Have you ever noticed how a baby giraffe or horse can stand up and toddle around within hours after its birth? Human babies are not this strong. Babies are weak and fragile! Jesus uses this reality to prove a point: faith is like being a weak child who depends on others. “Now people were bringing little babies to Jesus that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked these people. But Jesus called the disciples over and said, ‘Let the kids come to me! Don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to these kind—truly, I’m telling you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it” (Luke 18:15-17). Jesus is teaching us about the weakness of faith. Faith is depending on the strength of God instead of our own strength for eternal life.

We often miss faith because we try to be strong apart from God. How about you? Even the Apostle Paul struggled with this reality. “Jesus said to me, ‘My grace is enough for you, because my power is made complete in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast more happily of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest in me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Religious people often try to be religiously strong in order to earn God’s love without his grace. Non-religious people often try to be true to their own heart and desires so that they can avoid depending on God. But in the end, Jesus says, we all need him. Luke surrounds Jesus’ illustration of child-like faith with some other helpful teachings on how this works. We see three explanations of faith emerge in Luke 18:9-30: we should admit our sin, ask Jesus for help, and expect the impossible.

Can you admit your sin? Often called confession, we should agree with God that we have failed. Sin is missing the mark of love, justice, and purity that God designed us for. Romans 3:23 says that all human beings have fallen short of the glorious perfection of God. No matter how we grew up or where we came from, we all fall short. In the story of the pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14), Jesus drives this point home. He says bluntly that the religious leader who is trusting in his own goodness is not actually righteous in God’s eyes. However, the worst sinner of society can be accepted as righteous by God merely by confessing sin and asking for God’s mercy! He summarizes it this way, “Every person who lifts himself up will be brought low, but anyone who lowers himself will be lifted up.” Faith says, “I need God to save me from my sin.” Therefore, by definition, a Christian is someone who admits their need of God’s grace.

Secondly, faith is child-like because it asks Jesus for help. Be careful, because Jesus will rearrange your life. In Luke 18:18-23, a rich young leader asks Jesus for help. The man asks Jesus about inheriting eternal life, and calls Jesus good. Jesus counters by saying, “Why do you call me good? Only God is good!” It’s an ironic statement because the rest of the New Testament builds the case that Jesus is the only man who should be called good like God. However, in this scene, Jesus is challenging the rich young ruler’s conception of ultimate righteousness. Jesus continues down this logical trail and asks if the rich man has kept the commandments. The man, pridefully, says that he has kept them all! So Jesus ends with a homework assignment related to the final commandment. He asks the man to sell everything for the poor, and then follow Jesus.  The man was sad, because he wanted his money more than Jesus. Just to be clear, the normal Christian ethic of possessions is to keep most of our money and then give a small percentage to the poor and the teaching of God’s Word. However, Jesus was doing radical spiritual surgery for this man, to help him see that his possessions were leading to greed and leading him to violate the 10th commandment.  Are you willing to ask Jesus for help, no matter what extreme things he asks of you?

Finally, Jesus teaches us that faith means expecting the impossible. “Impossible” is a big category. Let me encourage you not to obsess over physical healings or walking on water. Jesus might also do those kind of impossible things for you, but he has something bigger in mind. The  greatest impossibility is reconciling sinful people like us to God. God does the impossible of teaching us how to love him and love others. Do you believe that God can do this impossible thing? After the rich young ruler went away sad, Jesus said, “‘How difficult it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.’ Those who heard this said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ But he said, ‘What is impossible with man is possible with God.’“  Camels can’t get through needle-eyes. And humans can never save themselves. But if we trust in Jesus—with the child-like weakness of faith—then God will save us. God will forgive our sins, fill our life with his Holy Spirit, and teach us to forgive and love those around us.

Whenever I think of child-like faith, I remember the first time I brought my baby daughter to the beach. She was two years old and I held her little hand as we walked across the sand into the ocean water. She giggled with joy as the sand tickled her toes. She squealed with delight as the waves splashed her feet. However, as we got deeper, the waves were pushing her little body around. She became afraid as she headed into deep waters with me. But she didn’t curse the waves, and she didn’t run the other direction. She reached up her hands and grunted for her Daddy to pick her up. I love her, and I was happy to hold her close to my chest. After that, the waves still pushed us around a bit, but my strength was now hers, and she knew she was safe in my arms. Life is always full of deep waters. Don’t curse the waves, don’t run the other way, but reach up like a child in faith, and ask your heavenly Father to save you.

God loved the world in this way: He gave his unique Son, so that everyone who trusts in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

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Dave McMurry

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