Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of Heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
~ Matthew 18:3 ~
It was Jesus Christ Himself who taught us to look to children as an example. The New Testament records His answer when His Apostles disputed who should be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus answered their question with a small yet powerful object lesson. He called a little child to Him and set him in the midst of them … What is it we should learn from children? What qualities do they possess and what examples do they demonstrate that can help us in our own spiritual development? These precious children of God come to us with believing hearts. They are full of faith and receptive to feelings of the Spirit. They exemplify humility, obedience, and love. They are often the first to love and the first to forgive.
~ Jean A. Stevens – Become as a Little Child ~
What is at the heart of worship? True, it is humility. It is also contrition of spirit, a sense of brokenness, a sense of awe and reverence toward the divine. And yes, it is that child-like faith in our Heavenly Father. Above all, it is our willingness to surrender our life and will over to the care of God.
The very notion to surrender is quite unpopular in our social understanding. To do so means one is giving up. It is seen as a weakness. A moral failing of sorts. Couple surrender with submission and it goes even further into the depths of unpopularity. Yet when we look toward the example of children – they are unwavering in their willingness to surrender and submit when they are surrounded with love and appreciation.
Unfortunately, some of us have not had such an environment. Not because we didn’t want it – we craved it. Not because we were not worthy of such notions – it never was part of our upbringing. Because of the lack of love and appreciation, it is much more difficult for us to surrender and submit to God’s care and will. And yet the process of healing, restoration of faith and hope begins when we are able to submit ourselves, our lives, and our care over to God’s will.
Even if one was brought up in a home environment where there was love abounding – we may have forgotten that child-like faith. The cares of this world snatched away our faith quickly. Circumstances beyond our control may have extinguished our faith in God. We’ve become independent in figuring things out on our own. Justifying, rationalizing, and even placing our own faith and trust in the things we are able to understand. For those of us – we continue to thirst and hunger. Chasing seminars, workshops, and books on ways to increase our sense of purpose, meaning, joy, and even some modicum of happiness.
The very heart of worship is our complete willingness to not only surrender our life and will over to God; but that we are willing and able to submit to seek His will and good pleasure for our lives. This is what is meant when the savior taught that if we lose our lives for His sake – we shall find it and there will a life of abundance (Matthew 16:25, John 10:10).
Become as a Little Child
Similar to the words of the Savior, King Benjamin spoke on the qualities related to what the Savior meant:
For Behold he judgeth, and his judgment is just; and the infant perisheth not that dieth in his infancy; but men drink damnation to their own souls except they humble themselves and become as little children, and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent. For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Jesus Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflect upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.Mosiah 3:18-19
The deeper and rich meaning behind what King Benjamin taught, and what the Savior revealed, is that little children are completely covered by the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ. This is because we are taught that little children are alive in Christ (Moroni 8:22) and they possess eternal life (Mosiah 15:25), and they are holy, being sanctified through the atonement of Jesus Christ (Doctrine and Covenants 74:7). Our willingness to surrender and submit ourselves over to the care of our Heavenly Father means we are to become like little Children in that:
- We are covered by the atonement of Jesus Christ (Topical Guide: Justification, Justify)
- We are made alive in Christ (Romans 8:16-18, Ephesians 2:1-16, 1 Corinthians 15:21-28)
- We are made holy and being sanctified through the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:10, Topical Guide: Sanctification, Sanctify, Elder D. Todd Christofferson – Justification and Sanctification June 2001 Ensign)
Because of this – we inherit eternal life by God’s grace. It is up to us to accept and apply the infinite atonement into our own personal lives. This is accomplished when we place our faith in Christ, repent of our sins, and strive to keep those covenants we have made. Doing so brings us to a place of purity, holiness, and being sanctified through Christ. The Apostle John writes: … little children, because of your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake (1 John 2:12).
Meek and Submissive
Jesus Christ declared: Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). Not only did the Savior teach this – but he also exemplified it in his life. He was meek, lowly, and submitted himself to the will of the Father. This Christ-like attribute was not a mere contemplative virtue. It spoke to maintaining peace and patience in the midst of adversity, challenges, and accusations the Savior faced on multiple occasions. Writing a second epistle to the Christians at Corinth, the Apostle Paul reflects on how the meek and gentle approach may appear to be weaknesses to those who are unaware, or unfamiliar, with Jesus’ example. An example the Apostle refers to as the meekness of Christ. He was teaching the Corinthians, and us today, that the meekness of Christ is one of humility, patience, and total submission of his own will to the will of the Father.
Unconditionality of Love
Many of us adults find it quite difficult to have a pure and unconditional sense of love. For us, there are contingencies, agendas, and motivating factors behind the reasons we choose to love or not love someone. Children lack such notions and possess something we have lost over time. While we may find it difficult to love – children have a natural propensity to love without question.
And how to children love unconditionally? They love whole-heartedly, without any questioning, and withhold nothing. A pure, unadulterated love is what we are being called to. It is the love our Savior embodied in his life and ministry. It is this love that Christ says is not of this world (John 15:19, 1 John 2:15). It is the reason Christ declared that there are save only two great commandments. The first is our love toward Heavenly Father, and the second is our love toward others (Mark 12:28-34).
Humility of Heart and Mind – Teachable
Another aspect of understanding what it means to become like a Child refers to the humble eagerness for us to learn and willingness to be taught. Children are not proud. They are curious. Through their own curiosity they learn about the world around them. As adults, we strive to learn how to navigate life and responsibilities as best we are capable of doing. We tend to let pride and ego stimy any possibility to learn and grow.
