Childlike Faith

by Youth Pastor Zach Shackelford

The other day while running various errands, I found my mind wandering as it so often does while driving familiar routes and streets. However, this time instead of the usual random or inconsequential thoughts that I so often drift toward I began to ponder how I might answer certain questions my son is bound to ask in the coming years. Why do we go to church? Who is God? What does he look like? All these questions and more are sure to come. Now I’m not sure why I considered such a topic that afternoon, perhaps it was due to having concluded VBS days prior, but I am sure that it was both important to think on: for those future conversations and also my current walk.

Now I promise this is not another parenting message, Nate did a very good job of that last week. As I considered how I might respond in those potential scenarios, I was drawn to how necessary yet satisfactory truly simple answers can be for a child. I found myself reminded of passages like Luke 18:17 and Mark 10:15 where Jesus made clear the importance of receiving the Kingdom of God “like a child”. 

Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.

These passages and others lead to the common expression of having a “child-like” faith, and it is this idea that I want to explore with you today through an encouragement, a challenge, and a caution.

 

Our Encouragement: One of the countless beauties of the Gospel is its clarity and simplicity; a message of truth able to be shared with our children in an impactful way. We never outgrow our need for this simple truth to be understood at the core of our lives. Sometimes though, these truths can be taken for granted in their simplicity, I know I often treat them as little more than neat trivia facts as opposed to the life impacting encouragement they ought to be. What a true comfort it is to be told “Jesus loves you”. How incredible is the security to hear “God has forgiven you”. What can match the awe and wonder of hearing “God created everything and He created you”. It is my hope that we would gain incredible encouragement from having a childlike faith, by drawing immense impact from even the simplest of truths.

 

Our Challenge: Much in the same vein as the passages from Luke and Mark, as they pertain to being like children in receiving the Kingdom of God, Matthew 18: 4 adds in a challenging addition to the concept of having a childlike faith.

Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Receiving the Kingdom of God like a child is to receive it in full recognition of our neediness, smallness, and dependency within the Kingdom. In the face of that reality a posture of humbleness would of course be the natural response. However, as we are all too well aware, humility is not often our natural bend. I believe that our challenge is twofold; we of course should feel the call to be humble before others, as we read in Philippians 2:3 … but in humility count others more significant than yourselves that is quite clear. What we are also challenged by is the need to be humble before God, like a child is to a parent. I know I often assume the posture of a young child at the grocery store, adamant that they can push the cart all by themselves. Of course they are on their tip-toes, can’t see what is before them, and left to their own devices would cause an aisle to look more like a demolition derby than grocery store. I am just as much in over my head as one of those young boys or girls, just like them declaring “I can do it. Don’t help me. I want to do it myself!” The pride that leads a child to have such misguided confidence, is the same as the pride in us to act the same. Our need for, dependence on, and smallness compared to God cannot be overstated, yet I know I live a faith that often blatantly ignores that. It is indeed a challenge to have a faith that draws us to humbly recognize our true dependence on God in all our life situations, good or bad, and to take the posture of a needy child to a perfect father.

 

Our Caution: It is important to note that to have faith that is childlike is worthwhile, to have a childish faith is not. Just as there are clear biblical calls to have trust, awe, and humility toward God; we also read of the call to grow in maturity. 1 Corinthians 14:20 says:

Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. 

There should be a succinct distinction between how a childlike faith affects our posture and mindset versus having childish thinking and wisdom. God desires for us to grow: grow in our knowledge of Him, seek deeper truths, and continue to align our lives with that of Christ. To apply having a childlike faith to mean not growing or maturing would be both incorrect and damaging to one’s relationship with God. Our desire should be to seek further connection to and understanding of God, while staying in the same right relation to Him as his child.

 

It is my hope and prayer that each of us would seek to have a faith that is marked by trust, awe, joy, and humility; like that of a child towards a parent while also continually growing towards holiness and maturity. 

 

Zach Shackelford

Youth Pastor