Reviving Childlike Faith

I didn’t know diddlysquat when I became a Christian. I had attended church sporadically during my childhood, but I paid no attention to the then-to-me boring verbiage that poured forth from the pulpit. The only Bible I had ever owned—a children’s Bible I was gifted on my eighth Christmas—was buried somewhere in my mom’s storage unit. Beyond understanding that Jesus was the Son of God who loved me and died for my sins, I was 100% ignorant concerning biblical Christianity at the onset of my relationship with the Lord.

But I sure did trust him.

Thinking back on that first year or so, I’m pretty bewildered by the vigor and solidity that characterized my faith. I wasn’t aware of the extent of God’s sovereignty. I didn’t understand my salvation was eternally secure. I didn’t even know God promised to work all things for my good. Yet, despite my lack of acquaintance with the Bible, I believed with unflinching certainty that God was bigger than anything else, he was more important than anything else, and that his love for me knew no bounds. My faith really couldn’t have been simpler, but it was unshakeable and sure—which was demonstrated as I endured my first fiery trial.

My pre-conversion life was a reckless blur. When the grace of God sobered me up from my addiction, I began to see things clearly—including the very real dangers I had drunkenly subjected myself to over the past couple of years. One of these dangers was an HIV exposure. I was likely exposed to the virus multiple times without my knowledge. But on one particular occasion, the other party told me beforehand they were HIV+, and I responded with a slurred, “Who cares?” In the semi-sober days following this exposure, I definitely cared. Dread consumed me. But as was my addictive practice, I soon forced it out of my mind by flooding my system with alcohol—not really thinking about it again until I became a Christian.

I so wished I could have entered into my new life in Christ without dragging behind me this fear of having potentially contracted a life-altering virus. But I couldn’t wish reality away. I had been exposed, and I needed to be tested. So I scheduled the test, had it done, and then began the eternal waiting period (7 days) for the results to come back. I don’t want to insinuate at all that I wasn’t fearful about what that test might show. I smoked a lot of cigarettes in that seven-day waiting period! However, I also really believed in God.

I believed God knew.
I believed God cared.
I believed God was there.
I believed God would never leave me.

So simple. So elementary. Yet these childlike beliefs gave me enormous strength in the face of this Goliath-like enemy who wanted to devour my peace and joy. I was definitely afraid, but, more than that, I was fully convinced that God would be sufficient for me no matter the outcome. I really trusted him to be enough for me even if my earthly life was turned upside down or perhaps cut short by illness. I was nervous, but I was hopeful—not hopeful for merely a physically healthy future, but hopeful that God would be “the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26)—whether in sickness or in health.

The test came back negative. Praise God! To be on the safe side, I decided to be tested periodically for the next eighteen months. Anxiety accompanied these subsequent testings (which all came back negative) but so did a powerfully sustaining, childlike trust in God. When I think back on this faith-trying stage of my Christian infancy, I am encouraged most not by the negative test results—though I am incommunicably thankful—but by the tenacity of my kidlike faith in God. I didn’t know much, but I trusted much.

I have learned a lot about God in the last six years. He has given me an insatiable hunger for biblical understanding that has led me to feast daily on his Word. I have grown light-years in my knowledge of biblical doctrine as well as in my ability to communicate it to others. However, if I’m honest, my trust in God at this present moment is so much feebler than it was when I was “theologically ignorant.” Today, situations far less trying than the HIV situation so easily smash my joy and peace to pieces.

Is my growth in “knowledge” to blame for the weaker state of my faith? Absolutely not! Developing a deeper understanding of God and the reality in which we live doesn’t war against faith—it gives structure to faith. However, intellectual knowledge about God is not faith’s power source; God himself is faith’s power source. In my Christian infancy, I continually lingered at the Father’s side in prayer. I believe this is why my faith—however “ignorant” it may have been—was so durable. These days, though, I don’t draw near to God in prayer much. I read the Bible. I think about spiritual realities. I have rich, theological conversations with other believers. But I don’t dwell with the Lord like I used to. My prayer life has become dry and mechanical, lacking heartfelt affection for God and a desire to simply enjoy his presence.

This is why I barely trust him.
This is why I am an anxious mess.
This is why I am finding it so hard to believe.

I need to keep growing in my intellectual understanding of God. But if I have learned anything lately, it’s that I can’t intellectually argue myself into a state of joy and peace. My brain can’t make my heart believe in God’s sovereign goodness or his unwavering commitment to me in Christ. If I want my heart to take God at his word, I need to take my heart to God. Dwelling with him—not merely thinking about him—is where the power is.

