It is not uncommon for Christians to bless one another to be “people of influence.”
What is influence? What does it mean in God’s eyes compared to how the world sees it?
Influence may be defined as:
- the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others:
- the action or process of producing effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of another or others:
- a person or thing that exerts influence:
In the world, to gain influence generally means one has to be popular, wealthy, powerful or be a combination of these things.
When I think of the word “influence”, I think of someone who is charismatic or popular. Someone who speaks and everyone listens to. It is the person in class that everyone wants to be a friend with. It is the person in the “in” group. It is the alpha male. It is the one on social media who has plenty of “likes” and “follows”.
Influence in the Bible is vastly different. In God’s Kingdom, influence is upside-down. Influence is not a numbers game. It is not about how many likes, shares or comments your social media post has. Influence happens when we obey God and God’s will is done on earth.
In the book of Acts, Philip is an example of how God gives and ‘takes away’ influence for His Kingdom.
In verse 26, an angel told Philip to go to the desert road.
If you consider the situation, you would likely believe that Philip must have heard it wrong. Why should anyone leave a city when everyone wants to receive Christ? It is a revival! Many need someone to teach them how to follow Jesus. This revival is every minister’s dream! Why on earth will you leave?
It doesn’t make sense- Philip had much influence in Samaria. If we read carefully, Philip was healing people. The lame were walking. Demons were cast out. He was showing signs and wonders (Acts 8:6-8). The city was in joy. They weren’t persecuting Philip like when Paul preached the gospel. That’s the kind of influence many of us long to have.
Yet despite all the ‘influence’ he had, Philip abandoned it for a desert road.
The Influence of One
This is where I love the story. Philip obeyed and encountered an Ethiopian Eunuch. His influence shrunk from thousands to one.
Logic will tell us that Philip should not have gone to the desert road. However, Philip chose to obey to go. He didn’t care about the numbers. He cared about obeying God.
Wouldn’t Philip be more useful in Samaria, saving thousands, than to save one person? In our eyes, of course. But God has better ideas. He always does.
By saving one eunuch, the Good News of Jesus Christ spread to Ethiopia. The Gospel spread went beyond Middle-Eastern and into Africa.
Notice God didn’t explain to Philip why he had to go on the desert road. He didn’t show the game plan to Philip, that he had to abandon the revival in Samaria to meet an Ethiopian eunuch to point him to Jesus from explaining through the book of Isaiah (Acts 8:32-33). Often God just says, do this or do that without showing us the full picture.
What am I getting at?
I am not saying we should avoid the masses and live the life of a hermit.
I am saying we should not worry or be concerned about how much influence we have or need. Influence is given by God for His Glory. We often want more influence (as with wealth or power).
But can we trust in our God that He gives us as much (or as little) influence as we need for His Glory’s sake?
Can we surrender our desire/worry/fear to gain influence and let Him take control?
The key is our obedience to God. We don’t have to think our influence is small just because we are not popular, don’t have a vast network, don’t speak well or are not good-looking. We don’t have to strive to gain influence. Rather, all we need is to trust and obey what God is telling us to do. Whether it is influencing thousands or one person, we must follow willingly.
Let God take care of our influence, for our job is solely and simply obedience.
The story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch is such an encouraging one. It tells me that I need not be the most eloquent speaker like (insert your favorite pastor/preacher). I need not have the most followers on Facebook/Instagram. I need not even strive to achieve those performance indices to be considered influential or faithful.
Side note: this doesn’t exclude me from studying the Bible and preparing a well-crafted answer to the hope that we have in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2)
Because all God requires of me is to focus on what He is calling me to do and to obey Him.
Let us let God be God and allow Him to weave a beautiful story for His Kingdom and His Glory!