I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3 NIV
One of the wonderful things about being a follower of Jesus is that there is nothing wrong with being childlike. In fact childlike faith is something Jesus looks for and delights in.
Every new born believer in Christ is childlike in faith at the outset. The challenge is how to remain childlike in faith once we grow up.
Like most I have always found great delight in watching children interact with others and the world around them. For young children there is a blur between being childlike and childish. Both qualities endear them to us, but we hope that as they age they will maintain the innocence of their childlikeness while outgrowing the petulance of their childishness.
Our Heavenly Father has the same purpose for each of His children. He wants us to be ever childlike in our faith relationship with Him while continually putting aside our childish self-centered ways.
Here then is a list of 7 qualities of childlike faith to which every Christian should aspire and seek to nurture, no matter what their age.
1. TRUSTING – Children know how to trust without hesitancy. They giggle when they are tossed into the air and plunge recklessly from high places, all because they know that they will be caught in the outstretched arms of their daddy. They are oblivious to danger and fearless in their exploration because they take for granted the sheltered bubble of their parent’s love.
Paul the apostle, probably more than any New Testament person, put himself in perilous situations, all for the cause of the gospel, because from his conversion he had entrusted himself to God as a child to his father and he never wavered from that childlike trust. He knew that even in the darkest hour his Father would never let him fall.
2. TRANSPARENT – Children are not good at hiding their flaws, their wrong doing or their emotions. What you see is what you get and there is little or no guile or image management with them. They are quick to reveal what they think and what they feel, to confess what they have done and to receive what they need in terms of forgiveness and comfort.
Oh that we all could be like the woman who shamelessly crashed the Pharisees’ dinner party in order to make her life right with Jesus. With a repentant heart she washed His feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, kissed them and poured expensive perfume on them. What a poignant picture of the true nature and reward for transparency. “Your sins are forgiven.” Jesus said. “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:44, 50)
3. CAREFREE – Children are free to live in the present with no concern for the future. They have no worries about a bank account, the price of gas, the next doctor appointment, war in the Middle East, politics at the office or what people think. They can focus and revel in the moment because they are not entangled by the complications and distractions of this life.
Surprisingly, the one person who is a good illustration of this childlike quality is John the Baptist. Consider the simplicity of his life, his wilderness home and diet, his narrow focus of ministry, his unwavering message of repentance, his magnetic presence that spared him the inconvenience of traveling and his freedom from the fear of man. Can you think of a more care free individual? Oh that our lives could be lived in the service of God with such unencumbered focus on the things that really matter.
4. INSISTENT – As everyone knows children can be persistent. They never tire of asking questions and making requests. Like the widow with the unjust judge they think that if they are insistent enough for long enough they will get what they want. And they are right. “Can I, can I, can I . . . please, please Daddy, just this once!”
When Bartimaeus, the blind man heard Jesus was passing by he began to shout repeatedly like an insistent little child “Jesus, Son of David have mercy on me!” Though people rebuked him and tried to silence him he shouted all the more. He was so insistent that Jesus, like any badgered parent could not help but stop and address his need. And that is exactly what Jesus did – “Go, your faith has healed you.” (Mark 10:52)
5. SPONTANEOUS – Children are always game for a new adventure. They are too young to be prisoners of tradition and the status quo. They do not want to put off until tomorrow what they believe can be done today. They have few if any past experiences to convince them to hold back for fear of failure or discomfort.
The apostle Peter takes the cake in this category. His childlike spontaneity delighted Jesus no end. As a result he was the only one to walk on water and the first among the apostles to declare who Jesus really was, “the Christ the son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)
6. IMAGINATIVE – Children see possibilities where many may see problems. Their imagination knows no limitation. The world is their stage upon which their dramatic creations are enacted without self consciousness. Little do they care or are they aware of what an audience might think. Creativity at its best is nurtured in a child’s world of unconditional love and acceptance that is free from critique.
Joshua, Israel’s military commander had the unique privilege of being trained in God’s creative ways of winning wars. He had seen miraculous victories won by arms lifted in prayer and seven day marches punctuated with a shout. It so stirred his faith and imagination that when he found himself in a battle where he needed more time, he simply commanded the sun and moon to stand still. “There was no day like that before it or after it, when the LORD listened to the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel.” (Joshua 10:14)
7. JOYFUL – A child’s joy is not so much based on the circumstances about them as it is in the people they love being with them. David, the great king and psalmist wrote frequently of the joy of being in the presence of the one he loved. “In thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures forever.” (Psalm 16:11) Like a child smiling with glee at the sight of their parent, we can smile with glee at the knowledge of God being with us, for He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. Living in God’s loving presence is the source of a true and lasting joy that will always be independent of our circumstances.
Are these childlike qualities evidence of faith in your life? Which are most prevalent? What is your growing edge? Why not ask God to make you more childlike in your faith?
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