We use this phrase all the time as Christians. We say “I am a child of God” or “I am a daughter (or son) of the Most High God”. But do we really know the import of these words or have we said them so much to the point where their import and power is lost on us.
This recently bears on my mind because I’ve seen a lot of us so-called Christians (myself included) get derailed and side-tracked and distracted and go through life as though we are not children of the Most High God, the Creator of the entire universe, the One and Only true God.
So what does it mean to be a child of God really? I believe a good starting point will be unpacking the word “child” before we can then add God to complete the picture.
Who is a child? A child is a son or daughter who descended from someone. In our society and culture today (and this is the same in all cultures across the world), there are certain expectations that the parents would have from and of their children and the children on the other hand also have certain expectations from their parents. I’ll start with the expectations from the parents. There is an expectation that the parents will take care of, protect and nurture the child until the child comes of age. So we’re talking love, care and support both emotionally and otherwise, proper shelter, good clothes, quality education, quality training; you know the works. On the part of the child, there is an expectation that the child would be well behaved, respectful, obedient, carry the family name and image well and in some cases carry on the family legacy whether in the form of a business or otherwise.
Another dimension of the parent-child relationship which may not neatly fit into the above overt expectations is the covert and unspoken expectation on the part of the child that the parent(s) will understand all the time how they feel and see things from their perspective. Well we all know this hardly or shall I say rarely ever happens. Conversely, there is always that covert and unspoken expectation from the parent that their children will be just like them, think just like them and understand all the decision that they the parent have to take in relation to the child and especially understand that they’re doing it because they love them. And again this is hardly or rarely ever the case. I think these two covert and unspoken expectations are understood when both parties get older – the older the parent gets, the more relaxed and understanding they are of children; I guess that is why they make good grandparents. And the older the child gets, the more understanding he/she has of what it means to be a parent and why their parents were the way they were with them as children.
Also there is an expectation that parents have that their children will mirror their ideals, principles and values. And this is why a lot of the parents who do parenting very well start teaching their children these ideals, principles and values from a very tender age. And that is why when you visit certain homes and observe, you will notice how the children speak politely, calling you ma’am or sir; dress in a certain way; maintain certain table manners when at the dinner table, pursue certain hobbies and the list goes on. But you get the picture. The parents are passing on the family culture and tradition down to their children. This is especially seen in royal families. I am yet to see a child of royalty who doesn’t follow some or all of their family traditions even well into their adulthood.
And something else, a child will always remain a child of his/her parent regardless of how old they get. Even well into adulthood, a child should in principle always love, obey and honor their parents.
So we’re getting the picture of what a parent-child relationship looks like and is expected to be.
Now when we as Christians say we are children of God or a child of God, is this what we envisage or have in mind? If we’re being honest with ourselves and are to answer that question honestly, that is ever hardly the case.
Let us start with our expectations from our Father God. I guess the starting point would be whether or not we even have any expectations from God. Because you see we call ourselves ‘children of God’ without often times believing in the concept of God as our Father. Because if we believed and I mean truly believed that God is our Father, then a lot of the things that worry us would not worry us because we would trust and believe that just like a Father, He would take care of us and this is so even in bad and terrible situations. Consider this powerful assurance in Isaiah 49:15 – 16 –
“Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.”
