Perilous Times Primer #6

On Becoming Children

Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children,
you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven
. Mat 18:3
An innocent child is a man who has repented once for all, and is born again, [and] has entered into the
joy of his Lord … We do not live by justice, but by grace.” — Henry David Thoreau
Down through the ages, men and women have seen the rising storm clouds on their horizon—perhaps of famine, or war, or personal tragedy; and each has asked the question, “How can I prepare for this calamity?” This is a question many are asking today, and yet with a multitude of well-wishing advice and countless “survival” and “security” plans, we come no closer to our desired objective.
Most of you are aware that I have spent a lifetime in the study of martial arts in many forms, have studied and practiced bush craft and survival techniques, and engaged in many long-term treks and adventures on foot and by horseback. While I am no expert, I have a fair amount of residual knowledge on these subjects. Yet, I say to you that as valuable as these things may be, they are not your hope for the future. Make no mistake, I am thankful for the skills, in and of themselves. However, apart from the fellowship and grace of God, they offer nothing at all.
If someone were to come to me and ask, “What is the one thing I can do to prepare for all the uncertainties of this present time,” my answer would be based on the text above, “Become as a little child in the household of the Heavenly Father.”
Jesus’ Catalogue of Child-Like Virtues
1.  Those who are little children come to Him and receive welcome.
Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them;
for of such is the kingdom of heaven
.  Mar 10:14 (Luk 18:16)
No one can or will come to Him who is filled with pride. Since little children know their helplessness, they naturally seek someone who is strong and trustworthy to give them aid. If we only knew how helpless we truly are, how often we would seek His presence and care! Little children are conscious of their need.
2. Little children gladly enter the kingdom of God as a gift of His grace.
Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God
as a little child will by no means enter it
.  Luk 18:17 (Mar 10:15)
A child is not ashamed to receive, for they know they have nothing to give. They live their lives conscious of their dependence, and nothing delights a child more than when they receive more than they expected. The grace of God is the most outrageously unexpected offer ever given. It is an offense to those who think they have something to give. But the little child can only receive in abandoned delight.
3. Little children live in the perpetual care of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.  Mat 18:5
If to receive a small child is to receive Him, how inseparable are they from His presence? We generally look at this verse as a promise to those who show compassion to children in Christ’s name—which indeed it is. But it also demonstrates His watch-care and personal interest in the child. Would this not also be true for those who, by faith, choose to become as little children?
4. Little children receive His Word and act on it in the simplicity of faith.
He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world,
the good seeds are the sons
[children] of the kingdom.  Mat 13:37-38
The desire of the small child is to be like his father, or like her mother. I well remember how I used to imitate how my father would walk, or stand, or talk. This is the power of imitation. Children learn far more by what they observe than what they are told. As we look to the pattern of Christ in the Gospels, through the child-like eyes of faith, we desire to be like Him. And in our stumbling and childish efforts to imitate Him, we are gradually transformed into His image by the Spirit of God.
5. Little children bear the likeness of their father and mother.
If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. Joh 8:39
But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return;
and your reward will be great, and you will be sons
of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil
. Luk 6:35
As a child grows, the family characteristics become more distinguishable. Even so, when we grow in grace and truth, as little children, we come to reflect the nature of the Heavenly Father (cf., 2Pe 1:4). The greatest hindrance to the Gospel in the world is that what the world sees in the organized Church bears so little resemblance to the Christ of the Bible. I have often been amazed to find greater reverence shown to the Bible, or the mention of Jesus Christ, from the skid-row bums, bar hoppers and “fallen angels” than can be found in most churches. I remember my father, a rabid teetotaler, saying to us as children, “If you are ever in a strange place and need help, go to a bar, rather than to a church. You will get more help.” I have found his words to be sadly true throughout my life. In fact, I might say that many of the true children of the kingdom are seldom found in churches, because they have the innocence to see through the hypocrisy.
6. Little children find true greatness, without even knowing they have it.
Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child
is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
  Mat 18:4 (Luk 9:48)
True greatness can be found only in simplicity and humility. It is the opposite of fame, which is grand and ostentatious. Fame flaunts itself, but greatness hides itself. Notice how the authors of Scripture hide themselves in their own works. Who would tell a story, based on what one has seen and experienced, and hide themselves in the narrative? Yet, this is what they have done. They learned this lesson from Jesus (Mar 1:35-38). People often wonder at Jesus’ seeming reticence in often retiring from the crowds. The crowds wanted to add to His fame (Mat 9:30-31). Yet, true greatness always seeks obscurity. When we learn not to let our left hand know what the right is doing, we may be on the path to greatness.
7. The little children of the kingdom vindicate the wisdom of God.
But wisdom is justified by all her children.  Luk 7:35 (Mat 11:19)
This was apparently a common proverb in the days of Jesus. Yet, it was never spoken by wiser lips. As we noted earlier, children bear the family likeness. When a believer seeks the true wisdom of the Word of God, they will never be content with only academic or intellectual stimulation. The true “meat” of God’s Word is not found in “telling or hearing some new thing,” (Act 17:21). The real solid food (Heb 5:14) of Scripture is in gaining the understanding of how to apply it to daily life. Thus, while all who believe in Jesus Christ are children of God, not all are “children of wisdom.” For those who are, there will be a vindication in their lives that they are following the path of righteousness.
As I watch my little grandchildren, I see reinforced the very lessons of the above Scriptures. How simple is the way of faith (2Co 11:3)! And I am constantly reminded of how greatly I failed in so many ways with my own children. I often wish I could go back and do it all again, but God is gracious, and I see His hand in each of their lives—for His purpose.
I am reminded of the closing lines of a B-grade film called Miracle at St. Anna, from the book by James McBride. The line says it all when it comes to being prepared for the unknown. I paraphrase it as I wrote it down:
“There is no control in life … wherever you go, wherever you hide, there’s risk …
People pay for control (seat belts, safety devices, and so forth) even when they have none.
Safety is the greatest risk of all, because safety leaves no room for miracles,
and miracles are the only sure thing in life.”
I think that about says it all! Life is a miracle unfolding to those who are as little children!
His child,
Gene Cunningham

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