Tag Archives: influence

The Amazing Opportunities in Our Sphere of Influence

Philip Yancey is a best selling author who happens to be one of my favorite authors. Someone posted a note to Philip on his web site stating, “My two young children were killed in a horrible car crash 25 years ago. I lost my faith. Thanks to Philip’s [book] Disappointment with God I found my way back and here remain. Thank you, Lord.”

Philip Yancey replied, “If you were my only reader, all my work would be worthwhile.”

Yancey’s remarkable reply is a reminder that it’s not about big numbers. He has hundreds of thousands of readers of his many best selling books, but he would be happy with just one reader whose life was impacted by his writing in a big way!

We can easily discount our value in this world if we buy into society’s focus on big numbers, big crowds, and big results. Our sphere of influence may be small and our achievements less than spectacular compared to some, but we can make a big difference in that small sphere!

This can be illustrated in a negative way. Think of a few really nasty insulting phrases you could deliver, and imagine saying them to the people you know, the people you’ll come in contact with just in the next week: family, friends, co-workers, neighbors. You would ruin their day, to say nothing of your relationship with them! Enough of the negative. In contrast, you can have an amazingly positive influence on those same people just through loving and helpful words and actions! They may not seem like a big deal at the time, but little words and acts of kindness add up!

I remember from my college days, 47 or so years ago, a compliment a professor’s assistant made about a speech I had delivered in speech class. After a lifetime of giving speeches (we call them sermons in the church world) I still recall her comment and believe it’s impacted my public speaking all of these many years since.

There’s no sense lamenting over the seeming lack of opportunities to do great things for God or to influence a great number of people; it gets us nowhere. Instead, we can do a great deal of good by embracing the opportunities at hand to give an encouraging word, a helping hand, or in some other way add value to the lives of those within our sphere of influence.

“Love your neighbor [that’s the person within your sphere of influence] as yourself. (Luke 10:27)

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Influencers

RippleFixedC. S. Lewis was arguably the most influential Christian writer of the 20th century, and even up to this point in the 21st century. Lewis wrote the classic children’s allegorical stories of the Chronicles of Narnia series, with the first in that series being The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. The main character was a lion named Aslan, who was a Christ-figure. Lewis’s non-fiction books, particularly Mere Christianity, give a clear, logical explanation of the Christian faith. His work has helped bring many people to a faith in Christ. It would be hard to exaggerate the influence he has had on Christianity.

Interestingly, Lewis found faith through the influence of his friend J. R. R. Tolkien, author of the famous Lord of the Rings. We admire people like Lewis, who had such a positive influence, and someone like Tolkien, who had an influence on Lewis.

Who has had a significant and positive influence on your life? I asked this question in our weekend services and asked people to call out their answers. Parents, grandparents, a mate, and a friend were some of the responses. We’ve all had people influence us for the good.

All of us not only have been influenced in a positive way by others but we can have such an influence on others. I know, sometimes we have our doubts about this. We see our weaknesses and are vividly aware of our struggles. How can we be of any help to others?

If we think about those who have had a great influence on us we’d have to admit that they weren’t perfect people, and that they had their own struggles. In fact, every single Bible character, other than Jesus, was far from perfect, and yet their stories are in the Bible to inspire us with what God can do with ordinary and imperfect people. Maybe, just maybe God can use us too!

When the apostle Paul asked the Lord to heal him of something that he thought was inhibiting his work he heard the Lord say to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (1 Corinthians 12:9)

Leaving Behind a Blessing

During a summer visit to Parkersburg, Iowa, I drove out to where our farm had been. I use the past tense because the farm is no longer there. Yes, the land is still there, but not a single farm building. It was a surreal experience to pull into the field driveway that was once our farm driveway. I had to probe deep into my memory to locate where the house, barn, straw barn, machine shed, chicken coop, and hog shed had been located.

I walked the rows of beans where our farmyard had been, finding and picking up small pieces of my past: a portion of a brick, a chard of pottery, a piece of china. I didn’t recognize any of the remnants, but I know they came from when I had lived there. I was playing archaeologist, discovering artifacts of my past. This has to be a sign of being old!

Wherever we are, we are leaving artifacts of our having been there, and I’m not just referring to tangible objects like an empty coffee cup, a used piece of chewing gum stuck under the table (yuk!) or a wadded piece of paper left on the desk. I’m thinking about the artifacts of influence and impact we leave on the lives of others.

If someone were to probe the various levels of our lives, from the surface relationships of our casual connections to the deeper ones of family and friends, what kind of artifacts would they uncover? Where we live, move, and have our being would they find hurt or healing, judgment or grace, discouraging words or words of encouragement, fear or faith, apathy or love? As we walk through each day, what do we leave behind?

We can’t live without leaving some kind of a mark in this world. The question is, what kind of a mark will it be?

“I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice.” (Proverbs 8:20)

(Photo is of the actual artifacts of my past that I found.)