Now if you read a passage like that and truly with all of your heart believe in the One who has said that and particularly believe that because He is God and He is your Father, He will do it, would you worry about anything in this world? Even when the world is crashing on you? I think not. Faith is a very powerful thing. It is the faith a child has in his struggling single mother that makes him not doubt her love for him/her when there is no food on the table for example because that child can see that mum is struggling but mum will make everything okay. If we can have that much faith in our earthly parent(s) how much more the Father of all things. When we say we are children of God, do we have faith in our Father? Do we have any expectations from Him? This recently came alive to me because recently (about three weeks ago) someone decided to humiliate me in front of a group of people. At first I numbed it out. In the subsequent weeks it started getting to me. I remember thinking to myself, how do I get back at this person? How dare they? I must fix them. And I remember in that moment Father God saying to me “are you forgetting Exodus 14:14 (The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”)? Are you forgetting who you are and most importantly who your Father is? Do not worry, I will fix this and I will sort this person out in My Own way. You will mess things up. All I need for you to do is be like Jesus to this person.” I remember thinking to myself “You have got to be kidding me Lord. You mean I have to be kind and good to this person who has gone out of their way to hurt me?” And the question was “Do you trust Me or not?” And in that moment I wasn’t too sure I trusted God as my Father to come through for me because in the first place I did not understand how He could let this person hurt me like that. In that moment I understood the words of that little child’s father in Mark 9:24 (“Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”) I wanted so hard to believe that God would do what He promised as my Father but didn’t have it in me so every day I ask Him to help me and my unbelief. And it made me realise that maybe I have not really owned and deeply appreciated what it means that God is my Father. That He can move mountains for me. That He can take care of me even when it looks like He isn’t doing anything. I sometimes wish I could have that brazen faith in who He is like Shedrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego in Daniel 3:16-18 who was prepared to die for God even if He didn’t come through for them –
“Shedrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
I guess our problem is this and this is more subconscious at least in my opinion. We do not believe the Bible is what it is and particularly that the words contained in it should be taken as it is or completely believed 100%. And this is not helped by our age of “enlightenment” and “intellection” where there is so much information about the ‘lie’ that the Bible could be. So we think to ourselves “okay I will subscribe to this religious system called Christianity but when it really comes down to it, I am in charge of my life and in charge of my destiny and well I don’t need to worry too much about believing all of that stuff in the Bible because it may turn out not to even be true and real at the end of the day.” And so with mindset like that we live everyday on our own terms and not on the terms of our Father because we have not really bought into the concept of sonship and being a child of God. When we have problems, we talk to everybody else about it except God because perhaps we do not think He is real or actually listens or can hear us. And so once we have challenges or difficulties or even successes, rather than take them to Him first, we take them to people first. Perhaps we don’t think He is interested? And yet tell me which father or mother would not want to hear about their child’s problems and successes first before everybody else does. If we think our earthly parents will be heartbroken if they have to hear about those things from others before they’ve heard it from us, can you begin to imagine how God as Father feels when we do precisely that?
And because of this, we do not think that there are or that there should be any expectations from us on the part of God. So we do not think that God should expect us to live in holiness or righteousness and stay away from those things that He abhors. We do not think that God will expect us to spend quality time with Him every day so that He teaches us about His ideals, principles and traditions. And this last one is really very important because if we do not spend quality time reading all of His word, we can hardly know anything of what God’s principles are and what and how He wants us to order our lives. I find it so interesting that we spend so much time as Christians deeply reading everything else but the Bible. So we are busy expanding our base of worldly wisdom to the detriment of the real base of wisdom that we ought to be stocking up on – godly wisdom. We do not even think that God’s principles are sacrosanct; we start importing exceptions which do not exist; we start making excuses for living as otherwise He expects from us as His children. We start thinking that God must bend His principles to suit us and yet nothing could be further from the truth. But until we start living up to these expectations, we can call ourselves children of God all we want, we are not actually children of God.
Understand this. God will only relate with you the way you want to relate with Him and the way you want Him to relate with you. If you want to be a child and relate with Him in that fashion, be rest-assured that He will relate with you as such. If you interact with Him as an acquaintance who comes to Him when bored, well don’t expect Him to give you priority. If you think am way in over my head to make that statement, think of these passages in Psalm 18:25-26, 25:14 and 103:7 –
“With the merciful You will show yourself merciful; with the blameless man You will show Yourself blameless; with the pure You will show Yourself pure; and with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd.”
“The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him, and He will show them His covenant.”
“He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel.”
Also remember this – part of being God’s child is becoming like Him. There is very interesting passage in Matthew 5:48 where Jesus said “Therefore you shall be perfect just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” God’s standard is perfection; He will not lower it. And He has the expectation that His children will be like Him. In my short walk and interaction with God, these are the few qualities I’ve learned of Him which I want to imbibe:
- He is a God of justice and hates oppression and injustice
In Isaiah 61:8a He says “For I, the Lord, love justice…”
Job 34:12 “Surely God will never do wickedly, nor will the Almighty pervert justice”
and in Deuteronomy 31:30 “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice. A God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He.”
