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…
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.
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!
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.
…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.
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.