It had started out quite innocently. But then again it usually does. It was just a discussion. They had just been sitting around chewing the fat and somebody had mentioned how important so and so was going to be in heaven. “I don’t think so” said Peter “He hasn’t got what it takes.” Well it was off then. Each of the twelve putting forth his opinion on “Who would be greatest in the Kingdom of God.” Would it people like the Pharisees. People who were so careful to obey all the rules, making sure that all the dos were done, and all the don’t were skipped. Or would it be those like the scribes, those who knew the Holy Scriptures inside out and could quote a chapter and verse for every occasion? “No” said Thomas, “the Sanhedrin they are the ones who know all the theology, they will have the best spot in the kingdom” “Hey guys. What about us? We are the ones who gave up our livelihoods to follow the Lord, what about us?” They all turned to look at John, “that’s right” they thought “maybe we’ll get the best spot in the kingdom. ” “I know” James said “let’s ask Jesus, he will know who the lucky person is or better yet how we can be the lucky person.”
So the twelve crowded around Jesus and Peter asked him “Which of us is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” And then they waited for his answer with baited breath. By the way baited breath is what a cat has who has just eaten cheese and now waits outside a mouse hole. “Well Jesus who will it be? James or John, Peter or Andrew? Or perhaps it will be Judas Iscariot the one who watches the money.”
But Jesus knelt and called to a little boy playing with pebbles on the side of the road and as he approached the carpenter picked him up. Smiling the child reached out and clasped the finger of the one who exuded so much joy and peace and then Jesus looked back at the twelve and said “you want to know who will be the greatest in the Kingdom? It is the one who is most like this child.”
What? A kid? No he obviously misunderstood them; they wanted to know who would be the greatest in the kingdom, but then almost as if reading their minds he reinforced it saying “Unless you are willing to humble yourself and become like a child, you’re not going to make it.” Sorry.
So here’s our dilemma today. Jesus told his disciples to become like little children, Paul told the early believers to grow up. Is there a balance that can be struck between being childlike and being childish? Last time I spoke we looked at some of the negative qualities that we can find in children. Do you remember what they were?
We mentioned that children can be short sighted, they can’t tolerate solid food, they need to be catered to, they can be critical & uncaring and they are selfish. Those are the characteristics that we need to be careful not to exhibit as believers.
But Children also have many redeeming characteristics as well. If not then we would all share the view of Bob Hope who said “Kids are wonderful, but I like mine barbecued.” Or Robert Byrne who stated “Learning to dislike children at an early age saves a lot of expense and aggravation later in life.”
When Jesus told the twelve to become like little children what qualities was he espousing?
1) Children Haven’t Lost Their Sense of Wonder
What is more fun then watching a little kid come into the room on Christmas morning? When Stephen and Deborah were really little we used to put the tree up on Christmas Eve and that way we’d get the full meal deal. They’d come down stairs, around the corner and see the tree, the lights, the decorations and all the gifts. It was like total sensory overload. Their eyes got this big their jaws dropped open. It was great. But it’s not just at Christmas, children marvel at what God has done throughout the year.
They see the magic in rainbows and stars; they laugh at animals playing and marvel at creation. Watch a little kid at the beach, every thing is a discovery and most of their discoveries are fabulous treasures. Some of you will remember our dog diesel, a 140 Lb Great Dane and I loved when children would see us when we were walking him at the waterfront.
As adults we have become blasé about this world. Too many times we’ve lost our sense of wonder. Oh it comes back occasionally like when we see a really spectacular sunset or rainbow or the Northern Lights. A new born will sometimes do it or a colt struggling to its feet for the first time. But for the most part we drift through life with a “Been there done that” attitude.
King David wrote in Psalm 77:14 You are the God of great wonders! You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations.
How long has it been since you’ve thought of God as the “God of great wonders.” It was God who created the Great Barrier Reef and the Rocky Mountains, it was God who threw the Milk Way into the night skies and it is God who draws the Northern Lights. And if we are going to be childlike then we need to regain our sense of wonder. We need to marvel that God created us, we need to be able to pray as David did in Psalm 139:13-16 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.
Most of us tend to be a little self depreciative of who and what we are. We’re too tall or too short, too fat or too thin our hair is the wrong colour or the wrong texture or the wrong length. But you are a miracle. Mankind with all of its scientific achievement has never come close to creating a “you”. You’ve heard the story of the scientist who challenged God saying, “We can now do everything you can do including making life, I challenge you to a man making contest.” God said “You’re on, you go first.” The scientist reached down and picked up a handful of dirt to which God said “Oh no you have to make your own dirt.”
Every minute of our lives the heart pumps over five litres of blood through our bodies, that’s over 300 litres of blood an hour, 7,200 litres of blood a day through a network of 96,000 km of arteries, veins and capillaries.
Think about it, you represent on the average, 5 million hairs, 20 sq. Feet of skin, 650 muscles, 206 bones, 100 joints, 96,000 km of blood vessels and over 13 million nerve cells.
Within you there is enough fat for four cakes of soap, enough lime to white wash a small shed, the carbon equivalent of 14 kilos of coal, enough phosphorus to make 2,200 matches, enough iron for a 1 inch nail and for good measure a spoonful of sulphur and 28 grams of various metals other then iron. In the course of your life time you will eat 45,400 kilos of food, drink 45,000 litres of liquid and walk about 24,000 km.
