In Matthew 18, the disciples were arguing about who the best among them was. And then Jesus looked out, pointed to a child and called him over. The child walked up and Jesus said, “Be like a child.”
In other words, Jesus is saying, “Be like you.” Be you. You don’t have to be anything else. You don’t have to be funny or cool or silly or anything different than exactly who God made you to be. He made you different than anybody else. He made you to be a beacon of His light in a way that nobody else can. A beacon is like the light shining out from a light house, leading the way for others. What do you think it means, that Jesus wants you to be a beacon?
“I wanna be a leader and follow Jesus.”
“I want to be who I am and not be scared.”
“I want to show people the way to Jesus.”
“I want to help my friends.”
“I want to show kindness to people.”
The first night of camp, each of our 2nd-4th graders stood up, and said the words, “I want to be a beacon this week,” and then talked about what being a beacon meant to them. And that’s exactly what they did throughout the week.
The next few days, we went on to talk about more child-sized beacons in the Bible—8 children, to be exact. And we talked about how our beacons and our hearts work together.
Whatever is in your heart comes out of your mouth, like Matthew 15:18 says. Or, we could also add, shines out of your beacon. God gave you a heart that’s not like anyone else, just like He made your light to shine in a way that’s different than anyone else. Can you think of someone who has a kind heart? Can you name someone in your life who has a caring heart? I want to tell you about eight children in the Bible who had very special hearts…and allowed God to use those hearts to be beacons.
1) There was a little girl who lived with her family in a far-away country. Another country invaded hers, captured her and took her back to their own country. They placed her in a home where she had to wait on people, and those people said “We’re going to make her part of our family. She’ll be like a little maid.” This little girl’s heart was so caring and faithful. Even when she had been taken from her family and was sad, she still trusted God. In fact, she was the only one in her new house who believed in God. The man who was the head of her house was in the military and was very strong. One day, she heard him scream. He had a disease spreading all over his body. It was awful. Later, when she was brushing his wife’s hair, she said, “If only the general knew a prophet named Elisha, he would be healed.” His wife told the general, and he went straight to the prophet’s house. That prophet told him to wash himself seven times in the Jordan River, and he would be healed. After the seventh time, his skin came out clean and new, like a baby’s. And the general said to the little girl, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except yours”. He believed, all because of the CARING heart of this little girl from 2 Kings 5. We’ll call her Mae.
2) There once was a little boy who lived in a temple, that was a lot like a church. He lived there because his mom wanted to have a child so badly, she said to God, “If you’ll give me a child, I’ll give him back to you.” She silently prayed over and over and over. She moved her lips so constantly in prayer that people thought she had been drinking too much wine. She said, “The only thing I’ve been pouring in my heart is God.” And so, she had a son named Samuel. When Samuel was a little older, he kept hearing his name called out in the middle of the night. Time after time, he’d go to the priest and say, “Have you called me?” And the priest would tell Samuel, “No. You must be dreaming. Go back to bed.” Until, the third time, it finally dawned on the priest that it was God calling Samuel. And so, the priest told Samuel, if he heard the voice again, to say “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” And so, Samuel did, like it talks about in 1 Samuel 3. Samuel listened to God, with a HUMBLE heart. And God used him as a beacon to many people.
3) I want you to picture a sister sitting beside a river full of dangerous crocodiles. She was afraid, but she was also very brave. Her name was Miriam. Miriam was brave because there was something much more important to her than her fear. She a new baby brother. The man who was the head of her country said that there were too many boys in her land. And so, he was going around killing the baby boys. Her mother decided to place him in a basket and go hide him in the Nile River (which also happened to be full of crocodiles). (Does anyone know who this baby grew up to be?) His sister stayed by the river (and by the crocodiles) watching over her brother to make sure nothing happened to him. Later, she heard voices coming near. They were the voices of the mean man’s daughters. One of the daughters discovered the basket. Miriam was still near the water, and close enough to have a conversation with the daughter. When the daughter found the baby in the basket she said, “This is one of the Hebrew babies.” Miriam quickly said, “Do you want me to go find a nurse for that baby, so you can take him to the palace? I know just the nurse maid.” Miriam not only watched over her brother, but she got her mom a job at the palace taking care of her very own son. Miriam had a PATIENT heart, and that patient heart paid off for her whole family. You can read about Miriam in Exodus 2.
