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Don't Act Your Age! - Exploring the Qualities of a Childlike Faith
Pastor Joe Giacometti ©2002

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 father.

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 Jesus.

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 any

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 gentle voice,

“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.