(February 09, 2022) Richard Winter challenges…

History is in many ways a story of influence.

  • Leadership is about influence.
  • Everyone influences someone.
  • Therefore, in a sense, everyone is a leader.

Sociologists tell us that even the most introverted individual will influence 10,000 other people during his or her lifetime.

We all influence one another in all sorts of ways – from what to have for lunch and what films to watch, to more important matters of truth and ethics.

My life has been influenced by so many people – my parents, teachers, pastors, friends, and family. Just as I have been influenced by others, inevitably what I do and say will influence others for good or ill.

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As the African proverb puts it, ‘If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent the night with a mosquito.’

The mosquito, of course, makes a difference in an annoying way… but the principle is the same. One person can stop a great injustice. One person can be a voice for truth. One person’s kindness can save a life. Each person matters.

How can you maximise your influence and use that influence for good?

God chose Israel and blessed its people in a special way. His purpose was not that they should feel proud and superior to others. Rather, it was that they should be a blessing to the whole world (Genesis 12:3).

They were blessed to be a blessing. They were called to use their influence for the good of all nations.

Now, God has chosen us, the church, to be a blessing to all people. You too are blessed to be a blessing. Psalm 96:1-13 has a multi-national focus –it proclaims the wonders and blessings of God to everyone. It is an encouragement to maximise your good for the good of everyoneand here’s how God planned it…

We are called to bless through –
1. Worship
It is interesting to note in passing that worship should be creative and include innovation: ‘They sang ‘a brand-new song’ (Psalm 96:1Message).

Yes, music styles have changed in the church and so have we…we are clapping, raising our arms to up-tempo music.

2. Witness
The psalmist says: ‘Shout the news of his victory from sea to sea, take the news of his glory to the lost,
news of his wonders to one and all!’ (v2-3Mge).

It’s a case of ‘Get out the message – God rules!’ (v10aMge). With this in mind we can ask the  Lord, that we never become inward looking or self-indulgent.

May everything we do as individuals and as a community be outward focused in order to bring blessing to the world – proclaiming your salvation day after day.

Now in getting the word out we can examine how the apostle Paul thought about outreach…

3. Outreach
In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul makes it clear that he is absolutely determined to maximise his influence for good and to ‘put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ’ (v12b). He is deeply conscious of his influence as a Christian.

Are we as conscious of our influence?

Paul even took a second job as a tent maker although his primary task was to be a preacher of the word. As Christians we all have second jobs – they are what we do to support ourselves and our families, but the focus of our lives is to tell others about Jesus.

And along with worship, witness and outreach we are to…

4. Plant good seeds in life wherever we are!
In Ecclesiastes chapters 9 through14 King Solomon is very aware of the power of influence, that influence can be for good or evil.

For example… One wise person can save a city (9:15). On the other hand, ‘one sinner destroys much good’ (v18b). Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot are glaring examples of this principle. 

But the influence does not have to be as great as these tyrants in order to have a bad effect: ‘Dead flies in perfume make it stink, and a little foolishness decomposes much wisdom’ (10:1Mge).

Our job is to influence for good and not for bad. As Christians we are to grow and mature and to work for the extension of God’s kingdom.

Actually, the writer of Ecclesiastes has much to say about how to be a good influence, rather than a bad on. So how do you do that? Well…

(i) Watch your words
Solomon reminds us that ‘words from the mouth of the wise are gracious’ (10:12a). And to respond to hot-tempered words with calmness (10:4). Avoid gossiping and bad-mouthing your family, your leaders, or your associates.

Be careful what you say or even think. Don’t revile people ‘even in your thoughts’ or curse them ‘in your bedroom, because a bird of the air may carry your words, and report what you say’ (10:20).

(ii) Take risks for Jesus
To maximise your influence for good you need to take risks!

Ecclesiastes 11:1-2Mge is an encouragement to ‘Be generous: Invest in acts of charity and acts of love. Charity yields high returns. Don’t hoard your goods; spread them around. Be a blessing to others.’

In other words, it’s ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained.’

If we are too cautious we will never achieve anything. ‘Whoever watches the wind will not plant;

  • To love is to risk not being loved in return.
  • To try is to risk failure.
  • But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing!

If we are too cautious we will never achieve anything. ‘Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap’ (11:4).

We could apply this principle to church planting. It will require risk and determination and we must not be daunted by seemingly insuperable obstacles. We must not be put off due to ‘wind’ and ‘clouds.’

That is to keep busy with God’s plans and don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Press ahead on all fronts and make the most of every opportunity.

(iii) Spread your efforts
In order to maximise influence, you might have to juggle different opportunities in your life: ‘Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed’ (11:6).

This is why as a church we try to sow seeds in every direction – through worship, prayer, leadership, discipleship, theological training, social transformation, evangelism, fighting injustice, working with the poor and the marginalised.

(iv)Take your opportunities
Life is short!

Don’t waste time worrying. ‘… banish anxiety from your heart…’ (11:10). Your opportunities are limited: ‘Even if you live a long time, don’t take a single day for granted. Take delight in each light-filled hour… You who are young, make the most of your youth’ (v8a,9Mge).

Ecclesiastics finishes with a conclusion to all of us looking at life and are searching and questioning.

The meaning of life ultimately rests in your relationship with God.

Revere him and keep his commandments. This is the whole duty for every person (12:13b).

Remember the moral of this message is that you have influence even if it’s only a little… but never forget how much influence a mosquito has in your life at night!

So let’s conclude with a little prayer, little only in words… but in significance great: ‘Lord, help me to revere you and keep your commandments. Help me to use my influence for good and not for evil. Help me to make the most of every opportunity that you have put before me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.’
 Dr Richard Winter pastors The Connection Church, Huntington Beach, California

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