By Roland W. Keith
Are you a person of influence? Are you a parent, sibling, or boss? A spouse, a teacher, employer, or employee? Then the answer is yes. We all affect others around us in indirect or intangible ways, as well as directly. We all exert a spiritual or moral force on those in our lives. Moreover, we all have some impact on the condition and development of other people, especially those within our own families. The real question isn’t whether or not you are an influential person, but rather what kind of influence are you exerting? Jesus once said, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
As Christians it is our responsibility to be a force for good in the world. In so doing we develop a good name for ourselves and favor in the community, which has greater value than worldly riches (Proverbs 22:1), and we bring glory to the one we serve (Matthew 5:14-16). Our influence on others begins and ends with the things we say and do (Matthew 12:34-35). Does our behavior reflect the teachings of Christ? Do we have a positive or negative attitude in life? Do we look at the world and its condition and shrug our shoulders and say, “There’s nothing I can do, the world’s problems are too big for me,” or do we ask, “What can I do to help fix things,” then roll up our sleeves and get to work.
The world’s problems are not too big for us if we are trusting in God. Paul wrote this to the Philippians, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:27-29). What is going on in the world should concern us, but it should not intimidate us into inaction. As James said, “You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18).
The world (and our fellow Christians) know us by our works. Every once in a while, we need to assess our own efforts and ask, “What am I saying to others with my life?” Are we telling them we love God and the church? Are we showing concern for our neighbors? (Luke 10:27; John 13:34-35). Or, are we in fact still conforming to the world (I Peter 1:14-16)? As someone once said “silence is consent.” We can’t hide in a building we call the church while the world rages around us. We have a duty to stand up to the world and sin come what may. In his first letter Peter wrote, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth. When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly” (I Peter 2:21-23). Do not misunderstand these words. Peter is not saying that Jesus kept His mouth shut to what was going on around Him. Anyone who has studied the life of Christ knows that He confronted sin head on, and He expects us to do the same; what he did not do was get dragged down to the world’s level and play their game, moreover He taught us to follow His example and rise above the world, exerting godly influence at every opportunity.
If we do that then our effect on the world will live on beyond our own lifetimes, much like Abel’s (Hebrews 11:4). As Christ lives in us, He will live on in those we touch with His gospel, and those we lead, even as we follow in His footsteps. Not only will our efforts bear fruit for the Lord here on this earth, but they will follow us beyond this life (James 2:18; Revelation 14:12-13).
Every once in a while, I walk into someone’s house and see a quote from the Bible displayed on one of their walls, or a Bible displayed prominently in a main room and I am reminded of Deuteronomy 11:18-21. What we present to others in our homes says a lot about us, especially when we make it a focus of our daily routine for all to see and hear, beyond our own walls. Thinking on these verses from the Old Testament got me to thinking of a conversation I was a part of not long ago. It was about our country and the direction it is headed in and the impact newly proposed laws and amendments and court decisions will have on the church. One of the sentiments expressed during the conversation was the belief that a time may come in the not too distant future when the church will have to meet in homes or other private venues.
The idea was that we would be driven underground, meeting in secret to protect ourselves. But recent events involving the slaughter of Christians in other parts of the world, coupled with scriptures like those in Deuteronomy have made me realize we cannot hide away from the world, nor are we suppose to. Our influence is meant to extend to the world around us, not be kept hidden away among the faithful. Going back to Matthew 5 we read more of Jesus words: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
The Lord expects us to stand up for the truth and for Him, as He made clear when He said, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38). We must be willing to not only live according to the teachings of Christ, but to share them with the world, for as Paul wrote, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). Paul suffered much for the cause of Christ reminding those who questioned his apostleship: “Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure” (II Corinthians 11:23-27).
The Lord died for us and set the example that we must be willing to die for the truth and for one another. Paul’s life and works are recorded in part as a testimony of one who followed that example faithfully. If hardship and persecution come our way whose influence will prevail in our lives, the Lord’s or the world’s? Will we in turn become an influence for spiritual cowardice or Christian strength. Will we become a stumbling block for the lost and our fellow Christians or a beacon of light? Will we follow the path of our Lord and as Paul be able to claim, “For he says, "In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you." Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left” (II Corinthians 6:2-7).
Jesus honored His father’s will even unto death. Paul honored his Master body and soul, in life and death, a hope he spoke of and lived up to (Philippians 1:20; II Timothy 4:6-8), confident in the reward of his King. With Paul we can be assured of our place in heaven if we are a faithful servant. One whose influence on the world is a godly one. If we are faithful and true then what Paul noted of the faithful of old can be said of us: “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:16).
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.