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Intentional Growth

May 30, 2023

Graduation season is upon us.

When I’m looking for advice for graduates, I often think about the lives of some of the most successful people and what this season of their lives looked like. But this year, I noticed that when you go back and look at the most famous person of all time—Jesus—we know very little about his life from ages 12–30. 

In the entirety of Scripture, there is only one sentence that covers this period of time. It says, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” 

Even though this short verse is all we have about these 18 years of his life, it still provides a great blueprint for graduates (or any individual) desiring to grow in their present season of life. 

The word “increased” indicates an intentional growth. For Jesus, this growth was not just automatic; it was intentional. This word in the original language is the same word used for a person on the frontlines of a battlefield, clearing the path for the men behind him. This is strenuous activity, not just passing development. Growth should not happen by default but by design.

This one sentence said he increased (grew) in 4 ways: wisdom (intellectually), stature (physically), in favor with God (spiritually) and with man (relationally). 

Whether a recent grad or senior adult, we should all focus on growing in these four areas. 

1. Intellectually. Luke 2:52 says that Jesus grew in wisdom during these years. Wisdom and intellectual growth are valuable, and this takes committed time and effort. 

It pays to have knowledge. I love the story where Henry Ford asked electrical genius Charlie Steinmetz to build the generators for his famed automobile factory. One day the generators gave out, and the repairmen on hand couldn’t determine what was wrong. So Ford called Steinmetz, who tinkered with the machines for a few hours to get them up and running again. Weeks later, Ford got a bill for $10,000 from Steinmetz. Astonished, the car maker asked why the bill was so high. Steinmetz replied with an itemized bill: “For tinkering with the generators, $10. For knowing where to tinker, $9,990.” Steinmitz knew his knowledge was valuable.

2. Physically. Jesus increased in stature. This is his physical growth, and it seems like a minor detail until you consider that the verse says he increased in stature intentionally.

Taking care of your body matters at any age, and it can impact every area of your life. Sadly, most of us are more motivated by our physical appearance than our overall health. But I want to encourage you (and myself!) to eat healthy and exercise, so that our bodies will increase in strength to do the good work laid before us each day—in the office, in our homes, and in our communities.

3. Spiritually. There is a lot that could be unpacked, but it can be boiled down to say that we should be intentional about our spiritual growth. As a Christian, I believe this happens through a commitment to a local church, personal Bible reading, prayer, and deep relationships with other believers. That may look different for you, but spiritual growth is part of holistic development. 

4. Relationally. Jesus also grew in favor with man. He had flourishing relationships with individuals in his life.

As a part of a commencement address, former First Lady Barbara Bush said the following to a group of graduating college students: 

“As important as your obligations as a doctor, lawyer, or business leader will be, you are a human being first, and those human connections – with spouses, with children, with friends – are the most important investments you will ever make. At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend, or a parent . . . Our success as a society depends not on what happens in the White House but on what happens inside your house.”

How are you growing in each of these areas?

It’s just as important for a retiree as it is for a recent graduate: work to increase intellectually, physically, spiritually, and relationally.

The more you grow, the more you’ll experience the joys of each unique season of life.


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