Opening a bank account, flying solo on an airlines flight, renting an apartment-it was not that long ago that I was a young adult and confronted with these new responsibilities, evoking a great deal of angst within me. With the passage of time, these same situations that had once been so anxiety provoking are now faced with a learned calmness. I have matured and become more self-confident. My spiritual relationship with God has also evolved. When I once had a similar degree of anxiety leading a Bible study or being a worship leader, I now approach these and other responsibilities with a greater degree of self-confidence, but does this correlate with spiritual maturity?
As I pondered this, I became discouraged. Was I substituting self-confidence for spiritual maturity? Living a life of self-confidence means being able to stay in control of life’s circumstances. While this is a laudable goal, this is not spiritual maturity. It is not even the same maturity and confidence that one needs to properly interpret a Bible passage. It is a subtle but important distinction. What is this spiritual maturity and confidence in God?
…Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 18:3-4 (ESV)
Jesus set an unusual standard when He held up the faith of the child to the highest level of spirituality. What does it mean to have faith like a child? What is the nature of this faith? Is it naive and immature as we might expect a child to have? Is it a blind acceptance without ever questioning or attempting to verify? Is a childlike faith childish? If we seek to follow the example of Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God, faith like a child means to unquestionably rely upon God’s guidance to shepherd us through life, trusting and obeying Him in every moment of our existence. I can understand this even as I often fail to live up to these standards. My failure also pointed to something critical that was missing from this equation. I found the answer in the following verse.
Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
Matthew 18:5 (ESV)
I needed to consider and ponder this from another perspective. If I understand that a child has unwavering faith and trust, what is God’s response to this? God is the perfect Father and He loves me with perfect and unconditional love. He will guide me with perfect judgment. He will teach me with perfect instruction. He will discipline me with perfect love, grace, and mercy. But what about me? Do I behave in a manner that represents my Heavenly Father?
Sadly, I know the answer. How often have I portrayed a poor example before my own children? I desire to lead them as a godly father yet I allow my petty and selfish desires to consume me at inappropriate times and I lose my temper. I did not understand the faith of a child because I did not understand the true nature of my relationship with God. It is not one-sided; I must embrace the entire relationship. It is not in relying upon my knowledge and experiences, it is being self-confident in God.
Job learned this difficult lesson. In the 29th chapter of Job, he used the pronoun “I” fifty-two times to justify himself and his actions before God. Fifty-two times! That is a mere ten less than I usually use when I attempt to justify myself before God! When God answered and questioned Him in a whirlwind in the 38th chapter, Job began to comprehend the full nature of his relationship. It wasn’t about his self-confidence and pointing to all of his accomplishments and his noble actions. It was about his confidence in God and understanding that we all exist to glorify our Creator and no one else. Only when this realization occurs, can we begin to understand a true childlike faith.
This is true spiritual maturity.
I must be spiritually mature by being self-confident in God, understanding that I must see myself and life through the lens of God’s Word, Jesus Christ. He is the supreme and perfect example of faith in God because He is the perfect Son obeying the perfect Father.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.