June 24, 2012

A Faith To Imitate Child-Like Qualities And Its Blessings part 1 of 2

A Faith To Imitate Child-Like Qualities And Its Blessings

“People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant.” If you took a walk through the hallways and the various rooms of our school you’d see them hanging on the walls. They also adorn the walls of many Christian homes. In the world of Christian art are many, many pictures of Jesus with little children.

The Gospels make this abundantly clear: Jesus dearly loved little children. He held them up as examples of faith, as He does in our text for today. He watched them at play and drew lessons from them. And He gave a stern warning to anyone who might cause them spiritual harm. You may recall this pronouncement from last week’s Gospel lesson: “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.”

Yes, Jesus loved the little children. Perceiving this, parents would bring their children to Jesus so that, as we are told in our text, He might touch them – meaning that He might favor them with a special prayer or blessing.

But the disciples apparently didn’t see it this way. When the parents come with their children in tow (by the way, the Greek word used in the corresponding account in the Gospel of Luke indicates that among them were the very young, or infants), the disciples shooed them away. As they saw it, Jesus was a first century VIP and they didn’t want themselves or the Savior bothered with such unimportant or trivial matters.

However, Jesus viewed things quite differently. We are told that He became indignant.

That’s a pretty strong term. It clearly conveys that Jesus was angry and upset with the behavior of His disciples. And the reason He became justifiably angry (or as we sometimes say, “righteously indignant”) was because, in a sense, they had mistreated the little ones He loves so much.

What the disciples considered a nuisance Jesus clearly considered an infraction. So in response to their actions: “He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will not enter it.’”

His point: The faith of a child – the kind of faith that takes Jesus at His word and believes the message of salvation and all the other promises of God without a hint of hesitation – that is what our Lord holds up as a faith to imitate. Let’s talk about this kind of faith on the basis of these three descriptions: Simple… Humble… Trusting…

A child-like faith is first of all SIMPLE. As you observe the faith of a child you’ll find this to be true. Ask one of our lower level Sunday School or Lutheran Elementary School teacher and they’ll tell you. Because my wife and I both worked there in our college years, this aspect of child-faith also reminds me of the residents of Bethesda Lutheran Home for the developmentally disabled in Watertown. Spend some time working there – or in any kind of similar situation with a similar clientele – and you’ll understand both the meaning and depth of simple faith.

And you will also learn quite quickly not to mistake a simple faith for a shallow faith. Shallow faith is often a mile wide but an inch deep. Simple faith is just the opposite.

What I mean is this: Neither a young child raised in a Christian home nor the devout resident of Bethesda will be able to give you a thumbnail sketch of each book of the Bible, and it is highly unlikely that you’ll find a Greek or Hebrew Bible on their nightstand as they pour through Scripture in the original. They will not possess that kind of academic knowledge.

But what they do know is this: Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

What they do know is 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.

What 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, rudimentary 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.

Likewise, 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 deeply “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.

Children don’t let things go that far. Child-like 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.

Finally, a child-like faith is TRUSTING. Think once more of a child, this time at prayer. Hands folded, head bowed, eyes purposely shut. This is a picture of trust, because that is what they do. They trust that the Lord will hear them and that He is capable of doing everything they ask of Him.

Simple… humble… trusting. These are the elements of a child like faith. These are the components 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 say, yes, we really ought to do that. But we say it more in the wistful terms of a wish or a dream, as if it would be nice, but it’s really not possible. Too simplistic, we may think. Trust Jesus and everything will work out. Sounds great, but life is bit too complicated to reduce handling it in such an uncomplicated way…

And that, friends, is our biggest mistake. It is the mistake of not taking Jesus at His Word. Because when it gets right down to it, taking Him at His Word is what Jesus means by “child-like faith.”

Let me give you a Scriptural example of this. At the very outset of this sermon we mentioned the name of King David as one of the “Great Cloud of Witnesses” we looked at this summer...

Well, if anyone can lay claim to having a complicated life, it would be him. 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. It’s only three verses long, but the child-like attitude of this hero of faith is one we’d do well to imitate.

1 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.

2 But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.

3 O Israel, put your hope in the LORD both now and forevermore.

These are the words of a man who did not question the Lord; a man who came before the Lord in humility, confidence and trustfulness. They are words for us all.

So, do we find ourselves worried? Are we anxious about life? Are we scared of what that great unknown we call the future might bring? If and when we are, our primary problem is probably this: we’re acting altogether too much like adults.

Jesus says when it comes to matters of faith, be a child. Trust. Believe. Then relax in the confidence that no matter how things may look or how things may go, God has them under control.

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