4) There was a little boy who became king at eight years old. His dad had been king before him. His dad was a very bad king. But this boy had a good heart. He decided he wanted to stand up for God and make things right. His name was Josiah, and you can read about all the great things he did in 2 Kings 22, 2 Kings 23, 2 Kings 25, and lots of other places. In fact, you can read so much about him because there had never been a king like him. He ruled with his heart, his mind and his strength. And he was right about your age. Josiah had a BRAVE heart to stand up for God.
5) Do you believe there are angels? I heard about an angel who went to jail to help a prisoner. This prisoner was chained to 2 guards—one on each side. He was going to be put to death the next morning. But, then an angel appeared, and a big light shone in his cell. The angel woke the prisoner and told him to get up, and the chains fell off his wrists. The prisoner thought he was in a dream, but he and the angel went out of the door and started running. They passed the guards, and ran through a gate that opened all by itself. When he realized he was awake and that the angel had just gotten him out of jail, he ran to a friend’s house. When he got there, he knocked at the door. A little girl named Rhoda came to answer it. When she heard Peter’s voice, she recognized it immediately and got so excited. She got so excited that she ran back and told everyone, “It’s Peter!” She was so excited, however, that she FORGOT to unlock the door and let Peter in. She ended up unlocking the door, and Peter came in told everyone what had happened. Rhoda had an ENTHUSIASTIC heart, and you can read all about her in Acts 12:7-16.
6) There was another boy that God told, “I have a purpose for you.” In fact, God told him He had a purpose for him even way back when he was in his mom’s tummy. But Jeremiah responded by saying, “I’m just a boy.” Jeremiah was afraid because he was young, too, just like you. But God told Jeremiah, “Do not say ‘I am too young…Do not be afraid…for I am with you and will rescue you.’ God reminded Jeremiah of his purpose, and a purpose that had been planned for Jeremiah since before he was born. He wanted Jeremiah to be a beacon, just like He has a purpose for you. The story of Jeremiah’s PURPOSEFUL heart is in Jeremiah 1:5-9.
7) Who has taught you about Jesus? There once was a little boy who was raised by his mother and grandmother. His grandmother, whose name was Lois and his mom, Eunice, loved to teach him and tell him about Jesus. He grew up to be really wise, which had a lot to do with his mom and grandmother. He loved to listen and learn. And, sometimes, people like to listen more than they like to talk. And so God sent Timothy a friend named Paul, who was really outgoing. Paul told Timothy that he wanted to “fan the flame” of the gift God had given him. He wanted him to speak up, because he knew a lot. And Timothy grew up to be Paul’s sidekick, going around and teaching many others about Jesus. God used his OPEN heart to be such a beacon. You can read more about Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:1-8.
8) I want to tell you about one last little boy, that you can read about in John 6. We don’t know his name, but we sure know his story…the story of his kindness. We’ll call him Brantley. Brantley was with a huge crowd of people were following Jesus. Those people started to get hungry. You know what it’s like to be hungry. And Jesus, of course, wanted to feed them. And so, Jesus asked his disciples what they could do to feed the people. Andrew saw a little boy who had food. This little boy had five loaves of bread and two small fish. Jesus had the little boy bring the food to him. Now, that little boy could have stopped right there. His loaves and fish were really great loaves and fish. He could have said, “I don’t want to share. It’s my food.” But, no. Brantley nervously went up to Jesus with his KIND heart, and gave him his food. Jesus used that food to feed more than 5000 people, all because the little boy said, “I’ll give you what I have.”
He's given you something, too. He’s given you a heart that’s not like anyone else’s. He wants to use your caring, humble, brave, patient, enthusiastic, open, purposeful, kind heart to lead other people to Him. He wants to use you to be a beacon. He will. He has called you since you were in your mommy’s womb. He loves you, delights you, and wants to use you to help other people know His love, too.
We had such a sweet camp with our 2nd-4th graders. We ended the week gathered around a 6 foot by 6 foot wrapped gift that contained smaller packages for each of them, with small red hearts inside. Each heart had one word just for them painted on it representing the kind of heart we saw in them throughout the week. They came up one by one when their names were called and received their gifts. The entire week was a reflection of why Jesus, in Matthew 18, said to “Be like a child.” He called the little child from the crowd. And that child responded without hesitation. These kids did the same…responded all week, with their hearts, receiving the gift of God’s love, and left camp longing to be beacons of His light and His love.