“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to the whole house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16
To some degree, we all desire influence. We want to make an impact on the world, and we want our lives to matter. God intends for us to be influential. He calls us a city on a hill and instructs us to let our light shine before others. (Matthew 5:14-16) However, the biblical picture and pathway to influence is much different than what the world portrays.
In today’s day and age, everyone can have a platform. You can hop on social media, write books, produce YouTube or TikTok videos, or do a number of other things to attract followers. When everyone has their life on display, it is easy to feel like a failure if (and often, when) you don’t achieve success quickly. This cycle of striving and stress is not the type of influence God intended for you to have.
Jesus wasn’t the King that people expected Him to be. The Jews thought Jesus would come and overthrow the tyrannical Roman government. Instead, Jesus exercised His power and influence personally and peacefully. He was born to a poor woman in the poor town of Nazareth. His Kingdom wasn’t what people had in mind.
This blog post will answer the question, “what is influence” from a biblical perspective. We will explore examples of how Jesus influenced others in a radically different way–and, as his followers, how we’re called to do the same.
What is Influence?
So, what is influence? According to leadership expert John Maxwell, “leadership is influence.” So, if leadership is influence, then influence is leadership. And Jesus made it clear that true leadership (and therefore influence) is service. When His disciples were arguing about who among them was the greatest, Jesus broke up their bickering by saying, “Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant,” (Matthew 20:26.)
You might be saying, “Billy, I don’t want to be great.” Let me ask you another question, then. What is your primary motivation? Are you driven to feed your own ego and comfort, or are you driven to promote peace and serve others? Our motivations are seeds that can turn into weeds, or they can produce live-giving fruit. So, it’s important to monitor them daily.
True Influence Requires Service
Service creates influence. Think about it—when you serve, you undoubtedly impact other peoples’ lives for the better. Any kind of Christian influence must stem from this root of loving and caring for other people. When you serve and put others before yourself, God will purify your heart and illuminate your path. He will show you the people He’s leading you to influence.
Here’s a counter-cultural tip: serve someone else’s vision before you serve your own. In Luke 6:12, Jesus asks, “And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?” Whereas our culture encourages us to hastily build our own platform and legacy, the Bible encourages us to slow down, learn, and serve first.
Christian influence is dependent on our order of operations. First, we pursue God. Then, as we come to know him more and more, He will illuminate our path. (Proverbs 3:6) Anything other than that is a breeding ground for stress.
True Influence Requires Patience
When you serve your way to influence, you develop humility. When you work your way to influence, you develop pride. God is far more concerned with your heart than your productivity, so He works with us in a process. These lyrics from the worship song ‘Seasons’ by Hillsong describe this wonderfully:
If all I know of harvest
Is that it’s worth my patience
Then if You’re not done working
God, I’m not done waiting
‘Cause You can see my promise
And even in the winter
‘Cause You’re the God of greatness
Even in a manger
For all I know of seasons
Is that You take Your time
You could have saved us in a second
Instead, You sent a child
Around Christmastime, I always love to reflect on the fact that God sent Jesus to earth as a baby. It sparks so much awe and wonder. If the Son of God spent the first thirty years of his life learning and getting to know God before He stepped onto his platform, how much more should we develop our character through patience? Let patience possess your soul.
Note that this patience isn’t passive. Christians typically fall onto one side of this spectrum: they either wait so long for God to act that they don’t do anything, or they work so hard to build their own vision that they don’t partner with God to do anything significant. Their hyperactivity causes them to miss God’s plan for their life. Scripture teaches us that the sweet spot is somewhere in the middle of waiting and doing. We steward what we can (do our part), and we wait patiently for God to do his part.
We inherit the promises of God through faith and patience. (Hebrews 6:12) In chapter 12:1-2, Hebrews says, “Therefore let us also, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Running certainly isn’t passive. And the Bible makes it clear that we each have a personalized race to run in this life. To have influence, we need to patiently develop the talents and skills required to excel in the areas God has called us to.
Instead of giving up when you face a little resistance, the spiritual force of patience will anchor you until your personal growth gets you to the place you’re believing for. It will anchor you so you don’t quit. You will become consistent, and consistency creates growth.
When things get difficult or when our ego fights to get in the way, we look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Jesus kept His eyes on the prize—bringing God’s Kingdom to earth for us—and so should we. Our influence is true and pure when it centers on Jesus.