Christian Growth: Act Like a Kid

When it comes to spiritual growth, many of us have become a little too grown-up for our own good. We quote Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13 with dignified maturity, “When I became a man, I gave up childish ways,” hardly realizing that our supposed “maturity” is misguided. Maybe it’s time we realize that when it comes to spiritual growth, there are times it’s okay to act like a kid again.

For all our talk of needing to “man up,” we probably need to hear the opposite advice. Jesus advised his followers to “become like children” (Matthew 18:3). He actually held up a child as the exemplar kingdom role model.

Why is it that Christ would tell us to become like kids? That seems a bit counterintuitive, perhaps a bit misguided. Maybe it’s one of Jesus’ convoluted parable-like sayings that we have to twist, turn, and reinterpret to make sure it comes out right.

No. He’s right. Jesus is always right. We need to act more like children.

After all, we are children. Jesus repeatedly referred to God as the “heavenly Father.” We are spiritual children. In other words, we’re kids. Sometimes, in some ways, we need to act like it.

Resist less. Receive more.

Jesus loved kids. In fact, when his disciples were busily shooing away eager mothers and newborn babies, Jesus told them to back off. “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them.” Jesus had a lesson for the grownups. He told them that they needed to be more like kids in the way that they received God’s kingdom. We adults tend to get overly worked up about gifts, thinking that somehow we must repay the giver or merit the gift. In Jesus’ gift-giving, there’s nothing you need to do accept it. Children receive willingly and without a second thought. We should resist less and receive more. (See Luke 18:15-17).

Worry Less. Trust More.

Adults worry…a lot. My mortgage is too high. My job future is uncertain. My marriage is on the rocks. The kids are failing at school. So-and-so hates me. The transmission is about to go out. I have no retirement fund. How are we going to afford groceries? The list of worry topics is virtually endless.

How, then, could Jesus say: “Don’t be anxious about your life, what you will eat, what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on” (Matthew 6:25). Just don’t worry! Jesus rationale is simple:  Your heavenly father takes care of you.

Anxiety is an exercise in futility, not to mention an offense to our wonderful Father. Little kids don’t worry much. They trust more. Maybe we should do the same. (See Matthew 6:25-34.)

Stress Less. Pray More.

For all our sophistication, prosperity, and scientific advances, we adults sure do have record-blowing stress levels. What’s up with that? Most of the adult population seem to be sleep-starved, caffeine-fueled, and stressed out about…well, about everything!

The high stress level of our lives is antithetical to the mind-blowing peace that Christ promised us.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you (John 14:27).

The “peace…peace” refrain of that verse washes over our troubled souls like the tranquil sweep of waves over the beach. So consistent. So reassuring. So restful. So real.

But with our grownup gravitas, we’re not feeling it. That’s why we need to realize that we’re  really just kids being held in the hands of a caring Father God. That’s why we need to talk to our heavenly father, rather then stressing our souls into a nerve-wrecking frenzy.

Listen to Jesus’ stress-stilling advice:  “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Got a problem? Talk to your Father. Jesus expects that we who are parents will be able to relate. “You know how to give good gifts to your kids, right? And you’re evil people. Well, how much more is God, your perfect, loving, caring, almighty Father able to give good gifts to you!”

We’re children of God. And we need to act like it, by bringing our worries, concerns, stresses, and requests to God in prayer. (See Matthew 7:7-11)

Toil Less. Rest More.

Some of the most reassuring, peace-giving, anxiety-calming words in all of Scripture go like this:  “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…Learn from me…you will find rest for your souls.” This is Jesus’ advice to his kingdom workers who are suffering from the blight of overwork and sheer exhaustion:  “Stop. Learn. Rest.”

Jesus didn’t tell us to stop working, nor even to stop working hard. Instead, he told us to learn from his humble and gentle example, and allow our souls to rest. When it comes to our spiritual labor, we’re so hard on ourselves sometimes. But Jesus, by contrast, says “my burden is light.” Like children, we need to let our Father carry the heavy burden, do the hard things, and bear the brunt of the labor.” The kingdom of God does not ride on our shoulders. If we were to die today, Christianity wouldn’t fizzle out.

Like a child, let your Father, in his infinite strength and matchless wisdom, carry your burdens. (See Matthew 11:25-30)

Enjoy Your Childhood. Enjoy Your God.

Listening to advice such as “trust more,” “pray more,” and “rest more” may in itself sound slightly stress-inducing. More? More you have to do, think about, and worry about? In this context, more is less. When you trust, pray, and toil more, you live with less worry, stress, and labor. A life like this is a life focused upon God, and who he is — not upon ourselves and what we can (or can’t) do.

I’m grateful to have had a good childhood, cared for and provided for by loving Christian parents. They provided a helpful example of God’s fatherhood for me. Others of us may not have known our father, or we may have wished we never knew him. Whatever our childhood was like, we as Christians are part of a family with the radical reality of God as our Father.

Let’s act like his children. Let’s enjoy being his children. Let’s enjoy God.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Judy White January 23, 2013 at 5:24 am

    Yes, I totally agree, we do need to become like children again. Because we truly are children saved buy Grace.If have to learn to walk again holy and true. We have to learn to talk again as our heavenly Father wants us to talk. We have to learn to control our temper, and just completely trust in God, no matter what happens or goes on in our lives. God is always in control. Just trust and obey, there’s no other or better way.

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