There is an old adage which says, "Actions speak louder than words." And that is the truth. We call it "influence." The power one to sway other people along certain courses of action because of his wealth, position, or ability. Influence, either for good or evil, follows in the wake of one's actions and not of what one says he will do or not do. One of the first places I fully came to be aware of this power was in the parent-child relationship. I would see parents warning their children not to smoke. In between their adonitions that smoking caused halitosis, hacking coughs, and lung cancer would be a puff from a cigarette and this feeble rebuke, "Now, don't do as I do but do as I tell you to do." Given man's propensity toward evil, I knew how far that advice went for the betterment of mankind.
What makes influence such a powerful tool is the fact that each of us possess it. There are people who watch us, who admire something about us, who imitate our actions. If put to its proper use, influence can be a great means of leading someone to obey Christ. Listen to Jesus, "For I have given you an example, that ye also should do as I have done to you" (Jno. 13:15). Jesus spoke of actions. Paul wrote, "Be ye imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ" (1 Cor. 11;1). Another apostle of Christ wrote of deeds, Peter said, "For hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that ye should follow His steps" (1 Pet. 2:21). To follow anyone's footsteps, we must walk. The word "example" as used by Peter literally means "an under-writing." It refers to teaching children the alphabet. A copy of the letters of the alphabet would be distributed to each child. They would write underneath the example of the letter as it should be drawn, trying to reproduce it as closely as possible. We must pattern our lives after Jesus. We must do our best to live as He lived, "to be holy as He is holy." Thus, "by their fruits ye shall know them."
Influence Begins With The Heart: -- Only as we keep the seat of our intellect, emotions, and will unmixed with evil, can we expect to wield the silent power of influence for good. Solomon wrote, "Keep thy heart with all diligence; For out of it are the issues of life" (Prov. 4:23). In the ASV, "with all diligence" is footnoted "above all that thou guardest." We must see the necessity of keeping our heart right with God. We must see the danger in letting our thoughts aimlessly wander from sin to sin, of toying with its pleasures in our mind, of calculating our pursuit of it. We must heed the Lord, who was tempted like we are tempted, yet without sin, for He said, "For from within, out of the heart of men, evil thoughts proceed, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, covetings, wickednesses, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, railing, pride, foolishness: all these evil things proceed from within and defile the man" (Mk. 7:21-23).
Influence Is The Result Of Doing Good: -- If influence is sought for its own sake, then it is a matter of selfish pride and not an attempt to glorify God. The Pharisees were guilty of seeking their own glory above the glory of the Father. They loved to spread their influence for the sake of spreading their influence (cf. Matt. 6:1-5). Jesus said, "Ye are the salt of the earth...Ye are the light of the world...so let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:13,14,16). The reason we do good works and influence others to do good works is not "to be seen of men." Rather, that being seen, others may understand that we serve God to glorify Him. We are the light of the world. We must penetrate the evil world and show forth the excellencies of Christ as surely as the light of a burning star pierces the darkness of night. We must preserve from corruption by giving life to people who are spiritually dying as surely as salt gives protection to meat that would decay and become rancid without it (cf. Phil. 2:15,16).
And above all things we must be steadfast, unmovable, constant in our endeavor to serve God. We cannot fellowship evil and expect our influence to be good. We must not fraternize the enemy. Our teachings and deeds must be consistent. Surely we can see this in the life of Jesus. "He that is not with Me is against Me; and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth abroad" (Matt. 12:30).
By Chuck Durham via Gospel Power, Vol. 11, No. 40, Oct. 10, 2004.
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