As a Little Child
And they were bringing children to Him so that He might lay hands on them; and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, "Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. "Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all." (Mark 10:13-15)
What did Jesus mean by this? What are the qualities and attributes children possess that God expects and requires in His people? There are a number of them, but three in particular seem to stand out more prominently.
Throughout history, who is the worst human being that comes to mind? Adolf Hitler? Mao? Stalin? Charles Manson? Jeffrey Dahmer? Consider this: even the most vile, blood-thirsty person who ever lived came from the womb as an innocent baby. God surely must have felt the same heartache at Adam and Eve rebelling against His authority and turning from righteousness, that parents experience when they see their precious little one grow up to make bad choices, and turn out evil. The same tragic corruption process that began in the garden has been repeated countless times ever since. Like Adam and Eve, we come into the world innocent and incapable of knowing evil, yet soon follow the way of "the world, the flesh, and the Devil." A child must learn things like hate, deceit, greed and covetousness. We are not born that way. So, how does a believer regain that original innocence?
Certainly, we cannot undo the wrongs we've done, nor regain the same purity and pristine condition we had as babies. Yet, we can indeed have the same clean conscience as a new born babe when we are born again spiritually, and cleansed by the blood of Jesus. Once we are washed by accepting God's atoning sacrifice, we have forgiveness from our sins, and stand innocent before the throne of grace. While we must continue to crucify the flesh daily, and will not be free from our sinful, imperfect human nature until it is fully redeemed before Jesus (Rom 8:19-23), we can refuse to do wrongs when we are tempted, and reject sinfulness as a way of life. And we can be cleansed daily from the occasional wrong we do, by repenting, and confessing it before God, putting it under the blood. That keeps us in a state of innocence as far as God is concerned. And ultimately, His opinion is the only one that really matters.
Of course, as John tells us, if we, in our imperfect state, say we have no sin, we're lying, and are deceiving ourselves. As long as we are in this corruptible flesh and blood body, we will struggle with sin and temptation, and must deal with our faults, failures and shortcomings on a regular basis. Yet, if we repent, trust Jesus, and practice godliness in our words and deeds, God will not even see sin in us. He will see only innocent children washed free from sin by the blood of His sacrificial Lamb.:
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isa 1:18)
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. (John 1:7)
In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: (Col 1:14)
II. Unwavering faith.
A small child will believe anything they're told. Even the most outlandish fiction will be believed by little ones, because they have no reason to doubt the validity of what they're being told. They trust implicitly, never doubting for a moment, the veracity of an adult's word. We as God's people, have to be like that. We have to cling to the knowledge that God's word is truth, and He cannot lie, that He loves us, and always has our best interest at heart. Even when we don't see the reason for not getting a healing for ourselves, or someone else; or when it seems some other need isn't met, though we've prayed so hard for it. We have to have faith that knows no bounds--even to the point of suffering and death. The saints and martyrs of God have exemplified that kind of faith for thousands of years, and their lives have been recorded as a testimony and example for us. The purest faith is often seen in those willing to suffer because of it.
It's this kind of faith that foreign missionaries see in remote places where the Gospel is new. It's through a simple, child-like faith that God can freely do great, miraculous things still today. It's no coincidence that miracles--even people raised from the dead--are more common abroad than locally. These things are rarely seen in the West today because of the spoiled, jaded, lukewarm brand of faith that is so prevalent in the West today. We have many Laodicean-type Christians who question that God still works miracles--or even still baptizes people with His Spirit. He is not likely to operate in an atmosphere like that.
In fact, during His earthly ministry, Jesus actually began doing fewer miracles in Nazareth because of the lack of faith there (Matt 13:54-58). Faith is the medium that God's power works best in, and a faith vacuum is not conducive to His mighty works. The electric power in your house comes from a power plant. But how does it get from the plant to your house? Through the system of cables and wires that connect the two. Faith connects us to God, and that allows His power to flow from His Spirit into into us. That's why faith is so essential in our Salvation, and in allowing the Spirit of God to work in us. Faith is what connects us to our divine power source.
