“And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.”
A young man left the college library late one evening and walked through the parking lot to his car, only to find that he had a very dead battery. The nearest building that was still open was a sorority house. He explained his situation to the young woman who answered the door, and she permitted him to come in to use the telephone. As soon as he was inside he heard the loud voice of the house mother call down from upstairs, “Jenny, you know you’re not supposed to have any male visitors after 11 o’clock.” “It’s okay,” Jenny answered. “His battery is dead.” I know so many people whose “batteries” are dead. I know so many people who are dead physically. I know so many people who are dead socially, so many who are dead spiritually. But Jesus Christ is not one of these. Indeed He is the prime example of life! The text tells us about Christ’s early life. It tells us that Jesus was a total man. He was vibrant and alive in every dimension.
He Grew Physically
The Bible first tells us about Jesus’ physical growth. The text says, “And Jesus increased in stature.” Christ was no anemic boy. He was the son of a carpenter. He was no weakling looking like he’d just walked out of a beauty parlor. He was virile. He was a strong, hard working carpenter. I remind you that in Jesus’ day you didn’t just call up the lumber yard and order a truck load of timber. You went out yourself and hand cut it. Then there were no power tools to cut, sand, and drill it. It was all done with sweat and muscle. So is it any wonder the text says that the Lord grew physically? He’d need that strength later when He put down His carpenter tools and took up the gospel. There were hot, dusty roads to tread. There would be rivers to cross, long days filled with people that would tax any man’s strength. And, yes, there would be the trial, the intense physical ordeal of the cross.
Jesus was alive physically. Are you? Many Americans are killing themselves with too little exercise and too much food. Needless-to-say we are right now living in a “food’s paradise.” The light of our world is that little light in the refrigerator that comes on when you open the door. And the result is called middle age spread. They say an adult is a person that has stopped growing at the ends and started growing in the middle. We face our own 1999 war with the battle of the budge. And we find ourselves losing. I know a woman who says she’s lost 400 pounds. She’s lost 5 pounds 80 times. A sign in a health spa says, “A word to the wide— reduce!” The Bible gives us this word too. In 2 Corinthians 6:16 we are told, “We are the temple of the living God.” As such, we should do nothing to harm our bodies and everything to build them up. Now let’s face it, dear people. It’s hard to feel fit as a fiddle when you’re shaped like a cello. What if I chained a 25 pound weight around your neck and forced you to wear it 24 hours a day? You’d think I was cruel. You’d have me jailed! You’d learn to hate me. Well, if you’re overweight you’re doing much the same thing to yourself. You are a prisoner to a ball and chain. You are in bondage to unwise eating habits. But you can always start exercising and eating health foods and gain your freedom from the chains. Would God that each of us could find that kind of freedom! Would God that we could all stop living beyond our seams!
I could go on and talk about smoking and its harmful side effects. We could discuss alcohol and what it does to the brain, the heart and the liver. We cold even discuss workaholics and how they harm their bodies with long hours and little rest and recreation. But the point is this. Modern Americans are killing themselves physically with too much of this and not enough of that, too much food and not enough exercise, too much dissipation and not enough discipline.
You heard about the mountain family (I believe they were from West Virginia) that was sprawled out and resting all over their cabin? Pa said to Ma slumped in a comfortable rocker, “Ma, go see what’s bothering that old hound dog. He’s been yelping for an hour now. I’d go myself but I’m just too tired to move.” Ma turned to son Jake and said, “Jake, you go see what’s bothering that dog. I’m resting and just too tired to move.” Jake, half asleep on the floor, wearily puts it on his sister who is leaning on a broom. “You do it sister. I’ve been drinking white lightning all day and I’m just too tired to move.” So the sister goes and checks on the dog then returns, plops in bed, and starts off to sleep. Finally Paw gets up enough energy to ask, “Laura Belle, what was bothering that old hound dog?” Laura Bell answers, “Aw Paw, that old hound dog was just laying on a pine cone and he was just too tired to move!” I told you that to tell you this. If something is bothering you physically and the good Lord has given you something to do about it, don’s sit there and complain. Get up and move on! The Bible says, “You were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:20). If you’re overweight ask the Lord for strength to reduce. Is smoking or drinking making you sick? Stop it! Do you need exercise? Get it! Let’s start living again! And let’s live physically!