The Savior wants us to learn and grow in our faith. He desires for us to learn of him, follow him, and to be perfected through him. In doing so, we not only bring glory to him – but we are also bringing glory to the father as well. It also requires us to be flexible and not rigid. To willingly be corrected when we error.
Because we were sent here to experience mortality – our Heavenly Father has given each one of us an extraordinary capacity for learning and growth. Opportunities in our lives, experiences and challenges we face, learning to trust, love, appreciate, and apply all that we come to know and understand helps us become better individuals. This means – we become responsible and accountable for our own lives. Whether we make right or wrong decisions in life – we grow and learn as a means to become a better person.
That is, if we are humble enough to allow ourselves to be taught. And it is not merely any teaching we are to receive. What we allow ourselves to learn has significant impact in how we live our lives. And there are many prevailing philosophies that may detract us from the truth of who Christ is and ways to eternal life.
And the best choice laid out before each of us is to love our Heavenly Father and walk in obedience to his will. Love and obedience are inseparable when it comes to fundamental Gospel principles. Through our obedience to our Heavenly Father, we shall be directed into all truth and understanding by the Holy Spirit (John 16:13-14). Along with this, when we are humble and teachable, we activate the full force and blessings of the atonement in our lives (Being Teachable, Robert R. Steuer, April 2002 General Conference).
Filled with Faith and Joy
The heart of worship also rests upon our capacity to have that childlike response of heart and soul to the wonder of tiny moments. To be fearless, full of faith in Christ, faith in life, and faith within our own hearts and minds. Scripture often reminds us that no matter what, we are to be of good cheer (John 16:33), to count it all joy (James 1:2-3), and that the infinite atonement is great cause for unspeakable joy that is full of glory (1 Peter 1:1-9). It is also the peace and joy that comes in trusting our Heavenly Father (Romans 15:13). And the Kingdom of God, as the Apostle Paul writes, is of righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost (Romans 14:17).
It is through the Holy Spirit that we are filled with faith and joy. Able to show gratitude toward our Heavenly Father, and the ability for us to have an eternal perspective. All because we humble ourselves and became like a little Child. Full of grace and truth through the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ.
Quick to Forgive and Spirit of Honesty
Children possess a propensity for a willingness to forgive. They also have a propensity of honesty. As adults, we tend to hide behind those little white lies. We tend to harbor resentment and bitterness when there was, or was not, an offense. Unlike children, we are slow to forgive, and quick to respond with deception. Somewhere along the line of growing from childhood and emerging into adulthood – we have lost such propensity for quickness toward forgiveness and humble honesty.
Peter asked the Savior – Lord, how ft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? This is, of course, after the Savior had asked a little child to be brought to him. After he had taught that we are to become as little children. It also coincides that Christ further taught on the nature of offense and what to do. The Savior’s response: I say not unto thee, until seven times: but, until seventy times seven.
What the Savior revealed to Peter, and what the scripture reveals to each one of us, is that the seventy times seven is a metaphor of how encompassing His infinite atonement is applied to each one of us. And this is because we are often repenting and seeking forgiveness daily (Mosiah 26:30-31). And as often as we stand in need of forgiveness – we ought to be as forgiving toward others.
Restored to a Great Spiritual Capacity
All of this leads us to a place where we come into the Kingdom of God by having our spiritual capacity restored. This is because of the infinite atonement where we are new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). It is the reason we are to be born again (John 3:2-3, James E. Faust – Born Again). This spiritual transformation offers each of us hope – if we so choose to seek after it. And a spiritual transformation that restores unto each one of us our spiritual capacity so that we are able to inherit the Kingdom of God (Mosiah 27:24-26). It is also through this spiritual transformation where we become the children of Christ – his sons and daughters (Mosiah 5:7-8).
And this restoration of our great spiritual capacity is not a one-time event as some may claim. No, the scriptural truth is that we are awaken to the reality of our need for the atonement of Christ and once we come to embrace the grace of God, we are on a progressive path of spiritual rebirth and refinement whereby we enter through the sacred ordinance and rite of baptism for the remission of sins. It is a covenant we make with our Heavenly Father where it requires our lasting faith, repentance, and spiritual purity in both our actions and intent.
Since children are seen as innocence and pure – theirs is the kingdom of God. We must go through the process of spiritual renewal, rebirth, and refinement so that we are able to inherit the crown of righteousness laid up for us (2 Timothy 4:8).
What then is the heart of worship? To become like a child full of meekness, capacity to love unconditionally, be full of joy and peace, patient, full of faith, humble and teachable, honest in all things, and quick to forgive. The heart of our worship is our willingness to surrender and submit to God’s will and desire for our lives.
Going forward with faith and purpose means we are to become like little children in order to inherit the kingdom of God. It means we are willing to undergo spiritual transformation, refinement, and process of being born again. It means we enter into a covenant with our Heavenly Father because of the infinite atonement through Jesus Christ. There is no other way by which we are able to attain immortality and eternal life. It is the very heart and key to how we come to worship God.
Meditate and Ponder
What does it mean for you to become like a child in order to inherit the kingdom of Heaven? How does this motivate and empower your faith? In what sense does this give you meaning and purpose? Are you willing to submit yourself over to the care of our Heavenly Father as you understand him? Willing to surrender your own life and will by taking up your cross every day and undergo spiritual refinement and renewal?