It was a normal drive home from work on a Monday afternoon. The temperature was just warm enough to have the window cracked to let the fresh air flood the van. The music was up, and I was tapping out the beat on my steering wheel. I’d just pulled off the highway and was nearing home when I swung a little too tight on the curve. A loud “pow” ensued, followed by “ker-thud, ker-thud, ker-thud,” and a hard pull to the right. I grabbed the wheel tightly and “ker-thudded” the van just a few feet into a nearby parking lot and stopped. Hopping out quickly, I circled the car and saw the cause of my problem. Apparently, I’d hit a pothole that tore a gaping hole in the right front tire. With the van sitting completely on its rim, I realized I wasn’t going anywhere!
That incident from a few months ago came back to me as I was teaching the kids a Bible lesson yesterday. The verse we were focusing on at the time was at the end of Luke chapter 2. In the few words of verse 52, the Scripture identifies four vital areas that need our regular attention to assure balanced growth and development.
“And Jesus grew in wisdom… (or …. Mentally)
Wisdom is often defined as correct application of knowledge, so the first step in attaining wisdom is gaining knowledge. All of us need to keep learning, and that didn’t end when you crossed a stage and grabbed your diploma. While you may not want to do a grammar worksheet or a page of math problems any more, your brain still needs exercise to grow and stretch. You might have noticed a surge in all kinds of brain games for smart phones and tablets that are supposed to help us improve mental acuity. That’s because researchers have discovered that mental inactivity causes us to lose our sharpness. Now, I’m not advocating spending more time in front of a screen to improve your thinking. (Most of us do too much of that already.) But, I am encouraging you to make a conscious effort to stimulate your mind with fresh activities. Read. Take a class. Make a point to discover something new. Then mix your knowledge with the truths of the Word of God and learn to apply what you know correctly. These kinds of creative experiences will help you continue growing in wisdom throughout your life.
and stature, (or …. Physically)
My son, Jason, is always asking me to measure him to see how much he has grown. He’s just dying to be as tall as his 6’3” brother. I keep telling him to be patient. At 13 years old, it won’t be long till he hits his teenage growth spurt and be shooting up quickly. Like all of us though, one day he’ll reach his maximum height, but that doesn’t mean that he (or we) can stop paying attention to our physical health. Our bodies need regular exercise, proper nutrition and rest. That’s not news to anyone, I’m sure. We’ve all read the reports and heard stories of what happens to us when we don’t take care of our bodies, but even so, we opt for an extra piece of cake and stay up too late watching TV. We don’t really need to study the food pyramid any more. What we need is to act on what we already know to continue to cultivate a healthy physical stature.
and in favor with God, (or …. Spiritually)
The literal translation of the word soul in many places in Scripture is “breath” or “breath of life.” So we can define the soul as the part of you which relates to God as Psalm 63:1 seems to indicate. David wrote, “You are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” The soul is that part of you that yearns and stretches out for the Living God. No other thing, and no other person can satisfy that part of you. It must be filled with a relationship with the Living God or you will always feel empty. But spiritual growth doesn’t stop with knowing Jesus as Savior. It’s a lifetime pursuit that can take a variety of forms, but will always include regular study of Scripture, communing with God through prayer, and fellowship with other believers.
and men.” (or…. Relationally)
If you watch little kids on a playground, you’ll see all kinds of bad behavior. They push and shove, take things they want, throw tantrums when they are told ‘no’, and call people names. Have you ever noticed that some strikingly similar behavior takes place in many offices and, unfortunately, churches? Oh, the actions may be a little more subtle and with a lot more polish on them, but underneath, it’s basically the same. You know, there are about 67 “one another” verses in the New Testament. We’re told to love one another (1Pet 1:22; 1 John 4:11), bear with one another (Eph. 4:2), be devoted to one another (Rom. 12:10), and to spur one another on to love and good deeds. (Heb. 10:24). I think the reason there are so many of these is because we are naturally self-centered. We need a lot of training in loving, caring for and just relating to other people in the way God wants. Remember that without consciously developing an “other’s first” attitude, we’ll quickly slide back toward schoolyard behavior.
So, what does all that have to do with the flat tire story that I told at the beginning? Well, my van had three good tires that were working perfectly, but because one had a hole in it, the whole vehicle was stranded. It’s the same with your life. All four of these key areas have to be functioning properly and in balance. If any one of them develops a “hole”, then you’ll find yourself stalled as well.
We’re complex and interconnected beings, so we can expect strain on one area of our lives to bleed into the others. In Psalm 32, David describes the physical ramifications of harboring sin as “his bones wasting away” and “his strength sapped as in the heat of summer.” Matthew 5:23-24 emphasizes the importance of right relationships to our ability to please God with our offerings, and 1 Peter 3:7 exhorts husbands to have a considerate and respectful attitude toward their wives so their prayers won’t be hindered. Think about your own experiences. When you become physically exhausted, how clearly do you think? How well can you read and absorb the scripture? Conversely, haven’t you been physically fatigued after a day of mental strain? How do arguments and strife with family or co-workers affect your mind and body? And, what about being spiritually off-track? Doesn’t that impact how you think and act toward others?
Sometimes the best thing we can do for our overall well-being is to have the courage to do some honest evaluation. Prayerfully examine your life, and look for evidence of “flat tire” living. If you’re feeling stuck, take some time to assess where you are mentally, physically, relationally, and spiritually, and then commit to make any necessary changes. Starting today, take the stairs instead of the elevator, forgive an offense instead of holding a grudge, visit a street fair or museum instead of searching on-line, and especially spend time with the Lord in prayer. It could be these kinds of minor changes are all you need to get back on the road and heading in the right direction.