He Grew Mentally
The text also informs us that Christ grew mentally. Jesus was no slouch. He was sharp! See Him in the temple. Why, as a 12 year old boy He astonishes the aged elders with His wisdom. He’d need all the mental prowess He could find when later He would have to preach and teach the multitudes.
It has been said that some cultures drink from the fountain of wisdom and knowledge. Americans today seem to be limiting themselves to gargling in it. I know so many people who are dead mentally. They have not read a book in years. Their minds rot away with indifference. And their attention span is so short it’s an impossible task to try to teach and preach to them. Did you know that the average American reads on a fifth grade level? Did you know that the average person does not even read one book a year? Our colleges are lowering their academic standards. What used to be “C” work is now given a solid “B” plus! Dear people, a mind is a terrible thing to waste!
Look at the tree. Have you ever noticed that when a tree stops growing it begins to rot and die? Your mind is like that too. It must grow and improve, learn new facts, or it will begin to decline. Let’s start living again! And let’s live mentally. Why not do what one elderly man does? Commit yourself to learning at least one new fact each day!
A man who’d stopped coming to church regularly got a visit from me the other day. He said, “I’m bored. That’s why I quit attending.” I told him to look at it this way. If you come to church every Sunday and work at it mentally you can at least learn one new fact about God each Sabbath. If you do that for a year it’ll add up to 52 facts about God that you now know. If you are faithful like that for 20 years you’ll know over 1,000 facts about God!” Let’s get rid
of our puny excuses and let’s come back from the grave and start living again! Let’s not be afraid of the church library. Let’s not shun Sunday School. When you are alive and exciting as a people so will Sunday School be alive and exciting. When you begin to live so will the things you’re involved in!
The Lord Grew Socially
The text tells us that Jesus not only developed physically and mentally into God’s man, He also grew socially. The text puts it this way, “Jesus increased in favor with man.” If you study the Lord’s life you will quickly see His knack for social graces. He could get along with people of all races. He was quite at home with the educated and wealthy. But He was equally at home with the lame and the poor. About the only people Jesus couldn’t get along with were a group of know-it-alls called Pharisees.
A man passing through rural Charlotte County, Virginia, stopped at a quiet gas station to buy some gas. Marveling at the fresh air and tranquility he said to an old timer pumping gas, “Boy it sure is quiet out here. I bet you don’t have any population problems in these parts.” The old timer spit a plug of tobacco and said, “Let me tell you something son. Darn near every problem we’ve got here is caused by the population!” It’s true, isn’t it? We do have a population problem here. People are hard to live with. Where is respect for authority? What ever happened to “Yes sir?” And why are peace officers called pigs? What ever happened to “Thank you” and “Please?” Jesus grew in favor with men. We seem to be growing in disfavor. The compliment and the just business contract are becoming a rare and endangered species. Gossip, slander, swindles and hate seem to be the new order of the day! And let’s face it! We’ve got a population problem of huge proportions.
Let’s start living again! Let’s start growing in favor with men! Let’s dedicate ourselves to being easier to live with at home, at work, at play, in the he church— wherever! Remember the prayer of St. Francis? Let’s pray it in our hearts and ask God to make it a reality in our lives.
“Lord make us instruments of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love.
Where there is injury…pardon.
Where there is doubt…faith.
Where there is despair…hope.
Where there is darkness…light.
Where there is sadness…joy.
O Divine Master, grant that we may
not so much seek to be consoled…as to console,
to be understood as to understand.
To be loved as to love, for it is in giving
that we receive. It is in pardoning that we
He Grew Spiritually
This text is not through with us yet. Not only does it challenge us to live physically, mentally, and socially. There is a fourth way Jesus grew and that is spiritually. The text says, “Jesus increased in favor with God.” He was related to God like no man has been before or since. And He obeyed God! When He was baptized by John in the Jordan River the heavens opened and God said of Jesus, “This is my Beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” God could look at Jesus and say, “This man is without sin! He is my son! I’m well pleased with Him!”
