The gift of faith…

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the gift of faith that God grants to us.  I’ve been thinking specifically of how we long to see our children trust in Christ.  Many of us have been brought up to believe that our children need a mature understanding of Christ to be able to be called a Christian or more specifically to be allowed to take communion.  I’ve been growing in my understanding in this area a lot lately.

Some of the scriptures that have really been teaching me are these…

Psalm 131

A song of ascents. Of David.

1 My heart is not proud, O LORD,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.

2 But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

3 O Israel, put your hope in the LORD
both now and forevermore.

Trusting in the Lord is not about concerning yourself with great matters and high arguments.  It’s as simple as a weaned child with its mother… content just to lie in her arms and be loved.

Acts 2:38-39

38Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

The promises of God are not just ours but they are our children’s to take hold of even as rudely and immaturely as an infant innately grabs hold of its mothers finger and holds its fist tight shut.  Children born to believers are taught from day one to take hold of Jesus and trust in God.  How immaturely they do this is not a sign of a lack of faith, but merely a lack of maturity in their faith.  That faith though is as real as the faith of someone who is growing up in their faith and has begun to eat spiritual meat!

Mark 10:13-16

13People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

Do not hinder them!  The gift of faith can be granted to little ones!  Some churches believe in an arbitrary age of accountability based on scientific data of cognitive function but people with low IQs and those who are severely developmentally and physically delayed can have saving faith without such cognitive function.  Some churches don’t believe a child’s faith is legitimate unless they can write an essay or memorize the answers to several complex spiritual questions.  But what is required of us?  Become like a little child!  Trust implicitly in Christ, like a child does.  They don’t know all of the theological language.  They can’t explain the Trinity to you.  They can’t express intellectually the substitutionary atonement of Jesus on behalf of His people.  But they love Him.  And they know they belong to Him because we have told them so from before they could speak and it’s only natural for them to take hold of Him like a baby takes hold of its mother’s finger.  Simple faith.  Faith like a mustard seed.

Matthew 17:20

…I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.

A child’s faith need not be big.  They need not have all the answers.  Their faith may be small, as small as the tiniest seed which we as parents are called to water through raising them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  Then they will grow in wisdom and stature before the Lord, even as our older brother Jesus did, like a plant that will grow into maturity and bear much fruit for those about them to be nourished by also.

I Corinthians 1

19For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”[c] 20Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe….27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him.

What could be more foolish and weak than a child?  And yet He has said that His Kingdom belongs to such as these!

The Passover meal was to be eaten by the whole family of God.  All those who were in the household of faith. The promises were for them and for their children.  God took them out of Egypt and they fed their children the passover meal and carried them out of Egypt to safety.  The children were passengers but they rode on their parents’ backs and in their carts trusting in their parents’ love for them, knowing that their parents wouldn’t take them somewhere where they would be destroyed but where they would be free.  The parents trusted God and taught their children to.  So Passover was not just a meal for the mature and strong but for the weak as well.

Jesus gave the cup of the new covenant in the context of the Passover.  He was not instituting a new covenant from which the children of believers must now be excluded, unlike the old covenant where the signs of God’s faithfulness were applied to all within the household of faith, where children were shown in edible form how God had set them free.  The new covenant most emphatically still belonged to the children of believers but the gates had been thrown even wider that those who were not part of Israel in relation to Abraham could be called sons of God by faith and that the promises were for them and their children also!

We have such a gracious God and I am so thankful that my children, though young in their faith, trust Jesus.  Will they stumble?  Will they fall along the way?  Yes, they likely will just like the rest of us, even those who don’t come to faith until they are adults.  But if faith is a road on which we walk as the Israelites walked out of Egypt, we are to carry our children until they themselves are able to walk.  We are to help them up when they fall.  We are to continually point them to Christ who is the Way to freedom.  And we are never to hinder them from eating the meal of faith even when that faith is small, immature and faltering.  Like the freedom food of the Passover, it is their edible lesson in learning to take Jesus by faith at every turn.

I have written a hymn that encompasses some of what God has been teaching me in this respect.  It can be sung to the tune of Children of the Heav’nly Father.  However it is more in the thematic vein of Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us as that song has, along with the scriptures above, been inspiring to me lately too as I’ve thought on this subject.  We easily sing, “Early let us seek Thy favor, early let us do Thy will; Blessèd Lord and only Savior, with Thy love our bosoms fill.” But then we often go to question the seedling faith of children because they are so immature!  He is our shepherd.  He feeds us and He has a special place in His heart for our Children.

Isaiah 40:11

11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.

If we believe He does all that and doesn’t also feed our young in their faith, we are far less gracious than He who ordains praise out of the mouths of babes!

Here is my song.

