“Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it” (Luke 18:17).
Big shots need not apply.
Pride disqualifies all applicants.
Therefore, “Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time,” meaning, whenever He gets good and ready. That’s I Peter 5:6. Well, the first part of it is.
This fellow wrote to me recently to say why he no longer attends church. He is burned out on four decades of shallow sermons and considers himself far beyond the kind of pap his pastor ladles out to the unthinking sheep on Sunday. He has written scholarly essays on his beliefs and would be happy to send them to me.
Even if this were the case, that the pastors all serve milk to babies on Sundays and never meat to the healthy, the man is missing a huge point about church participation.
We go to church to do the Lord’s work with His children. Sometimes we are laboring alongside other believers, ministering in the community and the world. But sometimes, our ministry is directed toward one or more of them. We are instructed to take care of each other, particularly, the weak and defenseless, the widows and the orphans.
If we would do the work of the Lord with other believers, we have to learn humility and submission. The Lord expects us to listen to the other members of the team, to respect them, pray for them, and encourage them.
To be effective in serving Christ in and through the church, we must come to an appreciation of the lowliest and least skilled, the neediest and the humblest.
In short, we have to become little children.
That’s why Paul pointed out that most big shots cannot be found in church. “You see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty, and the base things of the world, and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that ‘are,’ that no flesh should glory in His presence” (I Corinthians 1:26-29).
Some, thankfully. But “not many.”
We’re grateful for the exceptions, for people who have made it big in this world and still humble themselves to join with the Lord’s people as one of them and not above them, as a fellow co-worker and not a celebrity to be honored.
We admit begrudgingly that sometimes God’s people make it difficult for a celebrity to come among them as a fellow sinner-saved-by-grace willing to do the lowliest work without expecting royal treatment.
Sometimes we fawn over professional athletes or other “stars” who show up in church.
Not a good thing. We should let them worship and come further into the congregation as they feel it safe to do so.
Now, back to the subject of childlikeness….
Never pray for the Lord to humble you. Frankly, you might not survive the experience since the Lord seems to use a heavy hand in doing so. Check out the humility He put upon King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4:28-33. Never ask the Lord to humble you.
A missions leader told me once that no one has a greater problem in learning a foreign language than a missionary with a doctorate. “To learn a new language,” he said, “one has to become a little child and be willing to mess up, to embarrass oneself, and to get up and try again. And there’s something about a Ph.D. at the end of one’s name that throws up a huge barrier to that.”
We must become as little children to enter the Kingdom–to be saved and confess Jesus Christ openly–and to continue to work in that Kingdom as growing and obedient disciples.
At no point are we given the green light to take the shackles off our egos and give free rein to our pride.
Pride is always a problem, ego is ever a challenge, and humility is forever in order.
“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). The first part of that verse says, “He gives more grace.” How wonderful is that.
The only people not receiving “more grace” is the proud. These are the self-contained packages who are complete within themselves and resist anything from God. Foolishly, they insist on inanities like “I’m scientifically minded; only the sheep depend on faith” and “I can do it by myself; only the weak need a God.”
The day will come–we pray it will–when that self-sufficient one will see what a small egotistical package he had become, and will humble himself before a mighty God. When that happens, let him pray the prayer of the fellow in Luke 18:13, “O God, be merciful to me the sinner.”
Let him be like the prodigal who suddenly awakened to find himself in a pig pen. “He came to himself” and he said, “I will arise and go to my father and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants'” (Luke 15:17-19).
The day you humble yourself and renounce the lordship of your life and become a little child by faith in Jesus Christ will be the greatest day of your life. Nothing truly important or lasting will happen until then; a million great things will happen afterwards.
One final reminder.
The Lord will be sending you continual opportunities throughout your days for you to further affirm and demonstrate your childlikeness. Whether you think of these as tests or as opportunities depends on whether you have learned to enjoy spiritual growth.
The strongest people I know enjoy challenges to their self-sufficiency; the smartest people I know love tests which drive them closer and closer to the Lord Jesus.
The greatest people in the world are humble. And, in the Kingdom of God the greatest are the servants.