A Peanuts cartoon showed Peppermint Patty talking to Charlie Brown in which she said, “Guess what, Chuck? The first day of school, and I got sent to the principal’s office. It was your fault, Chuck.” Charlie Brown responds, “My fault? How could it be my fault? Why do you say everything is my fault?” Peppermint Patty responds, “You’re my friend, aren’t you, Chuck? You should have been a better influence on me.”
The minister was building a wooden trellis for his vines, and as he was pounding away, he noticed that a little boy was watching him. The youngster didn’t say a word, so the preacher kept on working, thinking the boy would leave. But he didn’t. Pleased at the thought that his work was being admired, the pastor finally said, “Are you trying to pick up some pointers on gardening?” “No,” he replied. “I’m just waiting to hear what a preacher says when he hits his thumb with a hammer.”
Influence—what a powerful word. You have influence, whether you realise it or not, and so do I. It can be very powerful. A mother’s influence on her children is widely known. Several years ago the University of Michigan conducted a nation-wide survey, and when asked what they would like to be when they grew up, 80% of the 11-18-year-old girls surveyed desired to be just like their mother! No other force in children’s life is as strong as their mother’s influence.
What is influence? It’s a power that affects someone or something. It’s not an easy thing to describe, yet we know it when we see it. A mother will say to her young son, Don’t hang about with Johnny—he’s having a bad influence on you. We somehow know what she means.
I think a simple definition is that influence is the ability to persuade others to do what you ask of them. People will take notice of what you say if you are believable—if they trust you. Then you can have a positive influence on others. You can also have a negative influence on others.
But as Albert Einstein said once, “The example of great and pure individuals is the only thing that can lead us to noble thoughts and deeds.” But I have an idea that many people look at us Christians and are not pleased with what they see. They see us as judging them and being narrow-minded.
Bono once said, “Christians are hard to tolerate. I don’t know how Jesus did it”.
We Can Be a Godly Influence
I do hope these days we are more compassionate and understanding. Influence is such a powerful force, and even when we’re not aware of it, we are exerting influence over others.
Someone said, “A life touched by God always ends in touching others”. And that is why it’s so important to remember what Jesus said to the crowds on the mountain-side one day, and says it to us today:
You are like salt for everyone on earth. But if salt no longer tastes like salt, how can it make food salty? All it’s good for is to be thrown out and walked on.
You are like light for the whole world. A city built on top of a hill can’t be hidden…Make your light shine, so that others will see the good that you do and will praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16 – CEV).
Do you know that influence travels through relationship? Relationship is the key to influence. Without relationship, there is no influence.
If you read the New Testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, study how Jesus used influence. Watch how he really used power or position. In fact, he continuously shied away from any title or position or fame. He simply built relationships—very close relationships—and invested heavily into those people every day of his life and then he called them to live a life that would make a difference in the world.
Read those books sometime and watch how a ragtag group of fishermen were transformed by the light and love of God—as they were influenced by One Man, through relationship. Those guys were changed so much that every one of them was loyal to the cause of Christ until death. In fact, they gave their lives for the cause of Christ—and today there are millions of Christ-followers, because one man named Jesus invested in a few fishermen who changed history.
This is Influence based on relationship—not on position or power or authority.
Influence is contagious. Remember the definition of influence: a power affecting a person, thing or course of events. You and I can be carriers of God’s light and love and his character displayed in our lives. Here’s how it works. You make a choice to align your life with the purposes of God and walk with him every day of your life. And as you do that, the light of God begins to shine brighter and brighter within you.
And as you walk, God gives you opportunities for relationship—mostly opportunities that seem small and sometimes insignificant. He gives you opportunity to build relationship, and through that relationship influence. He takes the light within you and multiplies it over and over again with their lives. He uses that light to transform them and the light carries on from person to person—multiplied and blessed by the power of God.