Growing all the way

When last did you feel utterly unprepared? Was it this morning when your boss asked for an update on your project? Or last night when you tried to resolve conflict with the love of your life? A recent (or memorable!) exam that blew you out of the water?  Or perhaps when your three-year threw herself down in a tantrum at your local shopping mall?

Grow_up
Don’t be found unprepared!

Being unprepared for any given situation causes one to feel humbled and helpless, yet in some instances the consequences are much costlier.  Thankfully the life of Jesus models how one could avoid the shame and resentment of failure in those key areas of one’s life.

Ready to launch

Luke records the launch of Jesus’s ministry at John’s baptism,[1] when God the Father affirmed and released Jesus with the empowerment of His Spirit.  Luke notes that Jesus was 30 years of age at this time.  The previous chapter in this Gospel recalls Jesus’ birth – announcing his identity and purpose as Saviour, Messiah and Lord[2] – and his early years, culminating in his words in the temple “I must be about my Father’s business[3].  Clearly, the 12-year old Jesus knew who he was, what his purpose was and where he should be.

Then the chapter ends with the words “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men.”  And that’s all Luke accounts for these 18 years of Jesus growing into adulthood: Jesus spent nearly two decades growing in wisdom, in physical strength and health, in spiritual vitality and emotional intelligence in preparation for the prophesies over his life.  Talk about a purpose-driven life!

Grow all the way – on purpose

Grow on purpose
Grow all the way – on purpose!

There is much similarity between Luke 2:40 and Luke 2:52 (and the story in-between explains the difference!).  But the English hides one important difference between these two statements in the similar translation of the words grow.  When Luke records that Jesus, aged 12 returned from Jerusalem to Nazareth with his parents and “grew” intellectually, physically, spiritually and emotionally, he uses the Greek prokoptõ meaning “to drive forward” as a herdsman drove cattle with purpose and urgency in a specific direction.  Luke states that after his realization of his identity and purpose, Jesus “drove forward” and intentionally, passionately advanced in preparation for his purpose as Messiah, Ruler and Saviour of Israel (and the world).

Today many Christians emphasize the supernatural empowerment of the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus (which is clear and true![4]) but neglect to note the deliberate preparation Jesus went through for this purpose.  It shows that Jesus knew that God has entrusted a very important part of His redemptive plan to him, and therefore he took ownership of that call through urgent and disciplined growth in wisdom, health and strength, intimacy with the Father and emotional/ relational skill with a wide range of people.

Grow all the way – even in Nazareth[5]

The way in which Luke gives account of how Jesus answered his parents who came to fetch him in the temple suggests that Jesus really wanted to remain behind in Jerusalem, to be trained in the Scriptures by the teachers in the temple – as Paul was taught by the renowned Gamaliel.[6]  After all, it was customary for a boy of his age, after receiving basic education by tutors, to be prepared for a specific vocation by either their fathers or someone who specialized in such a vocation. Jesus knew the temple was the right place to be and said so to his parents, but still “he submitted and went with them to Nazareth”.[7]

Nazareth was a very small, very simple village. An insignificant place, where “nothing good comes from.”[8]  Yet here, in this nowhere little town, Jesus determined to grow in preparation for his purpose.  It as here that Our Lord spent 18 years intentionally preparing for his role as Messiah, Lord and Saviour.  There were better places, with more opportunities and wiser scholars, but his parents and later his circumstances kept him in Nazareth.

But Jesus alone was responsible for his purpose – no one else would give account on his behalf.  Therefore, Jesus took every opportunity to “drive forward” and prepare himself for his purpose.  What an inspiration to many who feel frustrated and boxed in by people or circumstances! Grow forward non the less!

Grow all the way intellectually

poor_learner
Grow all the way intellectually!

Throughout the Gospels (and the epistles), the wisdom of Jesus is highlighted and applauded.[9] His wisdom is often displayed as superior to that of the scribes, lawyers and teachers of Israel.

Luke records that Jesus grew wisdom – not only in knowledge.  Wisdom speaks of the right application of knowledge, especially in complex situations.   “Wisdom is fear of the Lord.”[10]  To fear the Lord means to speak and act with the knowledge that one must give account to God; wisdom acts with that reality in mind, over against immediate gratification.  Thus, wisdom sees the big picture and discerns the weightier matters.

