What to do when childlike faith seems like foolishness?
One of the interesting things about the phrase “childlike faith”, is that you will not find it in the Bible anywhere. The concepts of innocence, trust, humility and dependence are certainly found in Matthew 18:1-5 and that is typically where we get the phrase from. In that passage the disciples are trying to figure out who among them will be the greatest. I can only imagine Jesus responding with a long and patient sigh before He explains in detail once again that He represents the “upside down” Kingdom; and that greatness like many other things in God’s Kingdom, are defined entirely differently than by our familiar worldly wisdom or experiences.
The Bible makes it crystal clear that faith is critical to the life of anyone who calls themselves a Christian and that all Christ followers should be growing in faith through their years of following Christ. Passages like Hebrews 11:6, Ephesians 2:8-9, Ephesians 6:6 and many others make that point clear.
Here is where I have had difficulty in my own personal life, and maybe you have as well. Obviously faith is important and critical, but so often a strong faith does not match up well with analytical human reasoning. This tension of faith and intellect for a Spirit filled Christ follower constantly keeps us on our toes and challenges our minds and emotions.
This dynamic inevitably leads us to this question, “Is what I am about to believe or do, faith or foolishness?”
Then typically these types of questions quickly follow—“Is what I am about to believe about this situation primarily faith driven or is it me just being uninformed or not knowledgeable?” Or “Is what I am about to do or think a wise thing or is it just fantasy?” Or this popular one —“God certainly would never ask me to do anything like this, it makes no sense and it is not possible anyways.” There are many other types and variations of these difficult to deal with questions.
What criteria do you use to decipher between being foolish or faithful? How do you live in the tension of trying to grow in faith but not at the cost of ignoring your brain?
I am proud of the Christian that chooses to engage and wrestle with answers to these types of questions. The wrestling reveals a heart that is hungry for living in a greater awareness of what God has for them. Some just choose to ignore it because the answer is not an easy fix, and well who likes that?
It is true that God gave us a brain, He allowed us to have certain experiences in our lives that teach us different things. As we grow older and more mature we begin to be very keenly aware of the problems of being like a child. Children are ignorant, so they do not have much life experience to inform their decisions. Children are not typically well versed in complex situations, so they are extremely over simplistic with many issues. Children can be extremely gullible and they could trust anyone who seems like they know what they are talking about. The list could go on.
I would like to offer two practical ideas for you that I believe are Biblical and that I hope are helpful for you when it comes to trying to decide if you are about to take a step of faith, or embark into stupid.
1) Faith by its Biblical nature is always extremely risky for us but not for Him.
No matter what level of belief someone might be operating with in their life, from God’s vantage point faith is intended to stretch, challenge, and confuse us. Too often we use the final litmus test of, “does what I am about to think or do make sense?”—I personally believe that this is a great question to ask ourselves regularly; but when it comes to trying to decide between faith or foolishness that cannot be the final question. Faith is like a muscle and in order for it to grow it needs to be worked out and God is the one who orchestrates the workout sessions. Repeatedly God has called men and women to incredibly bizarre and seemingly completely stupid things. One example that quickly illustrates this point is Gideon. His story can be read in Judges 6-7. God basically takes Gideon, a runt from a non military family, tells him that the enemy army outnumbers their army 4 to 1; then God says even though you are outnumbered 4-1 his army is still to large so I am going to severely shrink it to 1 percent of it’s original size and then you can go and fight. What kind of stupid military strategy is that? Apparently it is a heavenly one rooted in heaven’s potential not in man’s. I have found it to be very helpful in my life to keep that reminder at the forefront of my mind when trying to evaluate faith vs foolishness.
2) It is essential that we and others we trust believe that God is truly leading.
Some people will read our point above and then justify their total impulsiveness and lack of patience and march on towards all things impossible and call that the life of faith. I am not convinced. A key element to “a child like faith” as referenced above in Matthew 18 is humility. The idea that Jesus was trying to make sure that his disciples grasped was the idea that jockeying for greatness is not how to shine, humility with a championing heart is.
If (honestly it is not an “if” it is a “when”) you are ever in the situation where you are really struggling with taking a significant step of faith in your life, be humble enough to include others in significant ways. It is always scary for me to see how many people are moving in such alleged strong moves of faith but they are all by themselves. I think that we can start to enter the “foolish” arena of this question when we do not include other mature Christian voices into our lives. It is a tremendously wise thing for us to ask a trusted mature believer this one question, “I really feel strongly that God is leading me in such and such direction do you think I am hearing clearly from God or do you think I am missing it somewhere?” . A wise and good friend will probably beat you to it and ask you this question before you ask them —keep those friends or mentors close in your life. This kind of transparent humility with the right type of person or people will unpack so much good and so many healthy things will flow out that it will not only make you feel better but you will feel closer to the heart of God in the situation.
If we often find ourselves rushing to make decisions of faith where we are not including others and we are not fasting and praying through significant faith issues, then I think that we are definitely on the foolish side.
It is amazing how fast we can sacrifice God’s amazing plans of destiny, victory, and growth for impatience, pride and fear.
There is a lot more that can be said on this but I hope that these two principles will be helpful to you the next time you find yourself in the middle of a challenging situation of living out your faith. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! Blessings!
Written By: Pastor Jered Murphy