A Year of Growth

Another Christmas has come and gone. Perhaps, the tree is still up, but it looks mighty empty underneath. All that’s left of the turkey is a bare skeleton. Trash bags stuffed with wrapping paper line the streets. Visiting family members have returned home. The excitement of Christmas built for weeks to a crescendo … and then it’s over.

The story of the first Christmas is a lot like that. The weeks and months leading up to Jesus’ birth were bustling with activity—the angel’s appearance, the wedding arrangements, the census, the Journey to Bethlehem, the birth of the King, the shepherds preaching, the Magi praising. Eight days later, baby Jesus is presented at the temple where Simeon and Anna both praise his arrival. But then… nothing.

From that day forward, until Jesus begins his messianic ministry, the Scriptures are all but silent. Aside from the enchanting tale of Mary and Joseph losing Jesus at the temple, thirty years of our Lord’s life are reduced to a single sentence. But it’s an insightful sentence.

The Bible sums up the most important life ever lived like this: “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people” (Luke 2:52 NLT).

Jesus grew. I don’t know about you, but I need to do some growing too. So I’ve decided to use this verse as framework for the areas I want to grow in this year. And I want to encourage you to do the same. In this single sentence, Jesus provides us with a four-fold example of how to make each year a year of growth.

First, the Bible says Jesus grew intellectually.




That is, Jesus grew in wisdom. It’s clear from the story of young Jesus at the temple, that he loved learning. The Bible says that when his parents finally found him in the temple he was “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers” (Luke 2:46 NIV). What amazes me is that Jesus, who authored our DNA and scattered the constellations, needed to grow in wisdom. But the Bible tells us, “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges… and was born as a human being” (Philippians 2:6 NLT).

Even though Jesus was omniscient to begin with, he surrendered much of his knowledge and wisdom when he became human. He inherited our limitations. He reminds me of the little boy that asked his mom, “Where did I get my intelligence from?” She replied, “I guess you got it from your father because I still have mine!”

Jesus got his wisdom from his Father, that’s for sure. That Jesus continued to grow in wisdom, reminds us that no matter how old we get or how educated we think we are, we should never stop learning and growing. And it’s important to remember that knowledge and wisdom are not synonymous; rather wisdom is the application of knowledge and it’s often learned through experience. Mark Twain said, “We should be careful to take from an experience only the wisdom that is in it.”

Apparently, some children followed Mark Twain’s advice, because I found some nuggets of wisdom collected from various children and their experiences. Patrick aged 10: “Never trust a dog to watch your food.” Michael aged 14: “When your dad asks, ‘Do I look stupid to you?’ don’t answer him.” Taylia aged 11: “When your mum is mad at your dad, don’t let her brush your hair.” Michael aged 14: “Never tell your mum her diet’s not working.”

Hopefully, we all learn from our experiences, but I’ve decided to commit to one concrete means of growing in wisdom—reading through the book of Proverbs. The Book of Proverbs opens with these words: “These are the proverbs of Solomon, David’s son, king of Israel. Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise” (Proverbs 1:1-2 NLT).

Ultimately all wisdom comes from God, so if we want to grow in wisdom we need to turn to God’s Word and listen carefully what he tells us. So I hope you’ll join me in that pursuit this year. But Jesus not only grew in wisdom. He also grew in stature.




Or as another translation puts it: “Jesus…grew physically.” Now, most of us are done growing physically, but that doesn’t mean we’re done growing physically. Between Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas I’ve gained ten pounds in two months. I’m going to have to work that off now that the holidays have passed.

I’m sure I’m not alone here. Surveys show that some of the most common New Year’s Resolutions are losing weight, going to the gym, eating healthier foods, quitting smoking, and giving up alcohol, etc.

The fact that Jesus was a healthy, active young boy who grew physically, reminds us of the importance of being healthy and taking care of ourselves physically. The Bible says, for instance, that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit so we ought to use them in a holy and healthy way.  Many of the laws given through Moses in the Old Testament instructed the Israelites on what to eat and what not to eat. Jesus, himself, followed these dietary laws and was also physically active, working as a carpenter for most of his life long before power-drills and table-saws were invented.

If you browse the bookshelves at Family Christian Store, you’ll find a number of diet and health books from Christian authors:

  • The Maker’s Diet by Jordan Ruben
  • Eat with Joy: Redeeming God’s Gift of Food by Rachel Stone
  • What Would Jesus Eat? The Ultimate Program for eating well, feeling great and living longer by Don Colbert

One most popular right now is a book by Rick Warren called The Daniel Plan. If you’re not familiar with the story, Daniel becomes an advisor to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and one of the perks of his new position was room service. Each day an attendant would bring a buffet fit for king to Daniel’s door, which he shared with his fellow advisors—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. But Daniel didn’t want to defile himself by eating meat or wine that had been sacrificed to a pagan god or any other unclean foods, so Daniel asked the chief of staff for permission to eat only vegetables and water. The chief of staff agreed only to a ten day trial because he feared for Daniel health. But, the Bible says, “At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king. So after that, the attendant fed them only vegetables instead of the food and wine provided for the others” (Daniel 1:15-16 NLT).

