When my sister and I were little girls, we liked to swing. I especially liked the swings my Daddy hung from a limb high up in a huge tree in our yard. It wasn’t like the little metal swing sets. If you wanted to swing high on those, you were in danger of turning the whole set over. The swings Daddy hung from the limb were sturdy boards supported with strong chains. We could swing as high as we wanted to with no limits! Our goal was to swing so high that our toes would touch the leaves on the branch above us. We achieved that goal often, and it felt like we were flying!
When is the last time we have tried to reach the limb above us? When we grow up, we lose our childlike qualities. And certainly we are supposed to mature as we gain wisdom and experience, but there are some qualities from our youth we need to reclaim for the kingdom of God. Coupled with wisdom and experience, they can be dynamic.
The solid foundation of those swings provided us the liberty to go higher than we ever had before with the small swing set. A firm foundation in God’s Word and the experience we gain as we walk with Him provide us with the liberty to be free in God’s kingdom. This world’s foundation is like one of those little metal swing sets. It will give way from underneath us.
On one occasion, Jesus’ disciples asked Him, “Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” “He called a little child and set him before them, and said, ‘I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless you repent [that is, change your inner self – your old way of thinking, live changed lives] and become like children [trusting, humble, and forgiving], you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 18:3 Amplified Bible) Children live in simplicity. They live life in its purest form seeing the beauty of God’s creation, trusting, and free from the worries of this life. They have no ulterior motives and no agenda. They take life as it comes.
In another passage, Jesus said, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, whoever does not receive and welcome the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” How can we be childlike and yet mature Christians? After all, Paul wrote to the Ephesians “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.” (Ephesians 4:14) If we look at some of the typical qualities of children, we can see where we need to be “as a little child”, not naive or foolish, but childlike. Living life in its purest form, trusting our Heavenly Father and free from worries.
Jesus spoke of the humility of children. They are not arrogant or hypocritical. They don’t pretend to be what they are not. They are real. What you see is who they are inside and out. The quality of being real in this generation is almost lost in the drama of social media and ‘reality’ TV shows. As adults, we tend to try to please those around us at the risk of displeasing God. We need to be real through and through, in our worship, in our relationships, in our homes, in our churches. God knows who we are, no matter how we try to hide it.
Children are forgiving. If there is a disagreement between them, it is usually forgiven and forgotten within minutes. They don’t naturally carry a grudge or allow bitterness to form in them. We need to relearn that quality. As adults we tend to carry a lot of baggage that we are not designed to carry. If we want to be forgiven, we must be forgiving. It cleanses our souls of bitterness and resentment. Jesus said, “But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:15)
Another trait of children is that they are trusting. Little children depend on their parents and don’t worry about things. They don’t worry about how the bills will be paid or where the next meal will come from. Children don’t hesitate to ask for what they need, and they sincerely expect to receive it. They go to their parents and say, “I’m hungry; feed me. I’m afraid; protect me. I’m cold; shelter me. I’m hurt; heal me.” Their dependence is not on their own abilities, but in the one who is taking care of them. How different we become as adults. We feel the need to be self-sufficient rather than running to our heavenly Father. Of course, Scripture teaches us to work to provide for our families, but we don’t have to worry about things. We can trust Jesus. He said, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’… For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:31-33) Do we trust Him?
There are no limits in a child’s mind. Their imagination becomes the reality of their own world where they can slay the dragon or overcome all odds to become a princess. In their minds they are strong and can run fast, so they don’t hesitate to run in the race. They hardly notice that they came in last, because they were too busy running. The kingdom of God needs to be our reality, not this world. We need to be so busy running His race that we don’t know who came in first. When we begin to read God’s Word and let it soak into us, when we open our hearts and minds to God’s Spirit in us, we have no limits. Oh, as we get older we feel physical limitations, but the Spirit of God in us has no limits. The Holy Spirit can still plant thoughts and ideas into our minds. We just need to catch His vision, then run with it.
Children are curious, inquisitive and open. They are geared to learn…and to ask a lot of questions. They don’t just want you to tell them how to do something, they insist “let me do it!” Knowledge isn’t enough. They want to experience it. When is the last time we asked God “what are You doing? Can I help? Can I be part of it?” That’s how Isaiah became a prophet. He went to the temple and was in the presence of God. It was there he heard God say, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for me?” Isaiah said, “I’ll go. Choose me.” (my paraphrase) When is the last time we entered into God’s presence, felt His heart, heard His voice, then volunteered to work with Him? To go where He goes, speak what He speaks and do the works He does? When we are hungry for God’s wisdom and righteousness, we will pursue Him and He will equip us. Then He sends us to the field to work out that knowledge, and there we get experience. Then we can train others.
Most children are adventurous. They don’t weigh out what people will think if they do a certain thing. They just do it. They take a risk and don’t even realize it is a risk. They have no idea what protocol means, much less follow it. Now foolishness can cause problems and needs to be corrected, but there are times that protocol can keep us from following the leading of the Holy Spirit. If you think about it, Jesus didn’t exactly follow protocol, either. How does being adventurous look when you combine child-likeness with wisdom? Jesus listened to what the Father told Him and did it. He trusted His Father to handle the fall-out when there was risk involved or when He broke the traditions of men’s religion, which was often. He wasn’t afraid to journey into deep water when He needed to. He just walked on top of it! We can too. Wisdom comes through the Word, and hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit. Once we know He has spoken to us, it’s time to move. We tend to avoid any risk or anything that would keep us out of certain circles. But we are called to hear, believe and follow. When we hear Jesus’ call, do we argue with Him like Moses argued with God? Moses weighed out the risk factor, what people might say, the mental idea he had that he was not qualified to do the job, the unbelief of the people he was asked to deliver, and the probable failure rate of the mission. Do we do that? Or do we hear, believe and follow? Following Jesus is not reckless. Following our own imaginations and ideas is very reckless. Behaving foolishly will tarnish not only our reputation, but the reputation of God in the eyes of those who see it. There will be times we need to seek confirmation from a wise Christian friend to be sure we are hearing from God. And, of course, we need to have the leading of the Spirit and be in conjunction with God’s Word. But once that is settled, we need to move out as God opens the doors.
Children are open to what they are taught. They believe what we tell them and usually act accordingly. When I was a little girl, maybe four or five, there was a big old two-story abandoned house next door to us. Our parents told us not to go under the house to play because there was a well under there and it was dangerous. I did not hear the word ‘well’. I heard ‘whale’. Granted, I misunderstood what they said, but the fact remains that although I could not wrap my little mind around the prospect of a whale living under a house, I still believed them. So I never played under that house. Sometimes Jesus’ teachings may not make sense to us, or His callings may take us beyond our comfort zone, but we can trust Him implicitly and act accordingly.
When you take these childlike qualities and combine them with the wisdom and experience of age and the power of the Holy Spirit, you have a more complete picture of a Christian. One does not replace the other. Rather, they balance one another. The childlike qualities keep us humble, fresh, trusting, and energized, while the wisdom and experience keep us from acting foolishly. It’s the door to living in the kingdom of God.
“…whoever does not receive and welcome the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”