Reading: Mark 10:13-16
I don't know when the last time was that you worked with children, but they are strange, my dude. If you have your own, you probably know this better than I do. They are creatures of infinite energy, intense motivation, and fantastical ideas, and they can build an entire world for themselves out of a couple of action figures and a table. Oh, and their faith is incredible.
Sometimes we can overlook the spirituality of children. I've mentioned it before, but I have the privilege of volunteering with elementary schoolers at my church every other Sunday morning. When I first started volunteering, I went into it with low expectations. I assumed that the children I would be working with would be bratty and chaotic; I assumed that they were empty vessels for teaching. None of that was true (although they have their bratty and/or chaotic moments!). In fact, I was immediately amazed at the kinds of things that would come out of their mouths.
To give you an example, the very first time I spoke to one of the elementary school girls, she informed me that she was going to be a missionary, and she had a specific country on her heart--one I rarely hear of. She didn't bother with any of the "Well, if it works out, maybe I could be a missionary..." stuff we get caught up in as adults. She knew where she was going, and she knew why. She wanted the people in that country to know about Jesus.
I could tell you so much about these kids, but one thing stands out to me--
Those kids are not afraid to receive a gift.
Every now and then we'll play a game where the winning team members all get a prize from the prize box. The prizes are nothing extraordinary; they were likely bought at the dollar store. It never fails, though--every time they are excited to pick something from the prize box.
What if we are called to react the same way as we receive this infinitely more incredible gift God has offered us: His Kingdom?
How many of us even think about that gift on a regular basis?
I've prayerfully put together some attributes of a person receiving the Kingdom like a child.
Proverbs 22:4: The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.
James 4:10: Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
Have you ever seen a child open a gift? It doesn't matter what's inside--the way they tear open the packaging is nothing short of pure elation. When children receive a gift, they don't stop to think about whether or not they are worthy, or push it away like they don't need it to keep their pride. They have zero qualms about simply receiving it, and with enthusiasm. They recognize that what they will in a few seconds claim as their own has the potential to enrich their lives and make them happy.
It takes that kind of humility to receive a gift like the one God offers us. We have NOTHING to give to Him that doesn't already belong to Him, yet we are expected to receive something monumental from Him. We need to receive it without pretending that we're fine on our own or we don't need it. We need to rip the paper off the box, so to speak, without stopping to think about how we look as we do so.
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
I remember every single time a child has prayed over me, because every single time the Holy Spirit has absolutely flooded my heart and mind. It was almost tangible. I rarely experience God's love and power like that during a prayer, and I have to believe that it has something to do with faith. Children have this unshakable belief that what God has said is true, that what they say to Him is going to move mountains.
They have the kind of faith that tosses fear right out the window.
What if we had the kind of trust in God that children have for their parents? They aren't afraid of whether or not their parents are going to provide them a home, or their next meal, or support, because they have not been disappointed in these areas.
Think about it: Has God ever actually failed you? We can trust in Him because He is too mighty to fail. Everything always goes exactly according to His plan, and we can live our lives and embrace the Kingdom full of faith because He will never leave us or disappoint us. He works all things for our good (Romans 8:28).
Children are willing to be honest about where they are at. They aren't afraid to ask for help or show their frustration. They aren't afraid to seem imperfect.
These are all critical areas in which we can learn from children.
In Luke 17:21 Jesus reveals that the Kingdom of God is among us, or in the midst of us. It is present in the interconnectedness of our relationships with other believers and our relationships with God. And what relationship was not built on the foundation of honesty?
We can't be afraid to be real with one another. I've seen so many people be asked how they are and respond, "I'm good!" when I knew they were decidedly not. It happens in churches, homes, and workplaces across the nation. In fact, I would argue that it has become the norm. I don't think Jesus intended for the Kingdom to be that way. If we can't be honest about what we're going through, how can we be the Church for one another? How can we expect to be able to give or receive support?
Proverbs 30:5: Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
When I worked at camp over the summer, I noticed that every now and then campers would discuss the election with each other. I eavesdropped on a couple of their conversations and at first thought they were just really politically-educated twelve year olds...and then I realized that these were things they had heard their parents say.
I'm not saying twelve year olds can't have political opinions and be educated on candidates, but they do tend to completely accept their parents' beliefs as truth. And it makes sense--in the eyes of a little kid, their parents know e v e r y t h i n g.
If a kid's parents tell him something, he accepts it. End of story. He has no reason for disbelief.
Are we like that with God? Are we willing to accept everything He says, especially in His word, as complete and solid truth?
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
2 Corinthians 3:12-13: Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end."
Children are the most energetic, excitable, enthusiastic people on the planet, and that's because they are aware of all of the amazing possibilities! They have an optimistic outlook on life--on whatever they are doing, really--that says, "Something new will happen today."
I was about thirteen when I realized Christmas presents weren't very exciting to me anymore. Year after year as I grew up, I opened my presents with the expectation that whatever was inside would be life-changing. It would rock my little world. Then, I hit that point around thirteen and I started opening my gifts with the outlook of, "I might like it. I might not." And it wasn't as fun.
I imagine that as Paul was writing 2 Corinthians 3 and 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, His attitude was more similar to that of young me. Since we have such a hope, we go to the world boldly--enthusiastically. We rejoice constantly. We pray constantly. We thank God in all circumstances. No one who is bored with the Kingdom of God rejoices all the time.
I think God wants us to receive His Kingdom with the attitude of a little kid on Christmas. Here we are, living in the midst of sin and darkness, and He offers this gift--this Christmas present, if you will--that promises a way out. Are we accepting it with enthusiasm, as though we believe it's an incredible gift, or are we "opening" it tentatively, as though we might not like whatever is inside?
This might seem like a small thing, but it has the power to change the way we live.
For so long, I believed that the Kingdom of God was nothing to be excited about. It was full of people who acted one way on Sunday mornings and another way...all the other times. For me, it contained no breakthrough, no wonders, no Spirit. And then God--the real God, not the system of truths and beliefs I had come to accept--hit me like a Mack truck.
When you see God move, it's impossible not to be excited about it. It's impossible not to want to tell other people about it.
Children are an inspiration, my friends.
We have a lot to learn from them. Are we willing?
Until next time,