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The faith of a child

The recent blue skies and warm sunshine have been so welcome!

Who can resist nature’s call this time of the year? Roaming the Norway Ridge trails and taking some wind-whipped jaunts along Lake Huron’s shoreline have left me feeling rejuvenated with the hope that springtime brings.

Then there are the new varieties of birds stopping by my feeder as they return to their nesting grounds. Mating season is about to begin — nests will be skillfully built and eggs laid. This time of year bursts with the promise of new life.

In the midst of those pleasant thoughts, a vivid childhood memory has emerged: It is Easter morning, and, as soon as my dad parks the car, my siblings and I clamber out into the church parking lot.

We are attired in our colorful Easter bonnets and stiff new shoes, which, we are happy to discover, click when we walk on the asphalt. We enter the church building holding hands and wiggle our way into an empty row. Though happy to be there, we are even more excited about the overflowing baskets awaiting us at home.

As the service progresses, my younger sister, Lori, becomes convinced that, when the congregation rises to sing “Glory, glory, hallelujah,” they are actually singing, “Lori, Lori, hallelujah,” which completely delights her and creates quite a stir among us.

Oh, the innocence of childhood!

As a little child, I did not understand the reason for Jesus’ death or the significance of His resurrection. Even my religious education left me confused and unclear about what Jesus’ death had to do with me. For that reason, I find these words of Jesus especially interesting: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like a child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3-4).”

What did He mean by that?

I think the first truth to be recognized is that only a child needs a father, with an emphasis on the word “needs”. As adults, we tend to be self-sufficient and independent, whereas a child freely acknowledges their need and is willing to receive what they need from their father or mother.

We adults approach an offer of provision with internal questions like, “How much will it cost me?,” or, “What must I do to earn it?” In contrast, a child reaches out in simple faith to accept that which is given as a gift. A child not only readily receives what is freely offered, but, when more is needed or desired, will trustingly ask for it, fully expecting to be provided for.

Secondly, we must note that Jesus charged us to be childlike, not childish. When the Apostle Paul instructs us to grow up and “put away childish ways,” he was referring to the immature, arrogant, self-centered, and sinful behavior that manifests as we grow out of childhood.

Jesus warned us that changing that kind of behavior is an absolute requirement in order to be fathered by God and to enter His kingdom.

What I have come to realize is that it is impossible for us to change ourselves. Jesus explained that it is from the abundance of our heart or core being that selfish, sinful behaviors come. No amount of self-effort or positive thinking is able to transform us internally. Only He can do that.

The beautiful promise that is wrapped up in the message of Easter — the good news encased in the gift that God holds out to us — is that, through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, we are provided an entrance into His family so that we can be fathered by Him.

This gift is free to whoever is willing to receive it in childlike faith. It cannot be earned. The price of that gift was completely and wholly paid for by Jesus. It was an expensive and extravagant gift — one that cost Jesus everything in order to provide it for us. Yet He willingly laid down His life to pay the cost.

The Apostle John records that Jesus uttered the words “it is finished,” and then He bowed his head and gave up His spirit. The Greek word that John used for “finished” is an accounting term, which literally means “paid in full”. When He pronounced those words, Jesus was declaring that the debt of our sins, which separates us from God, was completely atoned for.

Why would He do that? Why would he suffer in our place so that we might experience the hope of eternal life?

The answer is that His sacrifice was made out of a love so amazing that our logical minds stumble over the thought of it.

And that is where the childlike faith comes in.

Michelle Smith serves alongside her husband, Gary, as part of the leadership team of New Life Christian Fellowship. She founded Purely Women Ministries with the purpose of helping women of all ages discover their true identity as women of God. She can be reached at michelle@newlifealpena.org.

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