By Irvin Himmel
One of the greatest powers possessed by every human being is the sway of influence. Each individual has ability to affect others. Influence is power exerted over the minds and conduct of others. Just as a stone, whether a pebble or a boulder, makes a ring of waves when dropped into a pool of water, all people have influence. Whether we are rich or poor, learned or unlearned, strong or weak, prominent or obscure, we have a circle of influence.
Our influence may be conscious or unconscious. Many times we influence someone without realizing it. Our actions touch chords that vibrate. Another person is swayed or moved without our knowing it.
Most of us, with a little reflection, can call to mind some of the people who have influenced our thinking and our pattern of behavior. Our parents, our teachers, perhaps an uncle, an aunt, or a grandparent, our classmates, our neighbors, a business associate, our close friends, the author of a book, a famous person who was regarded as a hero — the list grows long when we try to recall all the people who have influenced our lives.
The greatest influence in the life of a Christian should be Jesus Christ. He is the central figure in our faith, our walk, and our goal. It is to him that we have turned for salvation. It is by him that we are reconciled to God. It is in him that we have fellowship with the Father. It is through him that we have hope of glory. It is because of him that we rejoice with joy unspeakable. It is on him that we rely for sustenance and strength. It is under him that we serve. It is with him that we inherit. It is from him that we receive the teaching given in the Testament. It is after him that we follow. It is before him that we shall appear in the day of judgment.
Our Master expects us to have a good, wholesome influence on others. He instructs us to be “the salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Matt. 5:13-16). He does not want us to hide our light under a bushel. He teaches us to make a conscious and sustained effort to influence others for their good and the Father’s glory. Our attitude, our speech, our conduct, our teaching, and our example should mirror Christ’s influence on us.
Parents have a powerful sway over their children. Hypocritical or unfaithful parents are influencing their sons and daughters in the wrong way. Parents who give top priority to material things, pushing the interest of the spiritual side of life to a secondary role, are influencing their offspring to think that God’s kingdom is not the most important thing. Yet Jesus said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness . . .” (Matt. 6:33).
Normally, parental influence begins at a very early age. Impressions projected early in life are lasting. Lessons learned in our tender years may stick with us throughout life. Bad influences in our early development can produce injurious attitudes, objectionable traits of character, and warped perceptions. How vigilant parents must be over the kind of influence they are wielding on their little ones.
Influence of Teachers
Bible class teachers who instruct youth are in a position to exert strong influence over impressionable minds. This is one reason why qualified teachers need to be selected. Some who volunteer to teach children’s classes are poorly prepared. A teacher influences by the example of his or her life, as well as what is done and said in the class room. Teachers of adult classes likewise make impressions on other people that influence their thinking.
Public school teachers have a weighty impact over the minds of their pupils. College professors and other types of instructors make an imprint on the minds of students. God-fearing parents must be prepared to offset the influences that come from educators who foster atheism, evolution, modernism, and humanism.
Influence of Leaders in the Church
Elders, deacons, and preachers have a hefty impact on the general direction in which a congregation moves. A preacher’s influence out of the pulpit is just as important as his influence in the pulpit. He must live the gospel and preach the gospel. Elders are to be “ensamples to the flock” (1 Pet. 5:3). Deacons must be “blameless” (1 Tim. 3:10).
Church leaders having a loose and lenient attitude toward God’s word and who desire to keep pace with the denominations emit an influence that produces digression. Weak members are easily swayed by leaders who do not stand up for a “thus saith the Lord.” Many congregations have been swept into apostasy by influential elders, deacons, and preachers who preferred numerical growth over walking in “the old paths.”
A Christian’s Influence
Every child of God has a sphere of influence. It does not require dramatic overt acts for a measure of influence to be exerted. Each life touches other lives. One has an influence, for good or for bad, in his family, on the job, at school, at play, when traveling, when shopping, when transacting business, etc. Let us be aware that others are observing our words and our deeds. Let us use whatever degree of influence we have on the side of truth and righteousness.
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