What about your life right now? Are you related to God by faith in Jesus Christ? Are you maturing spiritually? An astronomy professor, very learned in his field, turned to a minster at a banquet and said, “You know, I am a religious man. I have been since I was a child. And I sum up all my religious convictions in the rule, ‘Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.’” The pastor, without blinking an eye, said, “Yes and I know a lot about astronomy. I sum up all my beliefs in the statement, ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are!’” It is a shame that we have so many people in the nation that are alive mentally, physically and socially but are graveyard dead spiritually. We have men and women who are intellectual giants but spiritual dwarfs. They know all about high finances, astronomy, advanced technology etc. but they’ve left their Christian faith in ignorance or kindergarten. And Jesus says, what does it profit a man to gain the world mentally, socially and physically if He loses His own eternal soul?
Let’s start living again spiritually! Let’s come back from the dead!! Let’s seek the Lord, tell Him we’ve sinned and ask Him by faith to save us in Christ! Let’s start growing again spiritually! Let’s rediscover prayer. Let’s discover the Holy Spirit. Let’s pioneer in the new life Christ offers every man.
Remember the story of Tom Sawyer? Recall his painting the fence? He slapped on a thick coat of paint over all the cracks and splinters and rotten places. In ignorance most people think that is what Christianity does. It sort of whitewashes over all of the cracks and rotten places of human nature. It makes you pretty on the outside but leaves you rotten on the inside. Not so! When God saves a man it’s not whitewash! He puts in new timber. C. S. Lewis said, “Jesus Christ didn’t come to make nice men. He came to make new creatures.” Are you a Christian? I’m not asking if you are a nice man. I’m asking if you are a new creature. I’m not asking if you are religious. I am asking if you’ve repented of your sins and turned to Jesus asking Him in faith to save you. If you have done this you are alive spiritually. And now the Bible’s challenge to you is to more and more begin to live out that faith.
Let’s start living again spiritually. You’ve been made new within. Let it show without. The Christian life is the outdwelling of the indwelling Spirit.
In case you haven’t noticed it yet, all we’ve been talking about so far is the great commandment to love God, your neighbor, and yourself. You are loving yourself when you take care of yourself physically. You’re being social when you love your neighbor. And you are loving God when you turn to Jesus in faith and live in the Spirit.
Isn’t it amazing that Christ as a twelve year old boy was already living out the great commandment? And you as a twelve year old or a twenty year old or a sixty year old can begin to live that too. Give yourself to God by faith in Jesus. Begin now to live the great commandment. Perhaps you have physical handicaps or mental limitations that close in on you. Nonetheless, start living again! Live to your limits!
In Deuteronomy 30:19 God says to Israel and to you and me, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life.” The choice is up to you. Is your battery dead? Are you just too tired to move and can’t do anything but moan? Have you got one foot in the grave? Are you a whitewashed fence? Set’s start living again! Christ gives you the chance!
There is a fable about a hermit famous for his wisdom. Some teenagers decided to go up the mountain and visit him and if possible make a fool out of him. One young lad caught a dove, held it in his hands, and proposed to ask the hermit a question. “Old man,” he’d say, “Is this bird alive or dead?” If the man said, “Alive,” the lad planned to crush the bird. If he said, “Dead,” he planned to free him. Reaching the hermit’s cabin they called him out and said, “We’ve come to test your wisdom. See this bird? If you know everything, tell us, is he alive or dead?” The old man looked at the bird held tightly in the lad’s grip and he said, “As to the bird’s life or death, it is as you will, my son. As you will.”
The Lord is saying the same thing to you this day. In Jesus Christ God has set before you life and death, blessing and curse. And it’s all as you will, as you will…
Lord, help me not to die until I’m dead! In Christ! Amen.
"The university is the clear-cut fulcrum with which to move the world. More potently than by any other means, change the university and you change the world." Charles Malik, past president of the UN General Assembly
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