“And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matthew 8:2-6
Later on in Matthew 19:14, Jesus said,
“Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
I’m finding that the older I get and the longer I serve in pastoral ministry, the softer my heart is growing towards all kinds of people . . . especially towards children. In a world full of adults who are jaded and calloused by life, their innocence, optimism, creativity, passion, and faith is nothing less than inspiring.
The church where I’m blessed to serve as lead pastor, Blessed Hope Baptist Church in Free home, GA, has a highly impactful outreach ministry called the House of Hope. The HOH is open every Wednesday afternoon into the evening, and we give away food, clothing, and the love of Christ in the form of warm smiles, hugs and handshakes, personal prayer, and the Gospel.
Read: Pearl of Great Price
In addition, every year as we approach the Christmas season, there’s a Santa’s Workshop outreach day in which folks from our community who need a little help can shop for gifts free of charge, the kids can drink hot chocolate and do craft projects, and we even have pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
It’s always a blessing to hear the various wish lists from the children, but this year that blessing came with a burden when some of the children wrote letters to Santa making their requests. As one might expect, there were plenty of letters asking for toys, but there were a handful of letters that echoed a very similar sentiment from the children. It’s embodied in one child’s letter to Santa that only included a single request . . . no toys, no clothes, no new gaming consoles . . . “I just want my mom to be happy.”
To say I was heartbroken when I read that letter is an understatement. Of course, I was heartbroken for that precious little child, but I was also challenged to take personal inventory. I immediately wondered how often I’ve taken my adult pressures, problems, and pain and transferred them from my adult shoulders to my children’s shoulders. They’re not ready to bear those burdens yet, and it’s selfish for me to place them underneath that kind of load.
As I thought about the burdens that adults carry, I was reminded of a powerful story from the life of Corrie Ten Boom. If you’re unacquainted with who she was, I will encourage you to look her up and read about her life. She wrote about being a child and overhearing a bit of conversation with some very adult themes while riding on a train with her father, who was a watch repairman. She asked her father about what she’d overheard, and the story goes.
He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise, he said nothing. Then, at last, he stood up, lifted his traveling case off the floor, and set it on the floor.
Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he said.
I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.
It’s too heavy,” I said.
Yes,” he said, “and it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger, you can bear it. For now, you must trust me to carry it for you.”— The Hiding Place.
I felt a sense of stinging conviction and rebuke in my soul because I know that I’ve done this to my children from time to time. In my weakness, I’ve allowed the stress and anxiety that comes with adulthood to spill over onto those whom I love the most. So I asked God to forgive me, and I asked Him for the strength to shoulder the weights of life that my children aren’t yet ready to bear.
You see, the last thing I want to do is “offend” my children in the sense of Jesus’ words in Matthew Chapter 8. I’m not sure the Savior’s words could have been any stronger or harsher than what they were. He said of the offender, “it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” No matter how you measure words, that’s a powerful and pointed statement!
On the contrary, God has given us the responsibility to provide for our children, protect them, and point them in the right direction with love, instruction, encouragement, and discipline. God help us to be careful not to place heavier burdens on our kids than they’re able to bear, all because we’re buckling under the pressures of life. Lord grant us the strength to carry on in the face of adversity and hardships, giving them an example they can esteem and follow as they mature.
This is not a concept limited only to the children who bear our names. There’s a little girl in our church whose parents are currently working their way through a divorce. Her dad hasn’t been living at home with them for several months now. With every interaction I have with her, I’m more and more convinced that some of the most important ministries I can engage in every week are to take about thirty seconds and make that little girl feel like she’s the only person in the room.
There’s a little boy in the church who gives me the tightest hugs whenever he sees me, and I know that while his father is still involved in his life, things are complicated and inconsistent. Our communities are full of children who desperately need to be loved by strong Christian men. They need men who show them what it means to follow Christ, loving God and loving people as we go, giving them a path to follow in their own lives.
We should be careful with the children in our own homes and those with whom we have an influence. I have found that my kids, as well as the countless children God has surrounded our family with, have taught me lessons and encouraged me in ways that I could never have imagined. Jesus loved children, and we should too.
Josh attended seminary through Rock of Ages Baptist Bible Institute out of Cleveland, TN. He has held about every position one could hold in a local church: Sunday school teacher, Children’s Church Preacher, Bus Ministry Director/Worker, Missions Director, Choir Director, Song Leader, Janitor, etc. In October of 2005, he was ordained as an Assistant Pastor at Rest Haven Baptist Church, and that’s where he served until God called him into the Pastorate at Enon Baptist Church in Alto, GA at the age of 32. He stepped out by faith in obedience to God’s instructions and quickly received a call from Blessed Hope Baptist Church in Free Home, GA where he now serves as Pastor. In his free time, Josh enjoys spending quality time with his wife (who is his high school sweetheart) and three children: Zoey, Ava, and Jack, as well as reading, writing, hunting, cooking, weight lifting, and martial arts.