I read of a Chinese Communist party official who years ago was asked to write a biography of the great Christian missionary James Hudson Taylor, who founded China Inland Mission. The idea was that a book would be written that would discredit Taylor and lessen his influence.
As the author did his research, he became increasingly impressed by Taylor’s life and found it extremely difficult to carry out his task with a clear conscience. Eventually, he lay aside his pen and renounced his atheism, and received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour. Here was a wonderful lesson on the power of influence. Sometimes we take for granted the way we influence others, but nonetheless, it’s a vital part of everyday life.
Jesus had something to say about this in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. He said:
You are like salt for the whole human race. But if salt loses its saltiness, there is no way to make it salty again. It has become worthless, so it is thrown out and people trample on it. You are like light for the whole world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead, it is put on the lampstand, where it gives light for everyone in the house. In the same way, your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16 GNT).
What Is Influence?
Here is a passage of Scripture all about influence. If you’re a Christian, you would know this to be true—that influence is a real part of your life. But what is it?
Influence is the power we have that will affect someone else or the outcome of an event. Through our actions and words, we will affect what others do or say. We have the power to influence others for good or evil, depending on ourselves. If you think about it, influence is a powerful force we use to move others in one direction or another, even if we’re not aware of it.
Think about your family for a moment. You have a tremendous amount of influence on your children, who when they are young, watch us closely. They watch our every move and remember things we do and say. Children are great imitators of their parents, which shows how powerful our influence is. What kind of example have we had on them? Good or bad?
Wherever we go we have an influence on others. From the beginning of the day to the time we retire for the night. God has given us many opportunities to be his disciples, and it’s up to us to use these opportunities. Don’t ever think you don’t make a difference. You do because God has placed you in your sphere of influence right where you are by your integrity and honesty and sincerity.
Let’s Have a Godly Influence
This will win the hearts and minds of others as they observe you and listen to you talk. It’s not about power or bullying others. You and I are carriers of God’s light and love and his character is seen in our lives. Everyone is affected by your influence. But if you decide to align yourself with the purposes of God and walk with him each day, you will soon see how his light shines from you to others. It happens naturally, right where you live and work. He gives you opportunities to be salt and light for him.
James says in his epistle, “The wisdom from above is pure first of all; it is also peaceful, gentle, and friendly; it is full of compassion and produces a harvest of good deeds; it is free from prejudice and hypocrisy” (James 3:17 GNT). This is godly influence which should be obvious to everyone. You can’t hide a light from shining, and if for some reason people don’t know you’re a Christian, then you are not having a good influence.
You may feel today that you’re not gifted in public speaking or you find it hard to share God with others. Don’t worry about that. Influence happens not with what you have, but with what you are. Jesus did not say, You have salt and light to give. He said You are the salt and You are the light of the world.
A Christian’s presence in the world acts as salt and light. The only question is: how effective are we?