Jesus Grew in Favor With God And Man

“Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.” – Luke 2:52

Luke 2:52 tells us that Jesus grew in favor with God and man (ESV). So what exactly is favor? I think we are most familiar with the idea that favor is preferential treatment shown to somebody. It denotes acceptance, approval, and pleasure. We want to emulate Jesus by seeking favor with God and man. 

What does it mean for me to find favor with God? God is not some shadowy, largely unknown being. He has revealed Himself completely and fully in the Person of Jesus Christ. If you want to have favor with God, be fully committed to His Son, Jesus Christ. Worship and revere Him, gain a heart like His, and display His characteristics in your life. Jesus prayed that we would have the kind of unity with our Heavenly Father and with one another that He had with His own Father. “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” (John 17:20-21). Just as Jesus shared intimacy with God, we can share that intimacy with God too, as we love Him like Jesus did – with all our heart, mind, soul and strength: “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” (Mark 12:30). 

Finding favor with God enables you to find favor with man. If we treat people the way we desire them to treat us, we will walk in favor with men. If we respect people and keep an eye out for the welfare of others, people will do the same for us. Proverbs 3:3-4 tells us, “Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart. Then you will find favor with both God and people, and you will earn a good reputation.”  

One way to find favor with God and man is to serve others. Servitude is not a glamorous concept. Who in their right mind would sign up for a life of servitude? Yet God knows how service to others will bless us as well as the community around us. Service is a great way to how we are connected, even indebted, to others. None of us became the people we are alone, but by the sacrifice and investment of many others from our earliest years. Serving others not only reveals the bonds between us; it reflects the love of God. When we notice service to us, and when we serve others, we experience God’s grace. It points people to Christ. Jesus emptied Himself for us, though we deserved nothing. His example calls us to “…submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21). In our “me-first” culture, God calls us to put others first. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Are there ways that we wrongly make serving only about ourselves?
  2. How can serving others remind you of your status with Jesus?
  3. What are practical ways you can serve in your everyday life?  

Jesus Grew In Favor with God

“Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.” – Luke 2:52

Luke 2:52 tells us that Jesus grew in favor with God. That is not an outrageous statement given, theologically, that Christ is Lord and has been with God from the beginning. It is difficult to wrap your head around the idea that even Jesus grew. You can read commentaries, listen to sermons, and spend hours pondering the subject, but it is one of those things we will never fully grasp this side of Heaven.   

This entire passage of Scripture (Luke 2:40-52) is a picture of Jesus’ growth. We have lots of details about Jesus’ birth, and we have great detail about His ministry, death, and resurrection. But the 30 years between His birth and His public ministry are almost silent. All we know about those years is what we read in Luke 2.  At the core of Jesus’s growth was an understanding of His purpose in life. Jesus knew that His growth was ultimately preparation for the fulfillment of His mission. He knew the importance to become close to God through the discipline of prayer, scripture study, fasting, etc.

Many people in the Bible grew in favor. Joseph experienced favor because the Lord was with Him. (Genesis 39:3-4) Moses found favor in the sight of God. (Exodus 33:17) Samuel found favor with the Lord and with people. (1 Samuel 2:26) Mary, the mother of Jesus, found favor with the Lord. (Luke 1:30) David found favor with the Lord. (Acts 7:46) We can find favor with God as well. 

We will find favor with God when we commit ourselves to obey Him. Jesus shows us that some spiritual disciplines can be done by yourself. For example, in Mark 1:35, we learn, “Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.” Jesus prioritized spending time with God the Father alone.  

How do we put these spiritual disciplines into practice? Try a few disciplines for a month or two. Instead of aiming for perfection and getting frustrated at any missteps, see the practice of spiritual disciplines as a journey of learning.

Finding God’s favor is a continual process.  The Lord begins to cut things out of our life, and grant us a deeper understanding of Him and His nature.  It is in seeking the Lord with all of our heart that He grants us the ability to find Him and to know Him in a powerful way.  His favor grants us the power to carry His love, holiness, and His word in a real and tangible way. If we seek daily, to increase our spiritual knowledge, we will be blessed, guided, and prepared for our true potential.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Take some time this week to reflect and pray.  Ask God to guide you and speak to you about growing your relationship with Him. 
  2. When and where do you feel closest to God? Pay attention to the experiences, practices, and relationships that draw you toward God. 
  3. Choose a discipline and work on it this week.  

