As we begin the new year, it is a good thing to "number our days" (Psalm 90:12) - to reflect on and give consideration to our life. Life is short and wise people live from God's perspective, understanding that what we do in time echoes into eternity.
Students of human development would be aware of the concept of seeing life as a journey through successive stages of life, depending on our age (see The Human Odyssesy: Navigating the Twleve Stages of Life as an example). Let’s briefly overview a few of them.
The first stage of life is Childhood. Childhood (0-12) can be divided into a number of smaller stages: Infancy (1-2 years of age), Early Childood (2-4 years), Middle Childhood (5-8 years) and Late Childhood (9-12 years).
Everyone loves a baby and before you know it, they grow to become a toddler. Toddlers have to be the greatest renewable energy source on the planet - crawling vitality. Children are known for their playfulness, their creativity, their spontaneity, and their sense of wonder. As they grow, they demonstrate active imaginations and they love stories.
No wonder Jesus said that we need to become like children to enter the kingdom (Matthew 18:1-5). Notice that he said we are to be 'childlike' not 'childish.' Unfortunately, we so often lose many of the wonderful qualities of chidlren when we grow older.
Parents of young childen, enjoy this stage. When our three children were very little, older people would come up and say things such as, "Enjoy them while they're young, they grow quickly." I remember kind of laughing ... but they were right. Blink and they've grown up and before you know it they're gone ... off to start their own families.
Never under-estimate the capacity of children. We know virtually nothing about Jesus' childhood and teenage years but Luke gives us a few insights into Jesus at the age of 12 - one year away from accountability as Jewish boy. Jesus was in the Temple area, in deep conversation with people much older than him (Luke 2:42-52).
1. Kids can know God personally. Jesus at the age of twelve already had a relationship with God to the depth of knowing that God was his Father (“my Father’s house”). This reference to his Father infers an intimate personal relationship to God that drives him. This also implied intimacy, identify and significance. Children are tender and open to the gospel - a factor that can change as they grow older. If we do not reach people in their youth, most of them may never be reached. Over 50% of the world’s population is under 25 years of age.
- 85% of people come to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ by the age of 15.
- Only one in 10,000 will come to Christ after age 30.
- Only one in every 750,000 become followers of Christ after the age of 75.
We talk about the 10/40 Window, which refers to a place on the planet where the most unreached people live. What about the 5/13 Window, the time in life when people are most open to receiving Christ into their life? What a mission field we have right here right now, among our own children and those in the community we’re trying to reach.
2. Kids can understand spiritual things. Jesus was among the teachers of the temple – listening, asking questions and giving replies. Even at a young age he had an amazing knowledge of the things of God. Already he valued the pursuit of comprehending God as he “increased in wisdom and stature.” Don’t under-estimate a child’s capacity to know and experience God.
3. Kids can know their life purpose. At the age of twelve, Jesus knew that his life was to be about “his Father’s business” or in his “Father’s house’ - that he would one day give his whole time and energy to the Father’s work on earth. Yes, he would have to wait for God’s timing and prepare for 18 more years, but this sense of destiny was already there. Early on Jesus understands that he is called to do his Father’s work. Jesus explains his call in his own words and it reflects his self-understanding. He is always about the things of the Father, then and now. In his humanity, he resists the urge to selfishness and focused on carrying out God’s will in his life. However, Jesus ministry has its proper timing and Jesus will wait to launch what he is destined to do. He is not impatient about starting his ministry and will wait until the time is right. He must, of course, wait until the forerunner before beginning his own task. Children can experience a sense of calling and life purpose right from a young age.
1. Reflect on your own childhood. What were your happiest memories? What about some painful ones? How have they shaped you and how have you processed them?
2. Who were your heroes growing up? What were your dreams and hopes for the future?
3. Give quality time and undivided attention to a child. Read or tell them a story. Play a game with them. Ask them some questions and then listen attentively.
4. Volunteer to help with a children's church ministry, camp, outreach or program.