be clothed, and to be protected; everything. Without their parents’ care, children are in real trouble.
1 Corinthians 14:20 “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking.” Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.
Yes, we become completely vulnerable. When we trust our God and Father with the simple heart of a child, I believe that He responds by being our safe place and our defender in every situation. Childish and childlike are similar words with vastly different meanings. The childishness encapsulates all the worst things about children – petulance, immaturity, obnoxiousness, selfishness, and so on. All antithetical to faith. Childlikeness though, describes all the beautiful things about children – trust, joy, innocence, curiosity, wonder, forgiveness, and so much more. This word, childlike, is the flavour our faith in God ought to have. What follows are five characteristics of childlikeness that make faith robust, rich, and full of life. Like a child.
5 Characteristics of little children:
1) Children ask honest questions.
By honest questions I mean questions that do not challenge or subvert or undermine. They simply want to know truth. Yes, children are sinful and do challenge authority, but think of their curious questions, their eager questions, their innocent question. Each one has a single motive: teach me. They simply want to know truth.
We forget this as adults because we can encounter (or ask) so many loaded questions – questions with ulterior motives, meant to challenge, designed to undermine or embarrass. We can become passive-aggressive with our questions or just confrontational. Children are not like this. Children are not confrontational. They are just eager to know truth.
2) Children ask openly.
Unlike adults, children do not fear for their reputation or image and do not care who is around when they ask a question. This can create some awkward situations when they ask frank questions. But they simply want to know and think nothing at all of who knows they have a question. There is no shame and no embarrassment. (They pick that up from us.) What others thought or who else might know of their questions, ignorance, worries, or doubts would be of no consequence.
***Jill’s circumcision experience
3) Children ask from a place of vulnerability with the expectation of an answer.
When they are little, children see parents as omniscient (all-knowing). At first they expect parents to know everything, but over time children are forced to come to grips with all the things parents don’t know. Children instinctively know that their knowledge is limited, even if they can’t articulate it. That’s why they ask so many awkward questions. So to find out Mum & Dad can’t answer all their questions takes a position of vulnerability and makes it feel uncertain and tenuous. They start with total trust then grow out of it.
We don’t have to grow out of vulnerability and total trust in God, though. We can grow in it. Unlike parents, God knows everything, including everything that is beyond our capacity to ask or understand. We need to grow in utter dependence, or at least admit our dependence upon our heavenly Father. We can become completely vulnerable, honest, and open with our questions and we can expect that God will answer us with precisely what we need. Childlike faith is that which knows we don’t know, knows He does, and asks with the expectation that the answer He gives will be the right one.
Children also focus only on the person they are asking with complete trust that an answer will be forthcoming. This is part of the reason they ask so openly; they are only thinking of one person, the one who can provide their answer. Imagine if we prayed like this and were so singly focused on God that what others thought or who else might know of our questions, ignorance, worries, or doubts would be of no consequence
4) When they are small, Children do not know what is best for them most of the time, but they trust their parents.
Parents generally know what is best for kids, or at least they know better than kids do. No sweets for breakfast, don’t play in the street, don’t eat that glue, don’t poke the cat, eat your veggies, do your homework, don’t hit your sister. Children get frustrated with these commands even though they are for their good just like we can be tempted toget frustrated with how God knows what is best for us and commands us accordingly. Although afterwards we often realize and respond with re;life.
Children don’t always understand why parents say “no” or “do this.” Often the reason is simply beyond their maturity or capacity for understanding. And despite the child’s griping and moaning, if parents love and are generally stable, the child trusts them. Children have an incredible capacity for trust.
We understand even less about God’s reasons because of the depth and breadth of His wisdom and in the infinity of His mind. And we certainly can gripe and moan and outright rebel against Him and occasionally throw a tantrum too. But because of His Word, His character, His promises, and all the ways He has shown us His love, we can trust Him absolutely.
5) Children trust and find satisfaction with parents.
Even if children are frustrated or confused by parents, so long as the parents show love the children will trust them deeply and take pleasure in their presence. Kids are normally at home with their parents. They trust in their decisions, big and small
How much more should we take pleasure in God’s presence even when we cannot understand His reasons for His plan. We know His love, shown for us in Jesus, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. We know His promises: “I will never leave you or forsake you,” “I will be with you always,” “Nothing can separate you from the love of Christ,”” fear not for I am with you”. God is the answer (and not the explanation!) to our questions and doubts and the soothing for our anxieties. His presence and love is what we need, always.
Let us end with a vital aspect of Jesus’ earthy life: Jesus’ dependence upon His Heavenly Father. Jesus lived this childlike dependence upon His Heavenly Father. He was utterly dependent upon His Father and He is our model. Jesus at all times had a childlike trust in His Father in heaven, throughout His life here on earth.
John 12:49 “For I spoke not from myself; but the Father that sent me, he has given me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life eternal: the things therefore which I speak, even as the Father has said unto me, so I speak.”
John 14:10 “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I say unto you I speak not from myself, but the Father abiding in me does his works.”
Next time we say to ourselves ‘I don’t understand, let us follow it by saying from our hearts: ‘Nevertheless I will choose to trust You, Heavenly Father, in this matter.’
Somebody once said ‘I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.
Let us persevere and learn to trust in Father in childlike confidence through all of life’s situations. This is the way forward. This is the pathway to peace. This is the disposition of a heart most pleasing to God. The Holy Spirit speaks softly and gently within our hearts. Let us cultivate a listening spirit.
God delights in us! (Psalm 37:23)
Proverbs 3:12 God disciplines, as a father the son He delights in.