by Alan Stewart
Earlier this week, I was sitting in the school parking lot waiting to pick up my daughter, when my attention was captured by a group of kindergarten children playing.
The sounds of laughter and excitement filled the air while they ran and played. As I watched this scene unfold, my mind raced back in time to a very sacred moment in my life when the Lord called me to preach. For just a few minutes, I was able to see children from the Lord's perspective as I wondered what could He have possibly seen that would have impressed Him to call me to preach. The children were so carefree, but He knows all the burdens that still await them in life. The children were saturated with laughter, but He knows all the tears still to be shed.
Many were not an adequate size to perform certain feats, and others were so inexperienced they were not sure what to do. However, while it was easy to observe all the weaknesses of the children at play, it suddenly occurred to me that each possessed the same thing: untapped potential. In a way that is paradoxical, when the Lord looks at our lives He sees nothing, but yet beholds everything!
Children always seemed drawn to Jesus. But, perhaps that was because Jesus was always drawn to children. The mature adults in the crowd would deny children approaches to be touched by Him, but Jesus said, "suffer the little children to come unto me..." Jesus observed children at play, gave a warning about becoming a stumbling block to children, and even used a child as an example of true greatness in the Kingdom of God. However, His most startling statement about children is found in Matthew 18:3, "...except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."
What others seem to discount and dismiss about children, Jesus finds as valuable qualities worth noting. As we grow older, change is inevitable in our lives. Not only do our appearances change, but so do our attitudes, ambitions, and abilities. I have been blessed to have met some truly great spiritual people. The one attribute that each of them seem to possess is a gentle, genuine childlikeness. Our "mature" society is enamored with the pursuit of fame and fortune at any cost, but forfeiting childlikeness appears to be the price we have paid. What is it about the ways of a child that draws the attention of Jesus?
The Lord looks for childlike trust. In Mark 9, Jesus took a child up "in His arms." The word "took" pictures embracing in the bend of the arm, thus providing a resting place. Because of the size of their bodies and the tones of their voices, adults can be very intimidating to children. However, when Jesus was near, children were captivated with the comfortableness of His presence. Simply put, Jesus could be approached with confidence. Children can see through the hucksters who woo the crowds with their charm and charisma. But, when they find a genuine trust in someone, they would give him or her the shirts off their backs.
As opposition of the ministry of Jesus was growing to a fever pitch, while the chief priests and scribes were protesting, it was the children who were praising Him loudly. When the multitude of five thousand were growing hungry, it was a little boy who provided the five loaves and two fishes that miraculously fed the crowd. A child's trust is filled with both boldness and courage. Only when we trust fully can we be trusted freely.
The Lord looks for childlike tenderness. As David was handing the throne over to Solomon, he noted of his son in 1 Chronicles 29:1, "...Solomon my son, whom alone God hath chosen, is yet young and tender, and the work is great..." In the face of a great task, he was inexperienced yet soft hearted. Such tenderness implied he was teachable. An oak may stand with a stately shadow, but it lacks one thing: the ability to bend. The tender sapling holds the only hope of being turned and bent.
When it comes to employment in the Lord's service, we can raise eyebrows with our education and experience, but the Lord is only impressed with our helplessness! Josiah was eight years old when he became king. Daniel was a child when he was brought before the king. Jeremiah was a child when the Lord said, "I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations". Most every task the Lord ever assigned to His servants seemed impossible to accomplish. Adult-sized steps can both fatigue and frustrate a child. While the strides of the Lord may be lengthy, they are never beyond the reach of our hand.
The Lord looks for childlike tenacity. One of the things that amazes me about the life of David is the fact while tending his father's sheep as a youth, he successfully fought a lion and a bear. Children have a unique ability to face a battle one day, and wake up resolved to fight again tomorrow. Such resiliency prepared David for the bigger battles he would face with Goliath and Saul. David's childlike heart kept him battle-ready with a determination that knew no retreat, and a perseverance that knew no surrender. Childlike tenacity is having the steadfastness of the three Hebrew children in a fiery furnace crying out, "but if not..." They did not bow. They did not budge. They did not burn! Such a settled resiliency is like the lad Isaac, bound on the altar but still looking for God's provision. It is the making of a miraculous encounter with the Lord.
One of the most beautiful pictures of the Lord in Scripture is found in Isaiah 40:11. It is a picture of a shepherd gently and tenderly carrying in His arms and close to His side a defenseless lamb. In His arms, a lamb is raised above all enemies. In His arms, a lamb can see with a panoramic viewpoint.
Perhaps when He looks at a child, He can only see them from the perspective of being in His arms. Maybe that is what the Lord saw when He stood looking through the portals of time at the peaceful, playful, harmony of His Millennial Kingdom reign when He noted, "...a little child shall lead them."
Alan Stewart pastors Rechoboth Baptist Church in Soddy Daisy, TN
© 2007 Alan Stewart