Don't Act Your Age! - Exploring the Qualities of a Childlike Faith
Indy’s father has been shot. There’s
only one chance to save him. Water from the cup that Jesus drank
out of. Except it’s at the other end of a booby-trapped passageway
that has already beheaded several men. But with his guide book in
hand, he’s ready to take on the challenge. Through the blades
he goes, spells his way across the stepping stones and comes to
the edge…of a chasm with no bottom, and too far to leap, or
even use his whip. As he anxiously goes through his book, he hears
his father moan and seas that the notes tell him of faith. It will
take faith to make it across this canyon. Realizing there is not
much time, he closes his eyes, lifts his foot and simply falls forward.
In less than a second his foot falls on solid ground. The bridge
that is there is hidden from the straight on view that he had. His
face is overwhelmed with relief, and he continues on to save his
WOW! I’m glad that nowhere in the Bible
does is specifically say that we need to have the faith to step
off a cliff. This is a powerful scene from the movie, “Indian
Jones and the Last Crusade.” Indiana is faced with a critical
decision here, where thinking about the physical consequences of
what he must do may be the difference between success or failure,
in more ways than one. He says out loud before he steps, “A
leap of faith,” and that’s just what he took. A leap
of faith most times involves Jesus’ request for us to have
faith like a child. This article will explore the idea of how we
might benefit from not acting our age with God.
The term is childlike faith and the understanding
of how to live by this principle is often slim. So hopefully we’ll
get a little close to understanding why and how we should use this
in our own lives to grow closer to God through Christ.
I’d say most of us are still close enough
to our childish years that we are still sometimes scolded to not
act childish. Even as we grow up, we can all act childish depending
on the given situation. However child-LIKE and child-ISH are different.
Child like faith or faith like a child is not childish at all, but
cherished by God. Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:3, “I tell
you the truth, unless you change and become like little children,
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
One Sunday morning several years ago, the church
I go to had a special Sunday. It was a Sunday that we dedicated
to giving the children brand new Bibles. And as the children stood
up around the alter, their faces were eager, excited, childlike.
As each one was handed their brand new Bible there were all kinds
of different expressions that were just amazing to see. Kind of
made me wonder, when was the last time I was that excited about
my Bible? Then as they filed down the aisles, out the door towards
children’s church, they had their new Bible’s clenched
in tight to their chests with a big smile. And again it made me
wonder, when was the last time I held my Bible so tight, with such
a big smile? When was the last time I saw anyone under the age of
10 act in such a way?
The children that morning inspired me. God used
them to get inside my brain and say, “Hey! That’s what
I want from you!” And you know what? There’s not doubt
in my mind that those children didn’t even totally realize
or understand completely what the book the held so tightly was about
or meant, but that didn’t matter. That doesn’t matter
to God. But you know what those Children did know? They knew that
book was about God. They knew that it would tell them about Jesus.
And that’s all that mattered. That’s what God wants
from ALL of us. Faith like these children, clenching their Bibles
with Uncontrollable smiles because they know it's about Jesus!
Well, what is our basis for becoming like little
children? I think the biggest principle to grasp before we can successfully
do this comes from 1 John 3:1.
“How great is the love the Father has
lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that
is what we are!”
When we realize and understand this, it is the
first step to having this faith. WE ARE CHILDREN! You, me, your
parents; we’re all children to God. Think about that. Say
this statement and think about how awesome it is:
“I am a child of God.” A Child of
GOD! Right up there with “I love you,” and “Jesus
is risen,” these are three of the most powerful words I can
think of. And then, to associate that with us! That’s awesome!
We can all say that! We are all children of God. No matter how big
and bad you think you are, or how big of a bully you may be or have
been, you will still always be a child in God’s eyes. Being
able to view yourself always as a child. That’s humble.
So what does it mean to have childlike faith?
Quickly before you get sick of looking at this computer screen I
want to talk about three things we must be willing to do to move
towards faith like a child.
Willing to be humble. Being humble is probably
one of the hardest things to do during the teenage years. But it’s
important that we try to be, and this is why Jesus wants us to be
like little children. Because of the certain way they have of being
humble. He tells us this in Matthew 18:1-4. In this passage, the
disciples are boasting about themselves and are curious as to who
among them is the best disciple. They want to know what Jesus thinks,
but when they ask him Jesus called over a nearby child and said
the following: “whoever humbles himself like this child is
the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven.”
Jesus knew that a child is week compared to
a full grown adult. He also knew that a child is dependant upon
adults for support, nurturing and survival. By using these characteristics
of a child, Jesus is saying that we shouldn’t be past these
things. We should realize that we are week compared to our mighty
God in Heaven. We need to understand that we are dependant upon
him for support, nurturing and survival along with everyone else.
We’re all in the same boat. No on is above or beyond any one
else. We should look to God for experience and wisdom as a child
does it’s parents or elders in general. This is the idea Jesus
wants his disciples to obtain and it is what he wants from his current
day disciples (hint: that’s you and I) as well.
