By Larry Grile
I once read a comment that “no man is completely worthless; he may at least serve as a bad example.” Perhaps such a person has a measure of “good” influence, even if in a morbid sort of way!
Influence is the “power to affect others.” It can be a powerful force. For example, in the world of nature everything is interactive. The great fiery ball in the heavens that shines its light and heat is totally influential on our earth. If its light goes out, all life on earth becomes extinct. The sun is the light that makes all life possible. No wonder that on the first day of creation God said, “Let there be light.” That’s influence!
God, of course, is the most powerful influence of all. Everything exists because of Him. His providences and goodness are manifested every day. Who can comprehend the eternal influence of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ! Who can understand the daily working of the Holy Spirit to restrain evil in the world and to draw men to bow at Calvary for pardon and reconciliation with God! That’s influence!
But there are also bad influences in the world. Besides God, Satan has had the greatest influence on our world. The devil influenced our first parents to disobey God’s word, and from that time till now human history is littered with evidence of satanic influence. Our world today is deeply saturated with sin, and the fingerprints of the devil are everywhere.
Historically, our first parents have influenced all of us. Eve began the chain of influence by inducing Adam to eat the forbidden fruit. Like it or not, women still have the primary influence over men—for good or for evil. Adam influenced all of us as the head of the human race, and has infected us with a sinful bias toward rebellion and dereliction.
The Apostle Paul says that “no one lives to himself, and no man dies to himself” (Rom. 14:7). Each of us has an influence. We are largely what many influences have made us, and we in turn influence many other people. Husbands and wives influence each other. Parents and children influence each other. Teachers and students influence each other. Preachers and congregations influence each other. The list could go on and on.
There are powerful forces of influence in today’s world. And In fact, more of them are for evil than for good. The media is shot through with sensuality, violence, liberal/left ideology, and rebellion against righteousness. People become the product of television, movies, illicit books and pictures, worthless magazines, harmful games, and vile music. Although the internet is still largely what you make it, it affords an unending descent into the clutches of depravity for those who do not choose to remain pure.
Looking at my own life, I am thankful for the godly influences that have helped to mold my life and character. For 75 years I’ve been attending church and have heard hundreds of preachers, holy men, who not only preached but also lived holiness. I thank God for godly parents who chose to serve God and avoided the places, the attire, and the media of the world.
The question is not whether we will have an influence, but rather what kind of influence we will have. Many in the Bible had a wonderful influence. We’re all here today because Noah believed and obeyed God. We are believers because Abraham was faithful to God. Moses exerted a powerful influence on Israel’s history. More names could be added such as Joseph, Joshua, Samuel, David, Elijah, who had an influence far beyond their time.
Many others had an influence for good who were not aware. Job endured an awful ordeal that turned out to be a blessing to countless generations. Moses’ mother had no idea of the far-reaching effect of her faith in trying to preserve the life of her little boy. Ruth the Moabitess had no idea of the importance of her decision to follow Naomi to the land of Canaan. Samuel’s mother, Hannah, had no idea of the significance of her vow to give her little boy to God. Esther, the beautiful queen of Persia, had no idea that she was meant to spare her people from destruction.
But others have had an enormous influence for evil. Ten unbelieving spies caused the death of a generation of Israelis and a major delay in the purpose of God. Balaam influenced the Moabites to lure Israel to commit sin, bringing God’s judgment on Israel and eventually on himself. Achan caused the defeat of Israel and the destruction of his family. David’s sin brought tragedy to his home. Manasseh’s sins influenced God to determine to send Judah into captivity to Babylon.
The Church Age has been blessed with many who have wielded a powerful influence for God. The apostles, Peter and Paul, had an incalculable influence. Augustine, John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, George Fox, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, Charles G. Finney, Charles Spurgeon, D. L. Moody, Phoebe Palmer—these all and many, many more were an influence for good. And how many others of lesser lights were true to God in their own spheres, won souls who changed the world, and raised sons and daughters who made a difference.
Jesus spoke of the power of influence when He stood up on the last day of the feast and announced in John 7:37-39: “If any man thirst (for the Spirit), let him come unto me, and drink. He who believes on me, as the Scripture has said, out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water (of influence). This spoke he of the Spirit.” The secret of godly influence is to be found in the fullness of the Spirit’s indwelling. The great cry of the human heart is satisfied only by the Spirit’s fullness. Who can calculate the wonderful influence of the Spirit-filled life!