As a matter of fact Life Gem, an Illinois company, says it can turn cremated remains into diamonds. They remove the carbon, turn it into graphite and simulate the conditions that create a diamond, and voila, your no good smelly brother-in-law is now, as he always told you, a diamond in the rough weighing in at about a quarter caret.
This world is no accident and neither are you, and neither is your salvation. Do you ever marvel at the fact that God, the creator of the universe, chose to be born a child, live for thirty three years in a hostile occupied country and then willing surrendered himself to die on a cross so you could go to heaven. Simply by acknowledging what he had done and asking him to let you in.
2) Children Haven’t Lost Their Ability to Trust. Do you remember as a child leaping into your father’s arms and knowing that he wouldn’t drop you? Allowing someone to grab your arms and swing you around knowing they wouldn’t let go. Never once did you think, “I wonder what would happen if dad let me fall, or if he let go when he was spinning me and I went careening into a wall?”
John Bradshaw an author and lecturer on children and families said “Children are curious and are risk takers. They have lots of courage. They venture out into a world that is immense and dangerous. A child initially trusts life and the processes of life.”
Do we trust our Heavenly Father as much as children trust their earthly father? Or for that matter as much as children trust their Heavenly Father?
I love looking back and remembering times that my kids said “Well of course it happened, I prayed.” Whether it was having an escaped Budgie returned or being allowed to have a cat after the landlord had said no. Children trusted God to be true to his promises.
Have you embraced the promise of God from Psalm 50:15 Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.”
Jesus told us in Matthew 6:25-34 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Very simply he was saying “Trust God” Paul reinforces that in Hebrews 13:5 Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”
Do you trust God? Story is told of a man who fell over a bank and just happened to catch hold of a branch that was growing out from the face of the cliff. Holding on as tight as he could he hollered; “Hello is anyone up there?” After a few moments a voice came from above saying “This is God, do you trust me?” and the man said “Thank you God of course I trust you.” And the voice came back “Do you really trust me” “Oh yes God you know that I really trust you.” The voice answered again and said “Let go of the branch” there was a pause and the man yelled “Is there anyone else up there?”
Author Paul Little
wrote “The statement that God is in control is either true or it’s not true. If it’s not true, we’d better forget about God. But if it is true and we accept God’s revelation of himself, our faith enables us to enjoy and rest in the certainty of his providence.”
I guess that means that sometimes we have to let go of the branch. As a church, if we are going to be everything that God wants us to be there will be times that we will need to step out in faith. And if we aren’t 100% sure where God is leading us then like the Psalmist we need to be able to say Psalm 56:3 But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.
I think one of the greatest statements of trust that I’ve ever heard came from Elsa Einstein who said “No, I don’t understand my husband’s theory of relativity, but I know my husband, and I know he can be trusted.”
You may not understand all of what God has in store for you individually or us collectively but I sure hope that you can say “But I know God and I know that he can be trusted.”
3) Children Haven’t Lost Their Ability to Forgive Have you ever had to ask one of your children to forgive you? Actually you probably needed to at some point or another even if you didn’t actually do it. And the wonderful thing about children is they are willing to forgive.
Watch children play and even if they’ve been hurt by the words or actions of another child and declare for the entire world to hear “I hate Sally and I’m never going to play with her again.” But all it takes if for Sally to say “I’m sorry.” And they are back together again, best friends as if there had never been a problem. And sometimes Sally doesn’t even have to say “I’m sorry.”
So how come adults can’t be like that, even as Christians? Why do we want to hold and nurse a grudge, allowing it to fester and grow until it’s all consuming? Forgiving isn’t simply something we do for others, it something we do for ourselves as well. If you aren’t willing to forgive then you are allowing yourself to wallow in self pity and bitterness that will eventually destroy you. It was Francis Bacon who said “This is certain, that a man that studies revenge keeps his wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well.”
Oh by the way teens it would be wise to take a look at the theory that Francis Bacon was actually the author of Shakespeare’s plays, only because it adds spice to high school English class when you can bring it up with at least a semi-plausible defence. You know when to use it, the class is bogging down as you look at the Bard’s use of Iambic Pentameter, the teacher is going on and on and on, your fellow students are on the verge of casting themselves from the second story windows and you say “Excuse me teacher, isn’t it true that Francis Bacon wrote the works you attribute to William Shakespeare?” Fun, fun, fun.
Jesus himself tied our forgiveness of others to his forgiveness of us. Listen to his words in Matthew 6:14-15 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. Remember after the “but” comes the truth. That’s scary and if you didn’t catch it let’s read it together. Now let’s do it again but let’s make it a little more personal.
If I forgive those who sin against me, my heavenly Father will forgive me. But if I refuse to forgive others, my Father will not forgive my sins. (Pause)
We need to forgive people, not for their sake. As a matter of fact Oscar Wilde said “Always forgive your enemies — nothing annoys them so much.” But for our own sake for our emotional well being and for our spiritual well being.
So where are you at today? How childlike are you? Are you coming to Christ as a child or are you just acting childish? The choice is yours.