Steve’s Devotional – Growing Down
SEPTEMBER 25, 2014
“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). Ouch! That hurts.
When it hurts, the natural proclivity of a preacher is to preach a sermon for others about what is hurting the preacher. It could be titled, “Humility & How I Attained It.” Frankly, that’s what I started to do here; but, after I prayed about it, God said that something like that would even embarrass him.
It’s hard to be right (Christians are right, at least about the basic things) and pretend that you’re not. It’s hard to have convictions and not proclaim them. It’s hard to know that you and others are valuable; and, at the same time, to be a slave…Washing feet is quite difficult when you know that washing feet isn’t something you have to do. It’s hard to be civil when the “cretins” aren’t. It’s hard to be humble when God has given you skills and abilities at which you’re quite good.
It’s hard to be a child when everything in your culture and in your gut tells you to grow up.
Let me tell you what I’ve discovered. I was reminded of it one summer while watching my grandchildren.
The key is the child thing.
When Jesus said that we’re to be a child, he certainly didn’t mean that we should pretend to be something that we aren’t, that we should set aside our convictions or that we should play the role of Harry or Hilda with a “humble habit.”
A child doesn’t pretend to be anything but a child, a child has convictions (albeit little convictions), and a child is hardly ever addicted to a “humble habit.” The childlike qualities that Jesus affirmed are in another area altogether.
A child is…well…a child.
Adults work hard at being “adult,” doing it right, and trying to be responsible.
A child doesn’t work at all at being a child.
I once received an email from a Christian leader (you would know the name) with the subject line, “Can I be honest?” He told me that he was in a “burnout” mode, wanted to run, and just couldn’t be “spiritual” anymore. He wanted to know if I could help.
I told him that I could help: “Go tell everybody what you just told me and the angels will sing.”
I want to be really important. I don’t like that in me; but, there, I’ve said it and feel a great deal of relief. Paul said that he was crucified with Christ and that he (Paul) lived because Christ lived in him. God is doing stuff in our lives and the more we pretend that we are something different than what we are, we truncate the image of Christ—the very image that is naturally and supernaturally being formed in us.
You know something else? A child knows that he or she is little and that he or she is dependent on adults for almost everything.
Every day of my life I confess my sinful desire for autonomy and control. And every day God disabuses me of the spurious belief that I’m autonomous and in control of anything…and sometimes he does it in ways that are so embarrassing. He does that not because he dislikes me, but because he likes me big time and is pleased when I come to him with my “broken toys” (e.g. my shattered ego, shame, neediness, fear, sin and failed plans).
It’s hard to remember God’s sufficiency when one is trying hard to be adult about things.
That summer I noticed our granddaughters giggle a lot.
I told a congregation not too long ago that, if we got some supernatural revelation Jesus was coming back on Thursday, they would pray, fast and try to look busy.
“Do you know what I would do?” I asked them. “I would buy a Mercedes, run up the credit cards and get drunk. I’m getting tired of driving my Honda, I’ve never been totally maxed out on my credit cards, I’ve always been a teetotaler…and before one dies or Jesus returns, one ought to experience all of those things.”
Some of those folks were shocked and angry, and have, up to now, not forgiven me for what I said.
Jesus likes me better than he likes them!
We are so serious about ourselves, our work, our sin, our failure, and our need to be right and important.
Someone tells about a time during the American gold rush when a traveling symphony orchestra gave a concert in the hinterlands of northern California. Just as the orchestra started playing, a small child started giggling. While her mother tried to get her to be quiet, the conductor stopped the music and turned around toward the audience. Everyone held their breath, expecting an explosion of anger.
“Listen to that!” the conductor said softly. “It’s been months since I’ve heard that sound. It’s better than the music.”
Are we important? Well, yeah, really important to God. I don’t know why, but we are.
It generally stops there. The rest is mostly just a game.
You Think About That
Read Matthew 18:1-6 & Mark 10:13-16
What are your “broken toys”? Aren’t you tired of carrying them around and trying to fix them yourself? The key is to grow down—not up. Your loving Father, in his grace, has it all covered.