–by Nico Bougas

When our firstborn son was about 6-years-old, he swam in his first swimming gala at school. He was a strong swimmer and took an early lead in the race. But then, in his eagerness to accelerate, he started going off course and got out of his lane, which resulted in him swimming sideways. Instead of winning the race, he came stone last.

Always a winner
Afterwards, I found him sitting on a rock with his head in hands. He looked up at me with tears in his eyes and—with an air of disbelief—asked, “Did I really finish last, dad?” I said to him, “George, remember this, to your mom and I you will always be a winner. No matter where you come in the race, you are a winner!”

Love your family unconditionally
As he grew up, he frequently got out of his lane and went astray and caused us some grief. But he remained a winner and we continued to show unconditional love. He is no longer with us, as he died a tragic death three years ago in a freak accident. He had tremendous unfulfilled potential and sometimes disappointed us, but it was our role to give him unconditional love and regard him as a winner. No matter what he did in life, we stood with him and encouraged him. He remained a winner and we were very proud of him.

Some don’t want children
There are parents who don’t think of their children as winners. There are couples who don’t even want children. There are couples who feel that children would interfere with their careers or hinder their marital bliss. Then there are couples who want their offspring aborted. Millions of abortions take place throughout the world, and in South Africa alone there are an estimated 700 abortions each day.

Protection of life
In 1994, Mother Teresa was invited to speak before the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC. Every year US political and religious leaders come together for the annual interfaith event. That year, President Bill Clinton, first lady Hillary Clinton, and Vice President Al Gore sat at the head table. The event is intentionally non-partisan, with speakers avoiding controversy. At this particular breakfast, however, the message was anything but meek, and the speaker’s talk was followed by a prolonged standing ovation from all except the president and his entourage. Mother Teresa of Calcutta spoke of how precious life is and what we can learn from the poor. She unequivocally told those present that it is crucial for all people to stand up for life. She said, “The greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?” 

Children are a reward
Around the world there are millions of couples who desperately want to have children but are unable to do so. In ancient times, infertility was regarded as a particular shame and embarrassment and women were subjected to the most heinous “medical” practices to promote their ability to produce children.

Children are God-given
The Bible describes the birth of a baby as a blessing and a reward from God. “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them! He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.” – Psalm 127:3-5. Jews in Biblical times looked upon children as a blessing and not a burden, a rich treasure from God and not a liability. To be without children brought a couple both sorrow and disgrace.

Jesus loves children
We read that Jesus took these precious little ones in His loving arms and blessed them – and what a blessing that must have been! “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Matt 19:14

Are your kids saved?
Children are never too young to come to Jesus and find Him as their personal Saviour. Some of the most famous and productive Christians have come to Christ at an early age: Mathew Henry was brought to Christ when he was 11; Isaac Watts only 9; Jonathan Edwards and Mary Slessor were converted at 7; Amy Carmichael at 9; Jim Elliot at 6 and all of Catherine Booth’s 8 children had been led to Christ before they were 10 years old.

There are those who keep children away from Jesus
In Jesus’ day it was customary for parents to bring their children to the rabbis for a blessing, and so it was reasonable that they would bring the little ones to Jesus. Some were infants in arms while others were young children – able to walk; and He welcomed them all.

Jesus loves children!
Why would the disciples rebuke the people and try to keep the children away from Jesus? They probably thought they were doing Him a favour by helping Him protect His time and conserve His strength. In other words, they did not consider the children to be important. Yet, Jesus did not drive them away, For Him this was a good use of His time and strength. He was irresistibly attractive to children and the children knew it!

Children are better Kingdom examples
Our Lord actually became indignant and He openly rebuked His disciples for standing in the way. Then He announced that the children were better Kingdom examples than were the adults. We tell the children to behave like adults, but Jesus tells adults to model themselves after the children! There are those that would hinder children from coming to Jesus, people who say we should let the children decide for themselves.
A simple anecdote
I read about one atheist who objected strongly to teaching religion in public schools. His argument was that children should be allowed to reach maturity then decide for themselves what they choose to believe. Coleridge, the poet, had heard the atheist and invited him to join him in his garden, which happened to be overgrown with weeds. “What do you see?” asked Coleridge. “It’s nothing but a patch of weeds,” replied the atheist. “Yes,” said Coleridge, “I decided to let the garden decide for itself what it should grow.”

Parenting includes guiding your children
To leave a child without guidance would be a disaster. If we don’t want to influence their thinking, why send them to school? To train them in the way they should go involves training in every area of life—physically, intellectually, socially, emotionally, and spiritually—so that they become well balanced in every area of life and mature, healthy, interdependent adults. This takes a lot of wisdom, guidance, and instruction. It doesn’t take care of itself. And what is the greatest teaching method? Modelling by example what we want our children to learn.

Why did the disciples try to keep the children away from Jesus?
It is wonderful to think of Jesus interacting with a child. Children are needy and dependent, and they know almost nothing about life. They function mostly on emotion rather than reason. Yet Jesus said, “The Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14. Scripture often compares believers to children. In fact, Jesus told those following Him, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:3–4.

Jesus wanted to bless children
In ancient times, children were not necessarily regarded as special or particularly endearing, except to their own parents. The disciples most likely rebuked those bringing the children to Jesus because they felt that bringing children to Jesus was socially improper or because they thought the children would bother Jesus. It is likely that their move to hinder the parents from bringing their children to Jesus was motivated not by unkindness, but by a desire to respect Jesus’ position as a teacher. But Jesus wanted the children to come to Him. He said, “Let the children come,” because He wanted to bless them.

Make it easy for your kids
They should have remembered, but they may have been annoyed that their private discussion with the Lord was interrupted by the seeming triviality of blessing children. The disciples failed to see the potential in these children that their Master did. He not only knew what men were, but by the grace of God He knew what they could be, and He also knew what children would become. Children want to come to Jesus, but too often adults get in the way, as they did here. The best parents make it easy for their children to come to Christ, and to love Him, and receive His blessing. 

Adults need to become like children
We enter God’s Kingdom by faith, like little children: helpless, unable to save ourselves, totally dependent on the mercy and grace of God. We enjoy God’s Kingdom by faith, believing that the Father loves us and will care for our daily needs What does a child do when he or she has a hurt or a problem? Take it to father and mother! What an example for us to follow in our relations with our Heavenly Father!

In what ways are the children a pattern?
In their humble dependence on others, their receptivity, their acceptance of themselves, and their position in life. Of course, Jesus was speaking about an unspoilt child, not one who was trying to act like an adult. A child enjoys much but can explain very little. Christians live by faith. By faith they accept their lot, trusting others to care for them and see them through.

Trust God like your kids trust you
Like children who implicitly trust their parents, believers trust God. Faith is not about knowing everything or doing everything right. It is about knowing that, no matter what happens, our Father will take care of us. That trust in Him, even when life is terrifying and sad and makes no sense, is what makes a believer like a child. God loves His children.

Don’t be childish
Those who come to Christ must do so in childlike humilityfaith, and simplicity. Jesus wants us to be childlike, but not childish. An unspoilt child illustrates humility, faith and dependence. A child has a sense of wonder that makes life exciting. The only way to enter God’s Kingdom is to become like a child and be born again. As born-again children of God we are winners because God gives us the victory. We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.

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