Pursuit Leads to Growth
This week we have been celebrating the incarnation – God becoming human. It’s one thing to proclaim that God has been embodied in human flesh, but it’s a completely different thing to understand what that means for us today. If the incarnation is nothing more than an interesting quirk of history, it really makes no difference to our lives. But of course, the incarnation is far more than that. If we can believe the radical idea that, in the man Jesus, God was present and active in our human world, then that says an awful lot about God and about us. It tells us things about who God is and what we can expect from God, and it tells us things about who we are as human beings, and what we can expect of ourselves.
This week you may have heard about the boy Samuel who was dedicated to God and who lived in the Tabernacle with the old priest Eli. You may also have heard about when Jesus was forgotten in the Temple when he was twelve years old. If you put these two stories next to each other, you can’t help but notice some parallels.
Both Jesus and Samuel were dedicated to God from their birth.
Both boys were very comfortable in the worship centres of their time. Both grew wise and strong and gained favour with people. And both came to influence God’s people greatly. While there is one significant difference between the two – the Gospels proclaim Jesus as God in human flesh – there is a clear message in this resonance between the two boys: Jesus was not really different in his humanity, his experience of life, his need to grow and learn, from the rest of us. His divinity did not make him somehow “supernatural”.
When the creeds proclaim that Jesus was “fully human” they mean it.
It is important that we understand the humanity of Jesus, but also learn what his humanity says about his divinity. This is the tough challenge of this week
Luke 2:40 tells us that when Jesus was a child, Mary and Joseph brought Him to the Temple in Jerusalem to present Him to God and honor the laws of the Lord. We then read that Jesus grew, became strong, was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on Him. Jesus set the example for how we should live, but it can seem impossible if we focus solely on the fact that He was God. Jesus was also fully man, and according to Scripture, even He had the opportunity to develop and grow. But what prompted the growth of our Savior?
In modern culture, we’re bombarded with self-help marketing that tells us how we can make our bodies stronger, become more successful in business, help ourselves overcome depression… For just a few dollars, we can learn more and do more and make ourselves better.
It’s important to note that the Word talks about Jesus’ growth taking place as He and his family honored God. Certainly, there are steps we can take in our own strength to grow, but no amount of self-help could have prepared Jesus for the calling on His life. And no amount of self-help will take the place of God’s grace in our lives either. We see Christians on their deathbeds with greater wisdom and strength than the most successful self-made leaders or athletes. We don’t gain wisdom and strength by trying to help ourselves. They’re a byproduct of pursuing and honoring God and experiencing His life-changing grace.
During this Christmas season, focus on what’s possible when you draw near to Jesus. You don’t have to struggle to measure up to some unattainable worldly standard. Rest in knowing that true wisdom and strength will come from your proximity to Him. When you pursue Him daily, you’re guaranteed to grow and be equipped for your purpose.
The model that Jesus offers us here is invaluable. Although he had come to fulfil the law, to challenge women and men to become all that God had created them to be, Jesus did not begin by preaching. He started with listening and asking questions. This is always the way to growth and insight. Today, make listening and asking questions – of the Bible and of other people – a focus of your day.
What do you require of me today, O God
Prayer: Father, thank You for being my source of wisdom and strength. Your grace gives me hope for my future. I know You are so much greater than I could ever be and I’m so grateful for Your willingness to share Your strength with me. When I struggle, help me lean on You rather than myself.