  • Wow Matt! I just had myself tested back in May! What was holding me back (except for extreme cowardess on my part) was the spirit of fear. It was more afraid of the test itself, not the results. I had already accepted the possibility that I might be HIV positive, I was just afraid to find out. So many things would have to be changed it I was. I too was not raised in a Christian home and my only exposure to Christian instruction was when I visited my father and his wife. I believed too, but certainly didn’t live a Godly life.

    I finally was able to deal with the fear back in May (though I had been celibate for eleven years). I was terrified, so much so that I could barely walk into the health department clinic for the test. Waiting for the results, I was a nervous wreck. Then about fifteen minutes before I got the results, just as I was at my wits end, the Holy Spirit told me the results (this was done in house), that I would be found negative. Such a peace came over me. When I got the results, it confirmed what the Holy Spirit had already told me.
    As far as knowledge of the Bible: much of it was taken away from me due to the stroke. I have had to relearn everything, so thus I am in a spiritual infancy, praise God! I pray that I will never leave this state.

    https://brokenbutredeemedblog.wordpress.com/2016/07/17/hiv-and-me/

  • A

    This is exactly what I needed to read right now. The timing is nothing short of amazing. Exactly what I was praying for. Thank you for this. Thank you for being open enough to write this. Know that God used you today to speak to me.

  • Lyle Nelson

    Jesus’s words in the Bible obviously give a very special place to a childlike faith. Little children have a very accepting attitude that is difficult to maintain as an adult. Once we’ve been knocked around by the cares of this life, it’s easy to start asking or thinking “What if this…?” or “What if that….?” Little children simply accept what you tell them. I think God protects the weaker and more vulnerable in the faith in this way.

    I am sorry to hear that you are currently at a low point in your level of trust. God can use that to bring you to new heights. I am glad, though, that He has made you aware of this, and not simply allowed you to “drift” away further from Him as you wrote about in a post very recently.

    I will pray that God brings you through this current challenge to an even closer relationship with Him, and would ask those of you reading this comment who have been so richly blessed by your godly wisdom over the past weeks, months, and years, as I have, to join me in this prayer.

    • Michael

      The matter of childlike faith has been on my mind a lot lately. I grew up in the church, was raised in a Christian home, but the concept of a childlike faith seems so foreign to me. As a child, I would have defined that as church attendance, the singing of hymns in Sunday service, prayers at the dinner table and honoring your mother and father. Faith for me had to be grounded in action or works, because I honestly felt that I could not obtain saving faith any other way. I was attracted to guys and the culture I was raised under made it clear to me that anyone with SSA could not and would not be accepted into the loving hands of a Savior, that blood was not spilt for me. I felt like I was outside of Gods saving grace, not that His arms were not long enough to embrace me, but that I was too dirty, too wretched for those to even come near me. I do not associate “childlike faith” with being able to rely wholly on the confidence of Gods undying love for me, I lived in fear of His rejection and judgment on me. childlike faith, does not hold a pretty image, instead its a mirror of the shame, guilt and rejection that I perceived I was destined for.

      Though I have come to know and understand faith much better now, I still daily struggle with faith. My faith still feels so weak and pitiful to me, I still have to pray and seek the Lord for that confidence in believing that God does indeed love me and that the blood of Christ was shed for me.

      Matts own words ring true for many of us:
      This is why I barely trust him.
      This is why I am an anxious mess.
      This is why I am finding it so hard to believe.
      I wonder if this is also the story for many other men and women who grew up in the church and struggled with SSA, I wonder if maybe the ones who did not necessary grow up in church find it easier to see and know Gods love and mercy with the heart of a childlike faith.

      • Maybe I had it easier, not being raised in the church. But because of bad theology early in my walk with Christ, I had a bad self image, and that God couldn’t possibly love me or if He did, He did it at arms length. Mercifully, He sent the stroke which erased my mind so that I could come back to him. Right now I still have that child like faith. I have to, just to walk across the room.

      • mike

        There is so much religion out there in many churches with pastors who teach performance based theology. Yes, we have all been hurt and continue to be hurt by performance based teaching.
        When the Bible calls us to “be holy” we equate that with ‘be good’ and that’s largely what is taught. But “holy” simply means being set apart away from common purpose instead for God’s purpose. And that begins with salvation and proceeds from there as God leads us to give over the different parts of our body and soul to Him for His higher purposes.
        Somehow we think that we got ourselves saved and now have to maintain that. In fact, it was God whose plan from the beginning was to rescue us Himself. We didn’t open our eyes to God’s truth but instead God did. And will He leave us there: hanging? No, what he began He will complete. We can trust Him because we know salvation wasn’t what we did for ourselves. Because He started that work in us He alone is faithful to finish it.
        Childlike faith for me is recognizing that and letting God finish His work in me rather then me trying figure out how to live a ‘good life’ for Him.
        Now, about SSA. Why has God allowed that to continue? Why are churches and denominations splitting over that? What good is God bringing of this mess?
        Much. God is using our continuing SSA struggle to wake up the true church to its original mission to love God and our neighbors. SSA’d folk have not been loved by the church but God is showing up religion which will crumble as He purifies a church to get back to loving and leaving the judging to Him. We live in interesting times and in exciting times in the church age!