Jesus Grew In Wisdom

“Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.” – Luke 2:52

 We all want to grow, but how often do we actually take steps in the right direction? Today, everyone seems to have an opinion about the best way to better ourselves and develop into the people we want to be. But as believers, we only need to look to Jesus as our ultimate example. 

The Bible interestingly only gives us one verse, to sum up, this season of Jesus’s life. What was Jesus doing during these years, and how was He preparing himself for a life of ministry? The Bible tells us that Jesus grew. And one of the areas in which He grew was wisdom. That seems odd. How could Jesus Christ, the very epitome of wisdom, “grow in wisdom?” But that is what the Bible, the Word of God tells us. There is nothing more valuable to our personal growth than wisdom. Proverbs 4:7 reminds us that “Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! And whatever else you do, develop good judgment.”

Gaining wisdom is continuous. We never stop learning. Proverbs 9:9 (NIV) says, “Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more.” The wise person is not a know-it-all but a learn-it-all. Wisdom also brings blessing. Proverbs 3:13 says, “Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding.”

Spending time reading and studying God’s Word is also crucial to cultivating wisdom. If we want to become wise we must see the Bible as our manual for living. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 tells us about the wisdom that the Bible offers for all areas of our life: “And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.”

Wisdom is in biblical terms, is then putting biblical principles into practice. God will give me this wisdom, but only if I am prepared to act on it. If I am not convinced His wise way is the best, then He will not give me wisdom.  

Too often, we’re satisfied with what we already know. We become complacent and stunt our own growth. Wisdom is one of the fruits of growing in our faith. One of the easiest ways to stimulate growth toward wisdom is to learn from the wisdom of others. Being curious about people, observing them, respecting their different ways of doing things and their different perspectives — all of these help us stretch ourselves.  

Discussion Questions

  1. What is the wisdom that comes from God like?
  2. Do you see God as the One to whom you can go for wisdom? Why or why not? 

Spiritual Growth

“So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.” – 1 Peter 2:1-3.   

It’s important to grow. Have you thought about growth, not physical growth but spiritual growth? There is a lot of talk today about church growth, building bigger and bigger churches with more and more people. But even more important than church growth is individual growth, personal, and spiritual growth.  

The apostle Peter raised the issue in 1 Peter 2. The reason to grow is that we have been commanded to grow. The responsibility to grow is incumbent on each believer. The rate of growth is never as fast as we would like it to be. The bottom line is it takes a lifetime to grow, and you will experience both joy and pain in that lifetime.

Growth is what we do with the knowledge we acquire over that lifetime. Growth is where we take that knowledge and apply it to our everyday lives. If we would grow, we must want to grow. Psalm 42:1 says, “As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God.” How badly do you want to know Him better, to grow closer to Him? That’s a challenge for us today because there are so many things in our lives that cry out for attention and take our energy and our passions. Being a Christian is not dependent upon, nor is it summed up by simply sitting in a pew and listening to the preacher. The Christian faith is living dynamically. It’s a yearning for God, to know God, to be excited about God.  

When God delivered the Israelites out of Egypt, He didn’t take the shortcut to the promised land. He took a circuitous, scenic route Why? They weren’t ready. The goal of going after a God-sized dream isn’t simply accomplishing it. It’s who you become in the process. As you work on growing spiritually, do not miss the lesson, work on your character and make changes you need to make. God is preparing you for something bigger, something better.  

Scripture is the one and only blueprint on how to grow. It’s never too late to learn. And especially that’s true in terms of the Christian faith and growing in the Lord. The challenge to all of us is to look at 2022 as a time to grow. A time to be involved. A great time to be living and serving the Lord and doing community with other believers.   

Discussion Questions:

  1. Are you content with your spiritual growth? Where would you like it to be? 
  2. What needs to change to get it where you want it to be? 

 

Are We There Yet?

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” – Isaiah 40:321 (ESV). 

If there is one question that has been asked by every child it is probably this one: Are we there yet? Generations of children have asked it. They have then grown into parents and then grandparents and continue to be asked that question. 

