Luke 2:52 provides a clear, simple model for growing like Jesus, but does it apply only to the development of our faith? Or does it also help us grow in other areas, like in our work or as leaders in our homes and communities?
Think, for instance, about the Olympics. How might Luke 2:52 provide counsel for these elite athletes?
Wisdom: Jesus grew in wisdom that was rooted in a fear of the Lord, and the result was that he made “smart” choices. Olympic athletes don’t just dive in a pool and swim hard or jump on a bike and pedal fast. They study their event and their opponents. They contemplate strategies. They do their best to come up with a wise plan that gives them the best chance to win.
Stature: Jesus took care of his physical body, and obviously this is a high priority for elite athletes. Some of them, in fact, bring personal trainers and nutritionist with them to the Games.
Favor with God: Many Olympians don’t have a relationship with Jesus, so they aren’t intentionally growing in the grace of God. Most, if not all of them, however, compete for something bigger than themselves, especially at the Olympics. Elite athletes generally recognize that their talent is a gift, not a right. They compete to honor their countries and to honor their gifts.
Favor with man: Elite athletes, even those competing as soloists, need other people – coaches, teammates, family and friends. Building strong relationships provides encouragement and motivation.
For followers of Jesus, of course, growing in our faith is fundamental to every area of our lives. It’s not “a priority,” it’s “the priority. So practicing Luke 2:52 looks similar but different to athletes who call Jesus their Savior and Lord.
Consider David Boudia and Steele Johnson, the American duo who won a silver medal in men’s synchronized diving. If you watched them, you know they are in great physical shape. They take care of their bodies. You also can see that they have a relationship that lifts each other up and helps each other grow closer to Christ. And their fear of the Lord gives them not only the wisdom to make smart decisions about how to compete, but about how to live and how to view success.
In their post-event interview with NBC’s Kelli Stavast, both athletes were able to not only praise God for their blessings, but to put that praise in a context that non-believers could appreciate.
“When my mind is on this, thinking I’m defined by this, then my mind goes crazy,” Boudia said about the Games. “But we both know our identity is in Christ.”
Steele took that idea even further.
“The fact that I was going into this event knowing that my identity is rooted in Christ and not what the result of this competition is just gave me peace,” he said. “It gave me ease, and it let me enjoy the contest. If something went great, I was happy. If something didn’t go great, I could still find joy because I’m at the Olympics competing with the best person, the best mentor, just one of the best people to be around.
“So, God’s given us a cool opportunity, and I’m glad I could’ve come away with an Olympic silver medal in my first ever event.”
When we grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man, we might not always win the gold medal or get the promotion at work. But, like Boudia and Johnson, we can face whatever comes our way with peace and share that peace with everyone around us.