Moreover, Luke notes that Jesus grew in wisdom – he did not get it supernaturally.  A quick scan through the Gospels shows that Jesus used about 50 Old Testament scriptures in teachings, to withstand temptations, and to prove himself during testing.  Wisdom is gained as one study the works of God, the words of God and the ways of God in the Scriptures, and prayerfully reflecting on it.

Jesus made an effort to grow in knowledge and wisdom to prepare and position himself for purpose, so that he would not be unprepared when God released him into his call. To prepare for our purpose, we should do the same!

Grow all the way physically

grow_taller
Grow all the way physically!

Jesus also grew physically healthy and strong for his purpose – and he needed to!  His ministry period of three years was wide and intense.  Conservative sources suggest that Jesus walked more than 5000 kilometres during these three years, while doing intense teaching, preaching, healing and deliverance almost daily.  His travels were over rough terrains and in harsh weather conditions.  With this in mind Jesus trained for strength and endurance; he grew in stature.

But nowhere during the life of Jesus is his strength and endurance clearer than the 24 hours of his arrest, trials, torture and crucifixion.  That Jesus was alive and alert on the cross is an amazing feat in itself!  His brutal beatings and whipping would have left him weak, stripped of his skin and tissue from his back, having lost much blood.  Yet Jesus somehow found strength to walk to his crucifixion, carry his cross part of the way, and, having finished his task, “bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”[11]    Would he have fainted before the cross, his redemptive work would have been incomplete.  But Jesus grew strong enough beforehand in order to finish his task.

Let this be our example. Don’t let your body grow weak and let you down before it is your time!  Our culture is obsessed about looking pretty, bulky or skinny – looks are superficial.  Rather, grow strong and healthy.  Determine to grow all the way to see your purpose through.

Grow all the way spiritually

child praying
Grow all the way spiritually!

Jesus deliberately cultivated an intimate relationship with God his Abba, his Daddy, through prayer. We see this in his habitual evening retreats for prayer and solitude.  This intimate relationship with God provided for Jesus a source of strength and refreshing, his security in identity and purpose, as well as direction for what he should say and do.  Bluntly: without this vital spiritual link Jesus would not have had any way to fulfil his purpose, seeing as his purpose was derived, directed and sustained by his relationship with the Father.  Therefore, Jesus intentionally grew in relationship with God through a well-developed prayer life before his release into his purpose.

Likewise, your purpose is also derived, directed and sustained by your relationship with God your Father.  And therefore, determine to cultivate a healthy prayer life to grow in the same intimacy with God your Father.

Grow all the way emotionally

grow_friends
Grow all the way emotionally!

Jesus’ emotional capacity is astounding!  He could maintain meaningful relationships with such a diverse group of people – a skill essential for his ministry!  His disciples were such a diverse group (as I wrote about in Known by your Love), resulting in constant tension and frequent conflict.  Yet he could patiently lead, teach and love them all!  He was able to identify and show kindness to the various groups of Jews (Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, scribes, lawyers, tax collectors and sinners, etc) and even many groups of outsiders (Greeks, Romans, Samaritans, etc).  Jesus was able to maintain love and peace amidst conflict day in and day out.  He displayed remarkable emotional maturity indeed!

Luke records that Jesus intentionally grew in his emotional and relational capacity – where he was.  Without this development Jesus would have short-ended his own ministry.  I suggest that you and I also need to intentionally grow our emotional and relational capacity to fulfil our purpose – preferably before we are released into it!  How?  Start by intentionally widening our relationships to include people very different from us, and practice speaking the truth in love, not shying away from conflict.

Although Jesus stuck in the nowhere town of Nazareth, he was ready to be released on the day the father chose.  From a young age Jesus demonstrated intentionality in his attitude to “be about my Father’s business”[12], and made it his daily activity to “purposefully grow intellectually, physically, spiritually and emotionally”[13] until the day of his activation when “the Holy Spirit descended on Him.”[14]

So make it your aim to daily grow wiser, fitter, closer to God and closer to people – that you too may be ready to be released, and not be found unprepared for your purpose!

[1] Luke 3:21-23

[2] Luke 2:11

[3] Luke 2:49

[4] Acts 10:38

[5] I must give credit to John Andrews who highlighted this significant point in Jesus’ development to me.

[6] Acts 22:3; cf 5:34.

[7] Luke 2:50

[8] John 1:46

[9] Mark 6:4 and John 7:15 as examples.

[10] Proverbs 9:10

[11] John 19:30

[12] Luke 2:49

[13] Luke 2:52

[14] Luke 3:22

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