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6).
I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." (Matt 17:20)
Where there is unadulterated faith, God does truly awesome things among men.Consider that the believing centurion received a healing for his servant "long distance" with Jesus never going near him (Mat 8:5-13). Likewise the woman with the issue of blood did not even ask for a healing; she just believed that touching Jesus' garment would heal her, and the power of God flowed from Jesus into her body (Mat 9:20-22; Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-48). Peter demonstrated that faith is more powerful than the laws of physics when he defied gravity by walking on the surface of the water as Jesus did. Only when he began to doubt, did he begin to sink into the water. The lesson we should learn from this to keep our eyes on Jesus and trust God, rather than succumbing to the fear of the circumstances that surround us.
As any parent knows, When a child really, really wants something, he or she will generally not stop letting that fact be known until they attain it--or else get rebuked for continually asking. Businesses such as toy manufacturers, theme parks, and fast food restaurants like McDonald's and Chuck E. Cheese know the power of a child's desire. Get the child to want something, and most times the parents will eventually fork over the money. Children can be relentless in their desire for something, and tireless in their efforts to get it.
We as believers need to have that same perseverance and tenacity when asking for something from the Lord. Remember that God works on His own schedule, not ours. Often, we cannot see that the time is simply not right for what we need, or that He has a better way of meeting it--quite often accomplishing something else in the process. Jesus told a parable to illustrate the need for limitless persistence when petitioning God in prayer:
18:1 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.
2 He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people.
3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, 'Grant me justice against my opponent.'
4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, 'Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone,
5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'"
6 And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says.
7 And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?
8 I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"
No Jesus didn't mean God will answer your prayer to make you stop pestering Him, as with the unjust judge in the parable. He was illustrating that, if we continue to ask, God will answer when the time is right--in accordance with His will and purpose. The point is, don't stop asking, and never lose hope. We should never believe our prayers are in vain, or that God is ignoring us. God answers every prayer: sometimes it's "yes," sometimes "no," and sometimes, "wait." Also, we should never feel that unceasing prayer about a matter indicates a lack of faith on our part. On the contrary, persistent prayer demonstrates faith: after all, we would not even be asking if we didn't believe God can and will answer us, and meet our needs.
However, at the same time we must remember that God is not a divine Santa Claus, filling a wish list of everything we want. People often have a skewed perception about "ask and you shall receive," and about God "giving us the desire of our hearts." He knows each of us as individuals, and interacts with us on a personal, one-on-one basis. What is right for one person is not right for another. Some believers for instance, can handle wealth without it adversely affecting their spirituality and relationship with God, and some cannot. God knows us, inside and out. Nevertheless, we must, as little children, trust God as our heavenly Father, and never stop asking for what we need. When the time or circumstances are right--or when we begin to ask for the right motive or reason, He will meet our needs if we hold fast to our faith and persevere.
So then, we must seek after those qualities we once had as children. We were born into Satan's kingdom the first time, and must be born again spiritually in order to enter God's kingdom. We must first become blameless before God by the cleansing blood of Jesus, and infilling of God's Spirit, then strive always to refrain from wrong-doing, and be innocent and pure in our motives, words and actions. We must trust God implicitly, without doubting, with child-like faith, knowing He is the living embodiment of truth. And we must never cease to petition God for needs in our life, never losing hope or confidence that He wants what is best for us, and is a willing and able Provider, meeting the needs--body, soul and spirit--from the riches of His unfathomable power, goodness and mercy.
It's so comforting to know that no matter how old we get--even as great-great grandparents, we're still children to God. No matter how wicked and rebellious we may have once been before our hearts were turned to Him, He will make us as innocent and guilt-free as a toddler through the atoning blood of Jesus. No matter how old we get, we are never too old to go to Daddy, who will always comfort us and make everything okay:
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
And all it takes is to become a child of God is become like a little child.