By Brian Jennings
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me” (Mark 10:14). His words both invited children and rebuked the disciples shooing away the kids. Jesus loved children, and they loved him back. Jesus loved them, but not just because they were vulnerable, overlooked, or cute. Jesus saw in them what he hoped to see in all of us.
On a sunny day my good friends’ son dazzled his buddy with heroic feats of dare. After scaling to the top of his backyard play fort, he shouted, “I call this the leap of faith.” But his glorious leap ended with a badly broken arm.
My friends saw the neighbor buddy dashing away from the house. When asked later why the friend bolted without getting help, he said, “His arm was messed up, and I was getting out of there.”
Our friends’ son stumbled to his feet and to his parents. After a surgery, his arm is fine now.
Why do kids make jumps like that? Was his leap of faith based on wishful thinking, watching too many superhero cartoons, or just typical boy daredevil behavior? I’m not sure, but I do know we could learn a lot about faith from kids. As a wounded child runs into the arms of his parent, so ought you run to God, fully trusting in his concern. A full-of-faith child doesn’t have internal debate about the trustworthiness of their parent. The child runs without hesitation, and when his mother or father’s arms envelop him, he completely relaxes.
“Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (v. 15).
When Jesus began to hear the growling stomachs of 5,000 men (probably 15,000 total people), the disciples began to look around for food (John 6). All they could find was a little boy’s sack lunch. A good mathematician would’ve concluded that now they needed another 14,999 sack lunches.
The boy’s lunch seemed completely inadequate, yet he gave it anyway. He hoped Jesus could make it worth something so that he and thousands could all eat that day. He hoped when most of us would’ve criticized, calculated, and complained.
It’s a good thing they found a boy with food, because how many adults would’ve wasted their lunch like that. To the astonishment of the crowd, the disciples began dishing out the food to person after person. Soon everyone had lunch. They even collected a dozen baskets of leftovers.
“Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations” (Romans 4:18). Christ hasn’t called you to hope in the easy. He dares you to hope in the impossible—the broken marriage with no fix in sight, the stunted church that hasn’t grown in years, the rebelling teen who’s running from God. God specializes in hopeless situations, so you can hope like a wide-eyed, lunchbox-carrying child.
We’d only known Ericka for several months, but we were happy to have her spend President’s Day with us. I was luckier than her mom; I got the day off. The sunshine beckoned us to a park. At one point I looked up to see Ericka and my youngest daughter walking down a path, each with an arm thrown over the other’s shoulder. When I go on a jog or hike with a friend, we never do that.
Later that night as I dropped Ericka off at her apartment, she climbed to the front of our van, threw her arms around me and said, “Thank you for the fun day.” There’s a lot of love in that little girl. She loves people for one reason: she meets them. The list of requirements for my love stretches longer.
Somewhere along the way, we learn to be guarded with our love. Maybe we’ve been burned, maybe we’ve grown busy, or maybe we’ve just followed the examples of other adults. Yet Jesus calls us to the example of children. To summarize Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, “If I have all of these adult Christian qualities, but don’t have love, I’ve got nothing.” Since the greatest commands in Scripture are to love God and love our neighbors, one of the greatest tests of spiritual growth is this: Am I growing in my love of God and others? If so, how and who?
By the time you’ve finished this article, you’ve grown older. (Sorry for the reminder.) But as you get older, don’t lose the childlike faith, hope, and love that Jesus wants you to embrace. Rest in his arms. Soak up his love. And ignore the voices of those telling you to grow up and move along.
Brian and his wife, Beth, and their four children live in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he preaches at Highland Park Christian Church and writes (brianjenningsblog.com).