I think most of us are very aware of the numerous voices around us every day trying to influence us to think and act a certain way, to buy into a certain ideology, to invest our resources on a certain product, or to head in a certain direction or toward a specific destiny. But we’re less conscious of the influence our own voice has within our circle of friends and acquaintances. Yes! Each of us indeed has a sphere of influence. Your opinions matter to many and your opinions inspire some to follow in your footsteps. If you don’t believe me, just look at your social media for the last week or so.
Like many of you, every day I’m invited via email or FaceBook post to lend my support (i.e.: my endorsement) to a wide array of political, social and spiritual causes, to individuals (e.g.: running for public office) and to public service organizations. Sometimes that support requested is simply to share the information provided with my personal list of friends and acquaintances. Other times it’s a request for financial support. And occasionally I’m even invited to author a testimony of the positive effect the cause, individual or organization has had upon my life.
For my part, I never treat any of these requests for endorsement lightly. I make a decision in each case whether to act upon it or to ignore it. But to act upon such a request for support I have to (1) feel inspired by the subject and (2) feel confident that its representatives are godly in character. And to attain an adequate level of inspiration and confidence it’s imperative that I investigate the source and what motivates it/him/her to act.
What or who influences and inspires you?
Advertisers/public relations gurus have taught millennials especially, but society in general that celebrities (sports phenomes and music and movie stars) are credible and inspiring persons whose lifestyles and words and creeds should be mimicked. But few are really worthy of such trust and admiration.
Many people (including many of the “churched”) today throw their support behind whatever the flavor of the day is in our culture. But what really does our culture reflect? It reflects what is popular and acceptable today. And that can and does change in a heartbeat. Jesus said that His followers would be hated by the world (those who are proponents of the flavor of the day). And true followers of Christ experience this “hatred” every day via attacks by the mainstream media, by ungodly government leaders, by confused religious leaders and by adversaries on social media.
Before you begin to answer the question “what or who influences or inspires you,” I suggest you at least consider the four following questions:
- Do you have any standards for determining what causes, organizations and people who you are willing to throw your support behind?
- If not, why not?
- If so, what are your standards?
- If so, where did you get those standards?
- If so, do your standards advance selfish or self-less behavior?
- If so, are your standards “fixed,” or do they vary with every wind of change in the culture?
For me personally, the Apostle Paul is a good standard bearer. He said, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” In other words, “Listen to what I have to say, and do what I do, only if what I say and what I do is comparable to what Jesus did and said. If not, ignore what I say and do.”
These days I’m getting a lot of requests to support a growing list of men and women vying for the office of President of the U. S. As a general rule I don’t get into any political discussions over social media. There are too many really important issues in life, and very few if any are going to be solved by any political leader. When the time comes to vote I’ll make my choice based on the person whose character and beliefs most closely mirror that of Jesus and whose stated policies advance those beliefs. However, today I am finding it difficult to find any that would dare say, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” And if one did say that, and if the people listening took them at their word, I wonder if the candidate would be left with any supporters?
My personal test
So how do I assess the inspirational value and my level of confidence in public service organizations and social causes? I have a simple test which involves researching the answer to these three questions:
- Does the purpose of the organization/cause advance life and peace or a culture of death and destruction?
- Does it encourage self-less behavior or selfishness?
- Is its primary goal and likely outcome an emotionally, physically and spiritually enhanced experience for the participants?
But what about local churches/denominations/religions? Wouldn’t every one pass my test? Ugh – no! For them I would recommend the “Follow me as I follow Christ” standard. I often wonder how many would survive if they honestly encouraged their congregations to support them with their talents, time and resources based on their faithfulness to replicating the actual teachings and actions of Jesus Christ?
Who do you influence?
Now back to my original premise that every person on this earth has a sphere of influence. There are many scriptures that talk about God’s granting to His righteous and obedient people the blessing of even greater influence in the world. (See for example Isaiah’s chapter 54 prophesy and also the prayer of an honorable Old Testament character named Jabez.)
“Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; do not spare; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you shall expand to the right and to the left, and your descendants will inherit the nations, and make the desolate cities inhabited.”
“Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from harm that it may not pain me!” And God granted him [Jabez] what he requested.
Whose lives do you impact? More than you probably imagine! Make sure that the information you are sharing with those in your sphere of influence is both true and of value to them specifically? You are responsible for your words and actions. You are also accountable for who and what causes and organizations you endorse and those whom you draw into your tent. Don’t be lazy! Do the research before you click on that “share” icon.