        • Michael

          Mike, I guess what struggle with the most is “Am I called by God”. I am very aware that it is the finished work of Christ that brings salvation. No amount of good I perform will make me holy enough. I fear my heart is cold to the truth. What if I have been given over to my sinful ways. I know my own weakness, I am confronted by the guilt of my sins, sins that I seem to commit time after time.

          • mike

            Michael, the good news is that we are called to freedom! “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there the heart is free.” 2 Corinth 3:17
            And so, the good news is not about being good but about the gift. Grace.
            Robert Farrar Capon:
            “But all the while, there was one thing we most needed even from the start, and certainly will need from here on out into the New Jerusalem: the ability to take our freedom seriously and act on it, to live not in fear of mistakes but in the knowledge that no mistake can hold a candle to the love that draws us home. My repentance, accordingly, is not so much for my failings but for the two-bit attitude toward them by which I made them more sovereign than grace. Grace – the imperative to hear the music, not just listen for errors – makes all infirmities occasions of glory.”
            We will continue to sin until the day we die. But our position is that we are clean. We let our brothers wash our dirty feet which is the sin that so easily entangles as we confess and move on as God in our brothers helps us in repentance to move on. There is no longer guilt for he has removed that stain and says you are not guilty anymore. There’s the freedom walk!

        • I too can sense there is something changing about the church and those who are SSA. Maybe it is them realizing that many of us have a heart after God’s Kingdom and want to help build it. We can be a part! And we can help those who are SSA and seeking God rather than physical pleasure, something the traditional church does not understand.

          • mike

            Yes. Grace sells poorly in many churches because it is for losers and that’s not an easy sell! But we with SSA know how God is so close to losers when we were there in the midst of same sex behavior. He rescued us and continues to rescue us. We so want His Kingdom now!

  • Sally Apokedak

    Oh, but it’s a common problem. We fall away from our first love. God is faithful to give us some trouble to remind us that we need him and that we trust him and that we love letting him take care us (when we finally see, again, that we are unable to take care of ourselves).

    It’s not a bad practice to have a lot of Psalms and a lot of gospel in the diet, though. Five Psalms a day and three gospel chapters a day, get them all in every month. And if you are feeding on them, you will be stronger than if you aren’t feeding. I think. Even when they don’t taste all that good. Sometimes food doesn’t taste good either. Sometimes we get sick and we don’t feel we can eat. But we don’t go long without eating or we’ll die. So I think, even when the Bible taste dry, we should force it down and try not to throw it back up.

  • Brian

    Does Matt Moore still respond to any of these posts?

    • He may not want to get into an argument with trolls like Angry Activist, which is fine. I made the mistake of responding to her a couple of articles back and it blew up into me being called a hater, self loathing and a betrayer of the LGBT community.

      • Brian

        No, I’m not looking for an argument. I’m just wondering if he responds to any posts up here?

  • cutieissa

    Wow. God is everywhere with your message! I was on IG, FB and email, and all the posts point to: I am NOT spending enough time with the Lord, hence my lackluster relationship with Him 🙁 Thank you Lord for this msg, I will be back on track with Your Grace! And to everyone reading this, the Day of Atonement / Yom Kippur is on Oct12 sundown. Let’s all celebrate this God-appointed holiday!

    • mike

      Here is the good news for Yom Kippur: Jesus the Messiah has put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. The Day of Atonement: it is finished.

  • Regan DuCasse

    Happy Coming Out Day!!

    Oh right…ooops!

    • Regan! Nice to see you’re still ranting. Rant away!

    • Milton Orgeron

      Good to know you’re still OK! I trust we missed ALL CAPS DAY?

      • OH NO! DID I MISS THAT?! MAN, I HATE IT WHEN I MISS ALL CAPS DAY!

        • Milton Orgeron

          😀

  • Regan DuCasse

    It’s International Day of the Girl!

    oh…right.

  • mike

    “Dwelling with him”
    YES, that’s it! The Life of followers of Jesus is summed up by two words: grace & faith.
    Grace is ‘All of Him for me’. Faith is ‘all of me for Him’.We spend all our lives in that committed relationship of that dance!

  • Betty

    Oh wow… you’re speaking my life right now, Matt! Thanks for articulating what I was struggling to understand. I appreciate you!