You have to wonder how many times the Israelites asked that question of Moses. Before rescuing them from slavery and leading them out of Egypt, Moses told them that the Lord would lead them to “a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 3:8) He did, but first, they spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness. This was no ordinary wandering, however. They were not lost; they were wandering for a purpose. The children of Israel needed to have their hearts, souls, and minds reoriented toward God. This was accomplished in the wilderness: “Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands.” (Deuteronomy 8:2) But not before an entire generation died because of their disobedience. Numbers 32:13 says, “The Lord was angry with Israel and made them wander in the wilderness for forty years until the entire generation that sinned in the Lord’s sight had died.”

In life, it sometimes seems as if we are wandering in circles. We feel lost. We want to ask God, “Are we there yet? How much longer?” At such times, it helps to remember that the journey, not just the destination, is important to God. How often do we get focused on the destination and forget to pay attention to the journey? We’re anxious to move on from one season of our life to another physically and spiritually. So much that we sometimes forget the journey’s just as important as the destination. Maybe it’s even more important.  

When Jesus said “Follow me” to Peter, He was setting Peter out on a journey. Peter didn’t immediately become the bold apostle we see later in Acts. No, he had to wait. Had to wait for the Holy Spirit to come. It was through the journey Peter developed into the man Jesus called him to be.

Yes, the destination is important and we need to have goals and identify where we’re called, but then we need to allow God to set the timeline and take us through His journey. It’s the journey, after all, that prepares us for the destination.

What about today? Are you impatiently waiting to get to your next destination? Or, are you allowing God to take you through the journey?  In times when you are impatient, remember to relax, and learn what God is trying to teach you in the journey.

Discussion Questions

  1. What’s something you’re currently waiting for God to do for you? What might He be doing in you?
  2. Why do you think God’s timing is different from ours? What could be so different about our perspective?  What do you typically do while you are waiting? 

Do You Believe In Miracles?

“You are the God of miracles and wonders! You still demonstrate Your awesome power.” – Psalm 77:14 (TLB)

We live in a world where almost anything seems possible. Technology and computer tricks of today make it almost impossible to discern fact from fiction. Movie effects no longer amaze us as we’ve come to expect fantastical creatures to come alive in realistic far-off landscapes. We’re taught to be skeptical because any media can be altered. We read in the Bible on how God parted the Red Sea, gave sight to the blind, healed lepers, and raised Lazarus from the grave. But that was then and this is now. Do miracles still happen? 

In other words, does God miracles today as He did in biblical times: The first possibility is God performed many miracles during Biblical times and then stopped, concluding that He did everything He needed to do to prove Himself. The second possibility is that God does miracles today just like in Biblical times; we just don’t hear about them, see them, or attribute them to Him. The second possibility makes more sense. If Jesus Christ could perform miracles two thousand years ago, He still can today. His heart broke for those hurting then, so it still does now. His desire to heal never changes. He’s the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

The movie Breakthrough is the story of John Smith, a 14-year-old boy, drowned in a lake in a tragic accident. After being rushed to the hospital, John was without a pulse for almost an hour. Like most moms, John’s mother prayed that God would miraculously revive her son. When almost all hope was lost, John’s pulse returned. The doctors attending John could only describe it as a miracle.  There is no other explanation. John’s story is a powerful reminder that God is still in the business of doing miracles.  

Chances are, you can also think of a miracle in your own life or the life of someone close to you. A body healed, a marriage saved, a crisis averted, a heart mended…and many more. It is an amazing thing to see an act of God that can’t be explained any other way. It’s nothing to do with luck or coincidence. God can break into our world any time He chooses to do things that we cannot explain. Jesus said in Luke 18:27, “What is impossible for people is possible with God.” Jeremiah 32:17 says, “O Sovereign LORD! You made the heavens and earth by your strong hand and powerful arm. Nothing is too hard for you!”

Jeremiah, knowing who God is and what He is says, “Nothing is too hard for you.” So what you see as impossibilities is addressed in Jeremiah 32:27: “I am the LORD, the God of all the peoples of the world. Is anything too hard for me?”

