How often I have stood with great certainty and urged others on to spiritual maturity, and yet here is the strong teaching of Jesus (in all three of the Synoptic gospels — Matthew, Mark, and Luke): to receive the Kingdom as a child. How then is one to achieve spiritual childhood?
I imagine many of you can identify with the responsibilities of a pastor because your own experience of vocation brings with it things which can never be far from your attention. There are deadlines, quotas, staff to manage. There are economic trends to follow, predictions to be made, and, all the while, you are responsible for the direction, tone, and productivity of your company or organization.
To live, then — to strive for the Kingdom — as a child, I find myself praying not for strength to endure, but for strength to submit. In prayerful submission, I believe God will help us to see the world from a new perspective. The Holy Spirit will help us to resist impure motives such as achievement, power, and authority, and to live more as humble children who gather with many others around Jesus. Jesus does not fret, nor push, nor pit us against the world or one another. He invites us to His side, to help Him, to find joy in His presence doing the work of God.
To be successful and to achieve as this world often defines success, we feel the need to get tough; to grow thick skin; to advance through knowledge, skill, and strength. Children, on the other hand, readily shed their tough exteriors and expose their hearts and their feelings: what makes them happy, sad, and even fearful. But with this vulnerability, one also expresses the desires of a child’s heart, which coincide nicely with those of the kingdom: peace, unity, justice, joy, and love.
Perhaps I should approach the serious business of adulthood with the heart of a child who wants to be a part of something so much larger than he or she is. With innocence and enthusiasm, we join our brother Jesus in His tasks and, through nothing but pure imitation, we find our greatest joy. It is not so much a matter of doing but a matter of being what and who we were created to be: children, brothers and sisters gathered around Jesus, who is engaged in the work of our Heavenly Father. By His side, we are never in the way — we are blessed beyond human comprehension.
Perhaps a simple prayer can help turn the mystery and awe of childhood into reality.
“O God, may our only strength today be that of faithful obedience — as children who gather around Jesus in the work of Your kingdom.”
Soli Deo Gloria,
Reverend Dr. Conrad C. Sharps