Jump Now, Think Later. This is the second thing
we must be willing to do for a childlike faith. This is the fun
part. This is how we begin to experience Jesus the way he was meant
to be experienced. Some of the ideas I get for this article come
from a book named “Dangerous Wonder, the adventure of Childlike
Faith,” by Mike Yaconelli. He signed my book, and this is
what he wrote, “Joe, may the wild and dangerous Jesus continue
to chase you into his arms.”
The wild and dangerous Jesus!? Whoa! What’s
this about? A lot of people would hear that and think, “no,
that’s not what Jesus was/is about.” But I looked at
this and began to get excited about making my walk with him stronger.
I believe that’s what the author found as he was writing this
book. It takes a childlike faith to find this side of Jesus completely.
Childlike faith enables us to find and experience the wild and dangerous
You see, Christianity shouldn’t be an
easy going comfortable experience that is laid out, guide-lined
and ruled to death. It should be a wild ride! If we go through anything
like kids would, it should make it exciting. Following Christ should
be full of passion, curiosity, abandon and wonder! Do you have all
these things about Jesus? Jesus was on earth, and is now with us,
wild and dangerous! Man, he can get us in to a lot of trouble, but
good trouble. Trouble that if you’re willing to get into with
him, he’s willing to turn it into glorious things that you
never thought possible.
Jesus was a very controversial individual on
earth. Nearly everywhere he went he stirred things up. This is the
kind of thing he wants from us. He wants us to stir things up for
him in our surroundings. Very much of this principle involves have
a childlike faith, in particular, jumping first and thinking later.
Children are known for acting before they think,
and this is what we’re talking about here. Most times parents
tell there children not to do that, and for safety in some aspects
of life, this is a wise teaching. But don’t let every bit
of acting before thinking be taken away from you. This would be
a tragedy! Perhaps one that is already way to common. This acting
before thinking is the very thing Jesus loves about the children.
This is the very reason Jesus wants us to be like them.
I promise you, if you act first and think later
about God issues, you will have more opportunities to defend that
kid, or tell somebody about what you believe in, or witness to your
non-Christian friends at school. If thoughts like, “talk to
this person,” or “Invite this person,” or “Offer
to help this person,” DON’T IGNORE THEM! God want’s
you to act on it without thinking about it. Because if you do, you
will start to rationalize whether or not it would be a good idea.
Good for your safety, good for your image, good for your “weirdness
factor,” to that person. By the time you think all of this
through, the person, thought, and whim is gone.
It’s a childlike faith that acts upon
this whim rather than thinking about it too long to squander it.
And this, I believe is what Jesus tried so hard to get the disciples
to understand. It’s what he fights with us so hard to do.
He doesn’t want us to rationalize it, he doesn’t want
us to think about it. He wants us to DO IT! He wants us to jump
right in to it. Childlike faith involves the willingness to “Jump
now, think later.” He still wants us to be wise about things,
but he wants us to trust him more. A LOT MORE!
A good example of the trust Jesus wants from
us is the story of the rich young man. If you want to check it out,
it’s in Mark 10:17-23. What happened was this. A young man
came to Jesus and says, “Teacher, I have kept the commandments,
what must I do?” Jesus knew that this mans faith rested in
his possessions, so he told him to go sell all of it, give to the
poor and follow him. Jesus wasn’t looking for a report on
his desk by Monday. He didn’t give the man a due date. He
wanted the young man to jump first and think later. And the man
thought about it and that was his first mistake because the whim
was over. He walked away sad because of all the wealth he would
have to loose to follow Jesus. I don’t think Jesus is saying
you can never be wealthy and follow him at the same time, but to
this man, that’s what he was saying. In any case, I believe
that if he had taken that jump, he would have been very pleased
that he did and not sad at all about the wealth that he gave up.
He may have even been a bit surprised and amazed at the outcome.
See, when it comes to do with faith, jumping
first and thinking later can bring us great outcome. Not that we
should be in it for our own benefit, that’s simply a bonus.
Remember the look Indiana Jones had on his face that I talked about
in the beginning? He had just taken probably the biggest leap of
faith in his life, and his face was full of wonder and amazement
once he realized the outcome.
We must be willing to GET PAST what we DON’T
KNOW! God just must sit and laugh at us sometimes as we get philosophical
and suddenly seem to know everything about life and him and everything
else. Now, he can definitely reveal himself to us in ways we could
never imagine, but many times we can get way ahead of ourselves,
and just don’t even have a clue! In this case, the trick is
understanding that that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
There’s so much that we can’t understand for no other
reason than we’re just not supposed to. Yet, people will get
stuck on that. Churches will split over it. Friendships will suffer
argument and tension when we’re not able to get past what
we don’t know. God can tell us everything he wants to without
us trying to always make it complicated. I believe that often times,
the key to a solid faith is a simple faith.
If you can, grab a Bible right now, and read
Psalm 131. It’s short, so stop rolling your eyes! This Psalm
shows us how David is willing to concede his knowledge for faith.