Hudson Taylor said it succinctly: “There are three stages in the work of God: impossible, difficult, done.” 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you ever witnessed a miracle? If so describe what happened? 
  2. Why do you think so many people today don’t believe in miracles?

  The Enemies Of Christianity

“I will search with lanterns in Jerusalem’s darkest corners to punish those who sit complacent in their sins. They think the LORD will do nothing to them, either good or bad.” – Zephaniah 1:12. 

If you asked a group of believers what the enemies of Christianity are you would probably get the following answers: “Sin.” “Satan.” “Pride.” Those are good answers; they are the enemies of Christianity.  But would anybody say complacency?  

Complacency is basically contentment with the status quo. Among Christians, it is contentment with the way things are—in one’s own spiritual life. You can be reading your Bible every day, going to church every week, etc., and still be complacent. 

It is easy to want to tread water rather than face change and the unknown. Complacency can happen when we grow tired, lose focus, allow things contrary to God to flood our mind so we grow desensitized and question our passion for the process of growing and yearning after God; and most importantly applying it to our life. Galatians 6:9 tells us, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

One sure way to battle competency is to spend time in the Word.  If Jesus is the Word, and the Word is alive, then when we read the Bible, we are having an actual, real conversation with the Living God. It’s not just reading to read — it’s reading towards a deeper relationship. Another way to battle complacency is to make a commitment. When someone asks me to sign up for something new — something that adds a new discipline or a new area of service, consider making a commitment, even if it is short-term.  When you commit to a short-term spiritual challenge, you will most likely be motivated to keep going. 

The third way to battle complacency is by creating time and space for God to speak to you. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to do all the things that we do for God, and never give God the chance to speak to us. When God speaks to you, it will change everything. Complacency fades because God becomes real.   

When the Jesus you know about is replaced by the Jesus you know, complacency will be a thing of the past. “I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes.” (Job 42:5 ESV) 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is it difficult to recognize when complacency has set in? Why? 
  2. What can we do this week to counteract any complacency in our lives?     

 Life Is A Long Race

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” – Hebrews 12:1.

We’ve all heard the saying, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” The current world record holder for the 100-meter sprint is Usain Bolt, the “fastest man on earth” with a time of 9.58 seconds. That’s fast! The current world record holder for the marathon (26.2 miles) is Eliud Kipchoge with a time of 2 hours, 1 minute, and 39 seconds. These are two very different events that require very different skill sets, body types, training regimens, preparation, and strategy.

When we first became a Christian, we came out of the blocks like Usain Bolt. We can’t wait to tell everyone we could about what happened. We poured into our Bibles, got involved in church, learned how to pray, and sought after God like Usain Bolt seeks the finish line.

But over time, we come to realize that our walk with Jesus is a long race. Life happens, storms come, distractions are inevitable, and sometimes you run out of gas. Marathoners call that “hitting the wall. ” This typically happens two-thirds into the race when their legs feel like concrete and feelings of utter fatigue and negativity set in. They wonder if they can make it to the finish line. Things are different from the days as a new Christian when we jumped out starting blocks in a dead sprint, seeking the things of God.

The Christian life is much more a marathon than it is a sprint. God wants us to be endurance runners – the kind of people who will run the whole stretch of our race and finish victorious at the end.

The good news is we don’t run the race alone. God will help us. So when you grow weary and hit the wall, don’t be discouraged. God knows exactly where you’re at in your journey, and He knows the next steps. He wants to run the race with you. The Christian life is more like a marathon than a short sprint. Whether we have a few years left or many in our journey of life, we need the perseverance to press on. Paul says in Philippians 3:14, “I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” 

The good news is Jesus made us lightweight runners. He took the burden of our sins and placed them on himself at the cross. Then he rose from the dead and sat at the right hand of God to pray for us to fight sin and continue in faith throughout the long race that is life.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are your big hopes and dreams for the race that God has set out for you in 2022?
  2. What do you think could be some of the challenges that you will need to persevere with?How can we better exercise our faith and put it into practice?

