Believing as a Child
Believing is actually not all that difficult. A child can do it! But how do you become like a child?
That is our problem. Do you have to park your brain at zero then?
No, otherwise God would not have given us these grey cells.
Through our consciousness, our personality, we can indeed show His image.
God Is Great
Was Noah unintelligent? Probably not. He had sufficient insight to build this huge ark.
Even with the tools of his time! So, his understanding obviously did not stand at zero.
But Noah had made his thinking subservient to God. He could not possibly foresee all that God was planning. And yet he listened, he started to build, a hundred and twenty long years. (Just consider this for a minute. What a tremendous investment of time and energy).
Not because he understood it (i.e., God’s plan), but because God told him.
That is where you see the child. Not unintelligent, naive, or underdeveloped, but full of trust. “Father says it”, so it is fine.
Does that not sound rather naive though?
No, the point is this: our God is great. He is continually busy with very extensive works. He oversees the centuries, he fulfills ancient words in unexpected ways. This is simply not to be grasped by us. We cannot fathom what he oversees. Then we should not demand that either. Not saying: “I will listen once I understand it”. But we are to trust that God knows what he is doing.
Hophni and Phinehas were picking the best pieces of meat from the sacrifices for themselves. While those sacrifices were most holy to God, and an image of the sacrifice of his Son. Did the sons of the priest understand that? No, for they had not yet heard of Golgotha. But God had given them very clear instructions about the holy preparations of the sacrifices. That was sufficient for that time, and they should have listened to that. Not: “oh, that is why, I get it now, and I will do it then”. But: “whatever You say, that is what I stick to, even though I do not understand all of it”. That is faith.
We are like children because our Father is so big. Because he knows what he means, though his purpose lies centuries ahead and we cannot see that far.
If we would sit with our lives in a train, then God’s work and words would be the locomotive, which pulls everything. Faith hooks into this, it is being taken along to the fulfillment.
Everything Is Moving Along
Then also your heart opens up, there is just no other way. This is not only a matter of understanding, of listening and choosing. This is also to become in awe for your Father, to receive his love in what he is saying. Then you look to be near him.
In short: it is also about feeling, and all manifestations of that. You place your heart in your songs, and in your prayers. Mary said it so simple when she was informed of her virgin pregnancy: “Let it be to me according to your word”. With those words she gave herself completely, even her deepest feelings.
This cordiality, that is what God is looking for. For he is like that too. In this manner he makes everything within us to move. The train becomes longer, whatever God says and does touch us in our emotions, they receive sound and direction.
There was a time, when this wagon did not seem to be hooked up to the train. At least, that is how some have experienced it. God’s fact demanded faith, and acceptance, that is all.
There are people who are still troubled by this. Perhaps it will help to see that even tight emotions are being loosened by God himself. That it starts with him, until you realize what he is saying. How often did Jesus not bring people to powerful reactions?
On the other hand, there is also a warning here. Feelings are very important nowadays. Church folks are looking for it. But it does happen that “my feelings” is considered equal to “what arises spontaneously in me”. That is something different, and often misleading.
The feeling which matters to God is our reaction to what God says and does. It is what he loosens deep within us by speaking to our heart. It is (to stay with the image) a wagon which is put in motion by the locomotive and now has a direction.
Which Way To Go?
It is important to stop and think about that. We live in a time where much starts with feelings. Something must feel good, or otherwise we do not want it. But that is an enormous trap, especially in our relationship with God.
A simple example: how is it going with Bible reading? You do hear that at times it is not so good. Praying does happen. Why? Because it feels good.
But the Bible is difficult. And when you read, what do you choose? Something that quickly makes sense, that you can easily understand? Ezekiel would not score very high here. No, a Psalm will be better, or a portion from one of the letters.
Perhaps I exaggerate a bit here, I hope so. But it is about the general picture. When you let yourself to be led by your own feelings, then that becomes the locomotive of your life train. Those feelings subsequently make your faith small; it only takes those facts which interest you, and those become less and less. Is that not how it goes? There are more and more people who have less and less interest in the things that once were important in their relationship with God. For example, we speak purely about him, our unity in this, in our teachings. There it is directly about the facts of our salvation! But it is observed from a great distance by a person who is emotional. “Do not be so difficult about that!”
The church begins with God; that is what we confess. The Son of God gathers his church through his Word and Spirit. He incorporates you into it, in a local church which is his body. Those are the facts. But there is not much left of that when someone begins with their emotions. Such a person looks first of all at his own sphere or position, it does not matter where he finds it. Worship services become loose celebrations. A calling to gather locally where Christ gathers you, seems to become harder and harder to accept. Over against that is the trend to go where you would like to go that Sunday. Whoever recognizes something of themselves in this, should consider for a minute on which side he wants the locomotive to be? And whether he wants to be a child of faith, a child which listens and accepts. For this behaviour fits more with a wayward adolescent.
It gets even worse when everything is justified by emotions and feelings. And this does happen. It is a fact, for example, that on a wedding day you receive each other as husband and wife from God’s hand. Before that time, you cannot consider it a marriage. But there is friendship, love, and desire, but for that there is then also a limit. Sometimes that goes wrong. That can happen, although it is a pity, and you sadden God with that. But in today’s world you experience that this is not being acknowledged as a sin. As in: “it did not feel wrong, so it does not bother us”.
In that case, the train of your life is moving in a different direction. Your feelings are sweeping you along, and there is little left of godly language. Your faith becomes small.
Can You Pull Through?
Our feelings, by the way, are not strong enough to be the locomotive.
Just imagine that a great sorrow enters your life. It breaks you apart. Your feelings cannot deal with this at all. Should this then be the power that will pull you through? It is impossible.
You see death approaching, all that you can hold onto falls away, is there anything left to hold onto? Only the Word of God; that remains till eternity! That Word will pull you through (the process of) dying.
Think of Christians who suffer great hardships. They experience feelings of chronic sadness. Is it not completely clear then, that the godly facts of salvation stand like a beacon in the sea, which can lead them onward?
Our feelings do not pull that kind of weight.
It can also be illness, or depression. You see everything then through dark glasses that you are unable to remove. It is awesome that the person with depression can also hook onto God’s locomotive. The promises will be fulfilled, no matter how contradictory it feels on the inside.
As a Child
In the end it comes down to this: do you save yourself, or is it God who saves you from your misery? If it is God, then begin with God, with his Word and his work. Give it substance. Position yourself as a receiving child. Then you will notice how abundantly he fills your heart.
If you do not do that, then in reality you often start with yourself. You hold yourself up, and you always try something new. But you remain rather empty, and always restless and looking for more. That does not go away, until you as a child find your Father.