How to receive a gift

Did you know the Bible never actually uses the phrase “childlike faith”? I’ve heard the phrase and always assumed it was directly lifted from Scripture. The Bible speaks of “receiving the kingdom of God like a child” but does not use the term “childlike faith” (at least, none of the translations I looked up had it).

Last weekend’s sermon by Pastor Doug was based on the wonderful story of Jesus welcoming little children. Jesus said, “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Luke 18:17 ESV) The study guide for the week asks, “What do you think it means to ‘receive the kingdom of God like a child’?”

The faith Jesus commends is faith that receives the kingdom like a child. First of all, what does “kingdom of God” mean? One writer likes to use the term “reign of God.” Wherever the king reigns, there is the kingdom. If God rules in your heart by faith, “the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21 KJV)

So what does it mean to receive God’s kingdom like a child? The key word is “receive.” God’s kingdom is a gift to us. We’re children of God by grace through faith in Jesus. We don’t attain His kingdom. We don’t achieve it. It’s given to us, placed into our hands. We receive it.

And Jesus tells us the way to receive it is like a child.

How does a child receive a gift? You’ve probably seen it. Recall Christmas morning with children around the tree. They tear into a present and then act if they just won the lottery. They’re excited, exuberant, enthusiastic! They celebrate: “Yes! Just what I wanted! I can’t wait to play with it!”

Now, not all kids are equally expressive. Some are more reserved. But I bet you never hear a kid at Christmas saying, “Grandma, Grandpa, what do I owe you for this present?” No, they simply accept it as a gift and love the one who gave it.

“Receiving the kingdom of God like a child” can be boiled down to this: God’s kingdom is a gift to us. We receive it by faith. We respond with joy. We love the one who gave it to us.

How do we take that attitude into our lives? We realize that everything we have is a gift. We walk by faith, even when we don’t see how things will turn out. We’re joyful – not grumpy, bitter, angry, or constantly negative. We’re joyful – approaching life with a positive outlook, being pleasant, acting as if the God of the universe loves you … because He does! And we love Him back.

Today I had the privilege of conducting the funeral for Pastor Bud Redmann, who served our church for many years. His wife Eunice said that Pastor Bud would most want to be remembered as a man who loved his Lord. What a wonderful way to be remembered. What a wonderful way to live – with a heart filled with love for the God who gives us everything, including the gift of eternal life through Jesus.