If something or someone is described as being childish, it’s usually not a good thing. Childish behavior often connotes immaturity. However, Christians are encouraged to have childlike faith. It sounds simple enough, but all too often worry supersedes faith. This has been a constant challenge in my life. My faith begins to falter whenever I think about bills, student loans, getting a job, etc. I then start to worry about what other people think, and before I know it, I’m on a downward spiral, losing my trust in the Lord. Children, on the other hand, are quite different.
Children are amazing creatures. Anyone who has had children or been around them long enough can attest to this. I’ve spent the last 18 months helping to take care of wonderful (and sometimes crazy) twin boys. There are many times when they’ve tried my patience, but they’ve taught me so much about God the Father’s relationship to His children. At birth, these boys were helpless on their own. They needed their parents and me to do everything for them. They had no choice in the matter. As they’ve grown up they’ve learned that we will take care of their needs. In the early stages, their cries signaled hunger and wet diapers. When they were learning how to walk they knew we would be right there to help them. Nowadays, when they play they throw themselves backwards with complete trust that we will catch them (even though it scares me sometimes!). They hold out their hands when they need help getting off their manually-pushed vehicles, and when they fall they know we’ll be waiting with open arms. They also learn by being disciplined even though it’s hard to do sometimes. All in all, children have no worries. They know their parents will take care of them for their every need. This is how we are supposed to be too. After all, we are called the children of God.
Many of us are familiar with the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. All too often it’s cut up into pieces for the sake of a brief sermon, or we focus on a bunch of different themes within the text and take them one at a time. Most (if not all) translations break this text up into different sections with their own headings. While there are different topics within these chapters, it is important to read the text altogether to grasp the overarching message. For instance, it is significant to note in Matt. 5:1-2 that Jesus is speaking to His disciples; however, I believe this is referring to all of those who were following Christ (not just the 12) because not all of the twelve have been chosen yet. He is teaching them how disciples are supposed to think and act, being distinguished from the unbelieving Gentile and the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 5). As a disciple, one’s righteousness should not be put on display for all to see, but rather one should honor the Father rather than himself/herself. The discussion on prayer in Matt. 6:5-14 is interesting because it focuses on having faith in the Father. In vv. 5-6, Jesus’ disciples are commanded not to be like the Pharisees because they only draw attention to themselves in prayer. In v. 7, disciples ought not to be like Gentiles who use many words in order to be heard by their gods. Rather, v. 8 explains that our Father already knows what we need before we even ask Him. How amazing is that! All we have to do is ask with the right intent, which is not to be glorified by men or to persuade God with all of our wonderful words, but simply to trust that He knows and provides. Notice in v. 12 (part of the Lord’s Prayer) that asking God for our needs to be met involves repenting of our sins. How can we expect God to do anything in our lives if we’re unwilling to be right with Him? However, that’s a topic for another day. Verses 16-24 seem to convey the same instructions. Disciples ought to focus on the Lord and not get caught up in the world. As v. 24 says, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Ouch! In the American culture, this is a difficult pill to swallow. Working and being successful in one’s occupation has become a top priority for many Americans, and a number of Christians are among them. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with providing for one’s family. However, when the job becomes more important than God and family, then we have a problem. So far in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes it clear that the Lord should be one’s focus.
Now that we’ve briefly covered part of the Sermon, let’s take a look at Matt. 6:25-34. Remember that v. 24 talks about how a person cannot serve both God and wealth. Verse 25 then comments, “For this reason (note: refers back to what Jesus just said earlier in the Sermon) I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” This sounds a lot like instructions on how to have childlike faith. As I wrote above, children know their needs will be met somehow. We should also not be worried about having our needs met. What’s also encouraging is that Jesus paints a picture in vv. 26-29 of how God takes care of things that seem insignificant: the birds of the air and lilies of the field. He then asks a pointed question to His disciples in v. 30, “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!” If God takes care of perishable, temporary things, will He not also take care of us who will spend eternity with Him? Something to ponder. Verse 32 repeats the same message in v. 8: the heavenly Father knows our needs. But here’s the kicker, the whole point to Jesus’ message so far: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (v. 33). We’ve heard this preached many times, but do we understand it? What if God asked you to quit your job? What if He told you to move and leave everyone you know behind? What if He asked you to go to school knowing that you would be in debt for a time (I’m experiencing this one)? Even if you don’t understand the full picture of why God asks you to do something, will you do it anyway? When we ask children to stay back from the oven or to hold our hands when crossing the street, they don’t understand why, but we know the dangers. When they listen to us, we save them from potential disaster. When they don’t obey, they might get a burned hand or worse, get hit by a car. Part of having childlike faith is doing what the world thinks is crazy (Consider 1 Cor. 3:18-19a, “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God.”) But we shouldn’t worry because worry leads to that downward spiral away from God.
Going back to the Sermon on the Mount, Matt. 7:7-11 reiterates the same teaching about the Father that we read in Matt. 6:25-34. Jesus tells his disciples to ask, knock, and seek, and they will receive what they seek. He then gives an everyday example in vv. 9-11, “Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” We can relate to what Jesus is saying here. People who love their children only want to give the best they can. Our Father is the same way.
Also something to note, this is NOT a health and wellness teaching or prosperity gospel because such doctrines only focus on ourselves and what WE want. This is a “put God first” teaching, and He will bless you for your faith. Will you be tried and tested? Yes! Part of being a Christian is standing firm when the world comes against you. Your family may even come against you for following God (even Christian families). But Jesus encourages His disciples in Matt. 7:13-14 to “Enter the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Notice, there are only two choices. There’s the way of the world, or God’s way, despite what some people teach nowadays. Jesus also encourages His disciples to have discernment regarding people who claim to be godly. Such people either produce good or bad fruit despite their outward appearance (vv. 15-23). Lastly, in the Sermon, Jesus teaches His disciples that they should act on what they’ve heard. To trust the Father and not worry is a command to be enacted. We don’t want to be like the foolish man who built his house on the sand, but like the wise man who built his house on the rock (vv. 24-27).
Is it easy to have childlike faith? No, I don’t think so. But we MUST try. The narrow road is hard. That’s why only a few find it. I don’t think Jesus was being hyperbolic in making this statement. Our focus must be on the eternal instead of the temporary. Money and possessions tend to be dear to us, and in themselves they are not bad. I repeat, having wealth is NOT bad (despite what some preachers may say). Wealth becomes bad when we clutch it so tight that we’re unwilling to let it go when God asks us to (i.e., rich young ruler in Luke 18:18-28). When we put God first, trust Him to take care of our needs, and maintain right-standing before Him, He will provide. I preach to myself when I exhort you, my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, to stand firm, trust the Lord, and encourage each other in the faith. We are the body of Christ. Let us walk the narrow road together.
© Lauren Heiligenthal