The simple truth is, all of us have influence on others, whether we know it or not. And this influence can be good or bad, positive or negative. Our very lives will always have some sort of impact on others, and it is vital that this impact is a helpful and edifying one.
But sadly we can also have a very negative impact on others, and bring about much harm. And this can even come about by not really doing much of anything: simply blobbing along through life can impact others – but for ill, not for good. That is, even when we are not seeking to have any influence, we will still be affecting others.
For example, a non-Christian may not be actively or directly hostile to Christ and the gospel, but simply being a non-believer means you are not having a godly influence on others which you were created to be doing. As Jesus so plainly said, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12;30).
Another thing about influence is this: we often just don’t know what sort of influence, or how much, we are having on others. The feedback is not always there, and it will not really be till the next life that we actually learn just how much of an influencer we were – for good or ill.
So let me here mention an example of each sort of influence, beginning with the good. If you are a Christian and determined to reflect Christ in all you do, you should be having a daily impact on others. You may not be aware of such influence, and you may not hear much about it, but influence you will be having.
If you are involved in any sort of Christian leadership, you will likely get some feedback. But from my experience, a lot of this feedback is of the negative variety. People seem quite willing to share all their criticisms of you, and offer their many complaints.
Thus you will often be aware that some people do not like what you are doing, and they will let you know about it in no uncertain terms. Positive feedback may be a bit more difficult to come by. Even simple expressions of gratitude for something you have done may be rare and sporadic.
Just consider the time when Jesus healed ten lepers – only one bothered to come back and thank him. Well, the servant is not above the master, so that will often be our lot as well. I for example do not get heaps of praise or encouragement. I seldom hear if my various efforts have borne any fruit.
It will only be when I go to be with the Lord that I will learn of any good I might have done for Christ and the Kingdom. But on occasion I will get some feedback, alerting me to the fact that I have helped someone become a Christian, or grow in their Christian faith, or simply encouraged them along the way.
An example of this came just today. A person had read one of my articles and it helped her in a process of recommitment to Christ by the sound of it. Her remarks are as follows:
Just this morning, I was convicted of how for most all my life, I have ignored God’s Word even in my so-called “Christian” life. I have gone to the Lord to confess my sin of hypocrisy, rebellion, deceitfulness and refusal to hear and obey. I had asked the Lord why it has taken me sooo long to see all this and I put my question into my search engine and this article popped up. God used your writing to reveal the answer and Spurgeon’s writings are my favourite to reveal truth to my soul. Thanks be to God for His Grace and Mercy to such as people like myself – a brand plucked from the fire.
The article she referred to is this one, written seven years ago: billmuehlenberg.com/2012/07/20/the-normal-christian-life-a-growing-awareness-of-sin/
Wow, now that is encouraging. It is good to know that what I do may have a bit of an impact for good once in a while. It is easy for all of us to get discouraged and think we are doing nothing of value for the Lord, but then every now and then we get a bit of positive feedback like this, and it renews us, encourages us, and emboldens us to keep on keeping on.
Who knows how many people we may have helped to lead to the Lord or strengthen in their walk as disciples? Most times we will never hear about what good we may have done. God of course gets all the glory here, but as Paul reminds us, we all have a role to play. Some plant, some water, and some reap the harvest – so we all can make valuable contributions.
There are also, sadly, many cases of negative influence. Every time a Christian falls away, or backslides, or apostasises, it influences and affects us all – for the worse. We get discouraged every time we hear of a brother or sister falling away, or repudiating Christ, or rejecting basic Christian teachings.
This happens far too often. Whenever we learn of a fellow Christian betraying the gospel or denouncing some aspects of biblical truth, it hurts us all. It certainly hurts me. I groan in my spirit and have to cry out to God whenever I hear of another case of a believer going the wrong direction, holding to false doctrine, or pushing ungodly agendas.
Just this week an example of this occurred. A couple I have known for a long time who have been stalwarts in defending marriage and family seem to have started to capitulate on the issue of homosexuality. Media reports of course always have to be regarded with some suspicion, but if this is true, and is a case of caving in to a worldly agenda, then it is a real worry indeed.
And this happens so often. Leaders, pastors, churches, even entire denominations, will compromise on key biblical truths, or even repudiate them altogether. That affects all of us. We all suffer when any professing Christian starts to lose the plot, or veers away from biblical truth and values.
It is so easy for us to get discouraged, and even want to give up altogether, when we see others caving in and falling away. It takes special strength and perseverance to hang in there when it seems all around you so many are giving up the fight or even going over to the other side. So that is a very negative sort of influence, and it can certainly take its toll.
My reminder to all of us is this then: we are all influencers. Our daily lives will have all sorts of impact and effect on others. The question is, what sort of influencer will we be? Will we have a positive influence on others, one that spurs others on to know Christ or grow in Christ, or will it be a negative influence, leading others away from Christ or away from growth in Christ? The choice is ours.
I want to be an influencer for Christ and the Kingdom. I want to hear those words one day, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord.”