 The Promises Of God 

“The promises of God are to the believer an ‘inexhaustible mine of wealth’. Happy is it for him if he knows how to search out their secret veins and enrich himself with their hidden treasures. They are an ‘armory’, containing all manner of offensive and defensive weapons. Blessed is he who has learned to enter into the sacred arsenal, to put on the breastplate and the helmet, and to lay his hand to the spear and to the sword. They are a ‘pharmacy’, in which the believer will find all manner of restoratives and blessed elixirs…blessed is he who is well skilled in heavenly pharmacy and knows how to lay hold on the healing virtues of the promises of God.” – Charles Spurgeon.

Did you ever stay up late watching an infomercial about a boat made of tape, a knife sharp enough to cut through a soda can, or an exercise machine that promises you the fitness results you’ve always wanted? We are typically skeptical, but something in us, says, “Hmm, maybe I’ll give it a try.” Maybe it’s the features and benefits. Or the low price. Or the money-back guarantee. So you placed the order and found yourself in some cases owning something that doesn’t live up to the promises. Fortunately, God does live up to His promises.
 
Remember when the people of God were slaves in Egypt. They were oppressed, weak, and helpless but God promised that He would rescue them and give them a land of their own. So, He raised up leaders like Moses and in miraculous and surprising ways led their escape from Pharaoh’s reign.  He continued to care and provide for the people as they wandered in the desert by giving them food and water, causing them to win battles, and continually leading them to their promised land. 
 
What does this mean for us today? God has made promises to us, and He keeps them. There are too many to list in this short devotional. We know from historical and current evidence that the promises of God are sure. “And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.” – 2 Peter 1:4. God keeps His promises so now what? Do we keep these promises hidden for some future date? Do we set them on some shelf to collect dust waiting for us to get around to experiencing them?

God’s promises require faith. We must trust in God and believe He’ll follow through on his promises. In fact, experiencing His promises to the extent God intends for you requires trust. Philippians 4:19 says, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” God promises to supply every need of yours.” His promises are sure.

So when you see storms on the horizon, do not be afraid. Hold fast to God, dig in deeper in prayer, study His word, and trust in His promises.

Discussion Questions:
1. What are you trusting God with today? Are you anxiously or patiently waiting for God to fulfill His promises?

2. We can trust God, no matter how impossible the circumstances, because God always keeps His promises. Agree or disagree and why? 

 Fear Of The Future

“In those days when you pray, I will listen.  If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.” – Jeremiah 29:12-14. 

In the book of Jeremiah, we read about how the people of God had been captured by King Nebuchadnezzar and taken into captivity in Babylon. In their eyes, their future looked bleak and scary. They had no idea if they would ever get to go back home or what would happen to them while they were in Babylon. Would families be split up? Would they be abused and tortured? Would they be slaves? What would the future hold? In chapter 29 we find a letter from Jeremiah encouraging the people who were in exile with the truth that God will rescue them.

The question for each of us is, can God be trusted with our future? Most Christians would answer that question with a definitive yes. But each time we struggle with letting go of our agendas to follow Christ, we are asking if we can trust God to navigate the future successfully. The bottom line is we can trust God.   

Through all of Scripture God shows us who He is, what He is like, and what He does. He tells us that He is all-powerful; He can do things that we can never do on our own. He is loving and kind. He is faithful. He has a plan. We are called to be faithful in the little things, with the little things, for the little things right now, and trust God with the rest. We are where we are when we are for a reason. God has placed us here now. Instead of being of feeling fear, take comfort in the fact that “…every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” (Psalm 139:16). and “the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11).

If you have ever worried about your future, wondered how to prepare, or feared that you might miss God’s calling on your life, hold fast to these truths and remember — you are where you are for a reason. Press on where God has placed you. He is using where you are and your circumstances this moment as a training ground for the future. Ask yourself these questions: are you willing to do your best and pour yourself out wherever you are right now? Are you willing to stop being distracted by all of the “what ifs” of the future and trust God?  

We can prepare for our futures by being the people God has called us to be in our present life circumstances and, by faith, leave the rest in His ever-capable hands.

That is the best way to prepare for the future. Yes, none of us knows what will happen in the coming year. But the Bible also assures us God knows, and that we can trust Him. In fact, He has declared “the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10 ESV). As Christians, we possess a hope that is unshakable.

Discussion Questions

  1. If you were able to know one thing about the future, what would it be?  
  2. What can we do this week to trust and accept God’s plan for the future?