“And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck. A friend of mine was working at a camp, and was preparing for the nightly bonfire with his son, who was four at the time, when a stranger, strolling through the campground camp up and started to talk. It turned into a witness opportunity for my friend. When he shared the gospel with the stranger he took two big pieces of wood, formed them into the shape a cross. He then laid on the cross and told him how Roman soldiers had nailed him to the wood. The four year old was seized with horror and said, “No Daddy! No! Not like Jesus!” It made a big impression on the stranger. Why would the child react so? Childlike faith.
An elderly woman, who was expecting to pass away soon, said to me, “When I get to heaven I’m going to give Jesus a big hug.” Childlike faith.
One of the great theologians of our synod, Siegbert Becker was asked, “Of all that you have learned what is the one thing you wish to pass on to everyone. He said, “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.” Whether you are two years old, 92, or the seminary professor, Jesus invites, and enables a Child-like faith. Let’s talk about the qualities and blessings of CHILD-LIKE FAITH
Hanging on the walls of many Christian homes is a picture of Jesus with little children. It’s not hard to understand why artists have chosen this theme. The Gospels make it clear: Jesus dearly loved children.
In the verse serving as our text we see firsthand Jesus’ fierce love for His "little ones." He issues a strong, stern and graphic warning to anyone who might cause them spiritual harm. Listen to how he talks about these children. He refers to them as "little ones who believe in Me." In the next chapter of Mark, at a different time and place, He expands upon that thought. Holding up children as examples of faith, He says: "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will not enter it" (Mark 10:15).
His point: The faith of a child – that 1) simple, 2) humble, 3) unquestioning and 4) trusting faith that believes the message of salvation and all to the other promises of God without a hint of hesitation – that is the kind of faith Jesus holds up as the model for our imitation. Let’s now briefly examine the qualities of faith which Jesus speaks of so highly by looking at the adjectives I just used to describe it…
A child-like faith if first of all SIMPLE. As you observe the faith of a child you’ll find this to be true. But while it may be simple, it is not shallow. In fact, a childlike faith knows what is essential to know.
A child may not be able to find every book in the Bible quickly, and he may not be able to recite any of the commandments, but they know this: Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.
They also know that long ago on a hill outside of a city they’ve never been to named Jerusalem Jesus died on a cross to take away all their sins. And they know why: So they would be clean and pure in the eyes of God and someday live with Him forever in heaven.
They also know is that Jesus didn’t stay dead, but that He rose from the grave. And they know Him to be their invisible but living friend who listens intently to them when they talk to Him in their prayers.
Those are the elementary truths of Scripture. Nothing complicated or complex about them. The child Jesus holds up as an example simply takes at face value the truths God tells us in His Word. A child-like faith is SIMPLE.
A child-like faith is HUMBLE. When problems come it looks upward rather than inward for solutions. We live in a world which instructs us to "look inside ourselves" for answers to our difficulties. And certainly we do have a responsibility to apply the Word of God we’ve been taught to our various situations in life. But those with a child-like faith know that the power to change things comes not from within, but from without. Not from inside us, but from above us.
Abraham Lincoln governed our country during the Civil War. This was an extremely difficult time for him personally. He is reported to have made the remark that the war often "forced him to his knees." A childlike faith doesn’t let things go that far. A childlike faith humbly approaches the throne of grace well before the crisis point, recognizing that God is good and God is great and God is ever-present to help us in every situation. A child-like faith is HUMBLE.
A child-like faith is that it is UNQUESTIONING. Children can be inquisitive, but when it comes to Bible truth they are most often unquestioning. Little children don’t generally ponder deep philosophical questions. They don’t look for ways to interject their reason into Scripture, nor do they tend to be personally dismissive toward the areas they can’t understand or make them uncomfortable. Whether it is the miracles, the instructions or the promises of God as they apply to their lives, they look to the Word with the unquestioning understanding that God has spoken and that He is in control…
A child like faith may be inquisitive when it comes to knowing more about what God says, but it is UNQUESTIONING when it learns that God has spoken.
A child-like faith is TRUSTING. Think once more of a child, this time at prayer. What a precious sight, and what a picture of trust. They trust that the Lord will hear them and that He is capable of doing everything they ask of Him.
Childlike faith is also for adults. A good Scriptural example of this aspect of faith can be found in the Old Testament figures Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (perhaps better known as the "Three Men in the Fiery Furnace"). Remember their story? For refusing to bow down and worship a man as they would God, they were threatened with being thrown into a fiery furnace. Their response? They said, "Go ahead. We trust our God can save us from whatever you want to do to us. But even if He doesn’t choose to save us, we still won’t do it."
Whether God would save them, they were unsure. That God could save them, they had no doubt. And so they went forward with the implicit trust that God would take care of them one way or another. With that trust they exhibited a child-like faith.
Simple… humble… unquestioning… trusting. These are the elements of a child like faith. These are the components that Jesus holds up before us when He speaks about the "little ones who believe in Me." In this same child-like way Jesus invites, counsels and asks us to trust Him, His Word, His promises and His offer of salvation.
And we know we really ought to do that, but that seems like wishful thinking to us adults. That’s too simplistic. Life is a little more complicated when you get older.
And that is a mistake. It’s a more than a mistake. It’s rebellion. A childlike faith is taking God at his Word. A rejection of God’s Word is rebellion.
If anyone had a complicated life it would have been King David. As the ruler of Old Testament Israel in its golden age of power and influence, every decision, problem and concern eventually came to roost at his doorstep. Nonetheless, listen to the inspired words this man wrote in Psalm 131.
“My heart is not proud, O LORD, my eyes are not haughty; 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 a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, put your hope in the LORD both now and forevermore.” You are the little child who walks confidently side by side, hand in hand with your Heavenly Father.
Abraham was an old man when the LORD told him that his wife would give birth to a son. Abraham laughed, not in disbelief, but in awe. His childlike faith took the LORD at his word.
After Jesus’ ascension into heaven, King Herod had James killed, to the delight of the Jewish people. When Herod saw how pleased this made them, he had Peter put in prison to be put on trial in a couple of days. The night before Peter’s trial he “was sleeping between two soldiers,” and slept so soundly that he didn’t wake up until the angel brought him out of the prison. How could Peter sleep? Childlike faith. Simple, humble, unquestioning, trusting faith.
How could the widow put her mite into the collection plate? Jesus said she gave the greatest gift, because she gave all she had. Childlike faith. Humble trusting faith.
The thief on the cross—humble and trusting faith. “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Simple. Humble. Trusting faith.
Are you worried? Are your anxious about life? Are you scared of what the future might bring? Maybe you being too much of an adult.
Jesus invites, and enables, a childlike faith. Relax in the know-ledge that no matter how things may look or how things may go, God has them under control. You’re the four year old child walking confidently, trustingly, walking with your Parent.
I’d like to close this morning with a prayer that pretty well sums up what we’ve been talking about today. It’s in the form of a poem…
Make me, O Lord, a child again So tender, frail and small
In self, possessing nothing In Thee, possessing all.
O Savior, make me small once more That downward I may grow
And in this heart of mine restore The faith of long ago.
With Thee may I be crucified No longer I that lives
O Savior, crush my sinful pride By grace, which pardon gives.
Make me, O Lord, a child again Obedient to Thy call;
In self, possessing nothing, In Thee, possessing all.