I'll give you the highlight verse. “I do not concern myself
with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have stilled
and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with his mother…”
Like I said before, these kids don’t understand
the deep theological issues of the Bible. They understand that it’s
about Jesus! And as our developing brains, intellects and ego’s
get in the way of that, God will truly reward those who are content
with understanding that it’s about Jesus, those who are content
with putting their hope in the Lord, just like David did. In the
midst of all that was beyond him, he compares himself to a child.
Understanding that if we’re simple, God will reward us for
it. God will handle it.
Bear with me. There are some kicken’ stories
coming up. Right now I’m going to tell you a story of a little
girl, and you decide for yourselves whether you think God thought
worse of her than any one else at her church.
One Sunday, A girl sat with her mother in the back of the church.
. It was prayer time and the girl found herself confused at all
of the theological and technical religious terms that the adults
were caught up in. In fact, the little girl didn’t know really
even how to pray. But she stood up anyway, just because she wanted
so badly to be a part of God that day. When she stood up, she got
up her courage and gently spoke out. “A-B-C-D-E-F-G.”
The alphabet. The alphabet, that’s it. Well, right away the
mom tried to stop her, and the mother and pastor, just as confused
at her actions as the girl was of theirs, both asked her “what
are you doing?” Then, the little girl said in a continued
“You’re saying all these things
I don’t understand. I don’t know how to pray, so I figured
I’d give letters to God, and let him put it together.”
That’s about the deepest thing I think
I’ve heard anybody say, let alone a little girl. She was not
willing to let what she didn’t understand get in the way of
showing her faith in God. Sometimes We feel we can’t give
up until we figure it out. Well how often have we tried letting
God put it together? That is what is involved in child like faith.
Getting past what you don’t know, giving God what you do know,
and letting him put it together.
I have merely just scratched the surface of
all the aspects of childlike faith, and some of the points that
Mike Yaconelli brings forth in his book. But what we do know is
this. Jesus is a wild and dangerous individual, who wants us to
follow in his footsteps. He wants us full of passion, curiosity,
abandon and wonder. He wants us humble like a little child and when
faith sometimes becomes so hard because of things you can’t
understand about God that’s where childlike faith kicks in.
That’s when God is whispering, “Jump first, think later.”
There are going to be struggles along the way, but you can bet your
bottom dollar that it’s going to be a wild ride!
Mike Yaconelli closes the book I mentioned before
with this story. Let it be a reminder to us of what God can always
do with our child-likeness.
A well-known pianist, Paderewski, was gearing
up for a performance in New York. His much-anticipated concert had
been sold out for six months. A mother thought it would be a good
idea to take her 9-year-old son to the concert because of his complaints
about his piano lessons. Surely if he heard how he could sound one
day, he would remain interested. So, the mother dressed her son
up in a tuxedo, and he fit right in with the rest of the tuxedo’s
and evening gowns worn that night, except for being half the height
of anyone else there. As good as he looked, that didn’t change
the fact that he was only 9. He was restless and couldn’t
sit still as he continually would have to go to the bathroom and
move around, annoying those he sat around, going back and forth
down the aisle so many times.
Well, his mom had had enough, and sat him firmly
in his seat and said, “Now you stay here and don’t move!”
But once again, while someone sitting on the other side of her distracted
the mother, the boy slipped away from his seat. The mother turned
and saw him walking down the aisle toward the stage. She instinctively
yelled for him, but this startled the boy into moving faster toward
the stage. He climbed up on stage with the lone Steinway concert
grand piano, and looked intrigued by such a large oddly shaped piano.
He began making his way around, examining the beautiful instrument.
Some people in the audience noticed him and began to get worried.
Others became quite annoyed, “Get this kid off the stage!
What is that boy doing up there?” They yelled. Some ushers
had began moving towards the stage to get things in order.
Right about now, the pianist who was supposed
to perform looked on stage to see what the commotion was about.
He saw what was going on, grabbed his tuxedo jacket and quickly
got on stage. Everyone’s final destination was the piano,
and as quickly as a 9 year old can scurry around, he made his way
to the bench first. Everyone just sort of froze as the famous pianist
stood behind this boy stealing his spotlight. As the silence grew,
the boy broke it by gently beginning to play…chopsticks. Everyone
wondered what the great pianist would do. The boy, not realizing
what a stir he was creating, stayed true to his song. The performer
moved behind the boy, knelt down on his knees and whispered in to
the boys ear, “don’t stop. Keep on playing. You’re
doing great!” He eased his arms around the boy and began to
play a magnificent concerto based on the tune of chopsticks. While
they both played, Paderewski kept saying to the boy, “Don’t
stop. Keep on playing.”
I hope that we are able to hear the subtle voice
of God in our ear whispering, “Don’t stop. Keep on playing.
You’re doing great!” Because it is usually only in hind
sight, and some day in the glorious realms of heaven, that we are
able to look back and hear the glorious beauty of the concerto God
was playing while we plunked out our childlike version of “chopsticks.”
Having childlike faith is a hard thing to do.
It’s hard to sit back and say, “I don’t know it
all. I don’t even know a lot, but I’m going to give
all my effort to God, get past what I don’t understand and
trust that he will make something beautiful out of it all.