I don’t know if a vegetables-only diet is what you’re looking for. But regardless of your goals—whether you want to shed some pounds, get fit, or just cut out all the preservatives and processed junk—eating well and staying active will help each of us to be healthier and happier this year.

Let’s remember what Paul advised Timothy: “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). While there is great value in physical fitness, there is something that’s even better; which lead us to the third way that Jesus grew.




Back in Luke 2, the Bible says that Jesus grew in wisdom, in stature and in favor with God. Jesus grew in favor with God. In other words, Jesus lived a life that pleased God and made him smile.

We often forget that God has emotions. He feels things very deeply. The Bible tells us that God grieves, gets jealous and angry, and feels compassion, pity, sorrow, and sympathy. God loves, delights, rejoices, enjoys and even laughs!

Jesus made the smile of God his goal in life.

I want that to be the goal of my life too. So how do you and I bring a smile to God’s face this year? I looked up every verse in the Bible that speaks of God’s favor or pleasing God in some way, and the answer to that question seemed insanely broad. Some verses spoke of righteousness or purity, others spoke of faith or obedience, some spoke about worship or the fear of the Lord. But one verse in particular spoke to me.

While writing to the church in Colossae, Paul writes, “We have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better” (Colossians 1:9-10 NLT).

Paul prayed that these Christians would live lives that always pleased God, and they would accomplish this by knowing God and God’s will better and better. I think what pleases God the most is our pursuit of him. Paul says something similar to this in his sermon on Mar Hill: “From one man he made all the nations… God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us” (Acts 17:26-27 NIV). God created each one of us, so that we would pursue him and discover him.

So I guess the question is—what are you doing to pursue God?

There’s not just one right answer to this question. You could pursue God by spending time in prayer and meditation. You could pursue God by reading Billy Graham’s latest book. You could pursue God by studying the evidence for his existence. You could pursue God by surrendering more of your life to him, surgically removing sinful habits, or beginning a new ministry that glorifies him. Regardless of how you do it—if you want to grow in favor with God this year, then you have to purposely purse him. Get to know him better and better.




Finally, Jesus not only grew in favor with God, but also with people. Jesus was a social person, and I’m not talking about Facebook. Jesus attended weddings, festivals, and funerals. He surrounded himself with close friends. He spent his time with real people—people that mattered to him. Jesus said, “The second most important commandment is this: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself’” (Mark 12:31).

God wired you and me with a real need to connect with other people. I think this need is even showing up in people’s New Year’s Resolutions. Recent polls show that more than 50% of Americans vow to appreciate loved ones and spend more time with family and friends this year.

I think we should all make that vow, especially when it comes to our church family. There are dozens of “one another” verses in Scripture. The Bible tells us to love one another, honor one another, live in harmony with one another, accept one another, greet one another, teach one another, serve one another, encourage one another—and the list goes on. But we can’t do any of those things if we’re not together. That’s why I think it’s important for us to come together as a church family every week. God thinks so too, because the Bible says, “We should not neglect gathering together with other believers, as some of you are doing. Instead, we must continue to encourage each other even more as we see the day of the Lord coming” (Hebrews 10:25).

In case you hadn’t noticed, the average weekly attendance is shrinking at most churches. But studies show that it isn’t because there are fewer members; rather, the number one reason for the decline in church attendance is that members attend less frequently than they did just a few years ago. For example, if 100 members attend every week the average attendance is, obviously, 100. But if half of those members miss just one Sunday a month, the attendance drops to 87.

Now my point isn’t just about church attendance; rather, my point is Jesus made it a priority to put time and energy into the people that mattered. We should do the same. Maybe for you that means being more consistent in your attendance, maybe it means inviting someone from church over for dinner, maybe it means showing up at your grandson’s baseball game or your granddaughter’s recital. Or maybe it means getting off of Facebook and having a real face-to-face conversation with some you care about.




I don’t know if you’re the type of person to make resolutions or set annual goals. I never used to be, but the last few years I’ve enjoyed discussing our goals with our children and writing them out together. Either way, regardless of what your resolutions are this year, I hope that this year is a year of growth for you. I pray that, like Jesus, each us will grow in wisdom and statue and in favor with God and his people—this year and in the years to come.




If you need help setting some goals or you’d like to learn more about pursuing God and living a life that makes God smile, please come talk with me while we stand and sing together.

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