This is one of the many qualities of my Father I want to have in my DNA. I want to be that child of God who will stand up and speak against injustice when I see it being perpetrated around me. I don’t want to be that Christian who silently condones injustice or even join others in working injustice and oppression against others.
And the only way I can know how is spending time in His word and with Him so that He teaches me how – Proverbs 2:6-9
“For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; He guards the paths of justice, and preserves the way of His saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice, equity and every good path.”
- He is a holy God and this means that He abhors sin
1 Peter 2:15-16 “but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy”.
Being holy is being saintly, godly, having a spiritually pure quality. Get this, this is who God is and in this passage He doesn’t mince His words that this is what He wants from us too. And we cannot attain this state by accident or just be living our lives just about anyhow. It takes a conscious effort every day to live holy and godly like Christ. This post will not provide enough time and space to talk about this trait but the bottom line is that it is an expectation that God has towards us as His children.
- He is a faithful God. Once He’s promised something He ALWAYS does it. Maybe not at the time we would want Him to, but in His own time HE ALWAYS fulfils His promises.
Check this out – Deuteronomy 7:9 “Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.”
And in 1 Corinthians 1:9 “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
So it does not matter what it is, God ALWAYS comes through for His beloved children.
And because God is faithful, I also want to be faithful in everything I do – to my family, at my workplace, to humanity, to my friends and to the world around me.
- He is a Man of His word and expects the same of us.
Consider this passage in Numbers 23:19 “God is not a man that He should lie, nor the son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”
Should we then be surprised when in Matthew 5:37 Jesus says “But let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’, and your ‘no’, ‘no’. For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.”
And that is why I have personally decided to as much as I can always fulfill promises made. And that is why I also don’t like making promises easily if I have no intentions of keeping them. If my Father is a Man of His Words, I also want to be a daughter/woman of her words.
- He is no respecter of persons. His standards are the same for everyone regardless of how close you are to Him.
Romans 2:11 “For there is no partiality with God.”
Even with God’s favorites, His standards apply with equal measure as it does to someone who has just come to the faith. God will not make exceptions with His standards just because you have been walking with Him for many years (Psalm 99:6-8 “Moses and Aaron were among His priests, and Samuel was among those who called upon His name; they called upon the Lord, and he answered them. He spoke to them in the cloudy pillar; they kept His testimonies and the ordinance He gave them. You answered them, O LORD our God; You were to them God-Who-Forgives, though You took vengeance on their deeds.”)
In fact because you have been walking so long with Him, the expectation is a lot more from you than from a baby Christian (Luke 12:48 “…For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.”)
And this is why in James 2 we are specifically instructed not to bring partiality and favoritism into the gospel work and message
“My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place”, and say to the poor man, “You stand there”, or “Sit here at my footstool”, have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?”
- He is love and loves all of mankind regardless of whether or not they believe in Him.
1 John 4:7-8 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for GOD IS LOVE.”
- He does not destroy people with words; He builds people up with words. You only need to read the entire Bible to see this.
And this is why in Colossians 4:6 I am told “Let your speech ALWAYS be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each other.”
- He is merciful and gracious and caring.
Psalm 145:8-9 “The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.” Psalm 103:8 “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.” If I am honest, this are qualities I need to work at. I lose my cool easily and compassion, mercy and graciousness do not come easily to me. And so I want to imbibe this quality of God into my character.
- He is generous Romans 10:12 “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.”
- He is hardworking. The creation story and the world as created is evidence of a very hard-working God. Is it a surprise then when He says to me in Proverbs 22:29 “Do you see a man skilled in their work? (who excels in his work?) He will stand before kings, he will not stand before obscure (unknown) men.” And I want to be as hardworking and excellent as my Father is.
So are you really sure that you are a child of God? Most importantly, are you really sure that God recognises you as His child? If you are His child, mirror Him, trust Him, follow Him, walk with Him and take Him at His Word. You will NEVER regret it.