Take and Eat, All of You
By Nancy Doud

For to you and your descendants
comes a gift, the best of presents;
the gift of faith to those He chooses
set apart for holy uses.

Though we wonder at His choices
we shall raise our hearts and voices
For His goodness shineth ever
And His purpose lasts forever.

Old and young He calls and treasures
Them He fills with boundless measures;
of His grace and of His favor
calls He them to ever savor.

Taste and see, that He is so good
blesses you with miracle food
“Come”, He says and take in union
of this meal of sweet communion.

Have you faith in Christ the savior?
Is that gift a taste you savor?
Take and eat and in it relish
by it, your faith, He’ll embellish.

All it takes is one small faith seed;
just a glimpse to see of your need.
No great language He requires
Tender hearts are His desires.

Child small or elder prudent
of our Brother you’re a student
Need we all His calm assuring
Room we all have for maturing.

Jesus said do not them hinder,
children small and weak and tender.
Let your faith be like a child’s
and you’ll never be reviled.

As you take this bread and this wine
It’s your savior on which you dine.
Covenantal sons and daughters
with this meal your faith He waters.

From the mouths of babes come praises
young and old, their heads He raises
Lifts them up from lowly places
Gifts them all with all His graces.

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4 Comments

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  1. Funny you should write about this. I have my 7 year old take communion with us every time he is in a service with us, and it is passed. We have been doing it since he was at least 4 or 5. I have recieved some very odd looks from this. I have had family members tell me “He can’t take communion, he isn’t a member” or ” He isn’t old enough”
    We allow him to take it because he has requested to take it, and not because he thinks it is cool to drink the juice. 🙂
    During the time leading up to partaking of this ordinance, we softly and quietly discuss why we do this… what it represents…. and why it is important.
    We teach him. We don’t expect him to wake up one day when he is 12 and suddenly get how it all works… we walk through it, we answer questions, and we learn about it together.

    If we don’t take time as parents to discuss the doctrine that makes up our Theology, and only give them cute story versions of what the Bible says…. then how can we ever expect them to desire the meat of the Word? How will they ever learn to trust Him without holding our fingers and hands?

    Julie Coney’s last blog post..Why do we hide?

  2. Amen Julie!! This is exactly what we do and what I have been telling people! So many children never even witness the Lord’s Table until they are 12 or 13 because they have been away in children’s church… no wonder it’s foreign to them when they see it the first time!

    Our four year old took his first communion recently because He said, “I belong to Jesus!” We always do as you do, quietly discussing the joy of the celebration that we have at the Table (we do it weekly so it’s a regularly occurring feast!) and that when we take the bread and wine we are saying, “I take Jesus as mine over all other things the world can offer me that don’t truly satisfy. Jesus fills us to overflowing!”

    Some people, as you have seen, think this is just too young. But this little one has faith… immature, faltering faith… Like me! My husband was reading a book the other day that talked about how we can only really rightly pray and trust God when we have dealt with our inner brat… Kids don’t have an inner brat. They have an outer one! Messy as that is, it’s one of God’s mercies so that we as parents can have a window into the hearts of our kids that we might know how to teach them and apply God’s truths to them. Their outer brats, like the rest of us, will soon enough be inner brats that they have to do daily battle with but until then why should we discount them from the table because the only brat they have is the outer one?! LOL

    Some people say, “They are too wiggly to be able to take communion.” I wonder how many people take communion that are every bit as wiggly on the inside… But Jesus is for the weak and the wiggly! Thanks be to God!

    Thanks for your comment!!

  3. Yes!!!!!! Thanks be to God for His great mercy and grace through Jesus our Saviour to such worms as my kids and I!

    juelle’s last blog post..Fuller Circle

  4. On the same note but slight tangent. . .while we (the church) deny our children have a credible profession of faith until they have reached that “age of accountability,” we continue to be mystified why so many fall away. Perhaps that while they’re small telling us “I love Jesus. I want to be a part of what’s going on” (in whatever way they communicate this), we deny them, saying “You don’t know what you’re talking about. When you’re older” etc etc. We push them away until they don’t want to be a part. We hold them at arm’s length until they stop asking or thinking about it, often out of obedience or trust of the parent’s judgment (hmm, funny). We require so much more than God does. It’s HIS work NOT ours. We baptize our babies to show that it’s all about God not man. Why would God be less gracious than we in feeding his own? We don’t wait until our kids can acknowledge us as their parents before we feed them. We offer them milk to sustain them as soon as they enter the world, and gain their trust by this. We show them love in providing for them. Why do we think God will not do the same and more? The faith and trust of a small child is something to be coveted. I pray that God will give me the same trust in Him that my children have in me (and Him). . .implicit in EVERYTHING.

    Glad to see all yours at the table. I rejoice! Thanks for this post. Love y’all!

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