On Being Influential People

It was a Tuesday morning in July as I was getting ready to go to my Edendale Bible class, when the phone rang. It was a friend and colleague from our New Ulm days. He asked if I had heard any news about him lately, and I said that I hadn’t. From the tone of his voice, I knew it probalby wasn’t going to be good news. He proceeded to tell me that he had been diagnosed with cancer and was going to be at Abbott hospital for a few days. Would I get a chance to stop by for a visit?

After the Bible class I made my way to the hospital, and we had a nice visit which ended with a reading from Psalm 34 and a prayer. That’s the way it’s supposed to work – the pastor serving the patient. But a funny thing happened that day in that hospital room. The pastor was served by the patient. It’s not that uncommon really, as anyone who tries to serve someone else usually discovers, much to their delight.

It was something he said, and I wasn’t sure I heard him correctly when he said it. After giving me the rundown from the past couple of weeks, what happened, and how he got to this day in the hospital, he said, “I must be a very influential person!” He had just been talking about all the differnet people he had been meeting on his recent medical journey, and all the attention and wonderful care he had been receiving. “I must be a very influential person!” But what he said next explaine whatr he really meant by that.

“God is giving me a chance to influence a lot of people.” What an interesting take on a cancer diagnosis and the beginning of what is seldom an easy and enjoyable “doctoring” experience. It will be a God-given opportunity to put faith and conviction and confession on display. The things that can be said, the way questions get answered, how pain and never ending tests and procedures are endured, how relief and rest are enjoyed, they are all ways that people can be influenced by the presence and power of God. People will see God, hear God, learn how God operates – what he does and what he doesn’t do and why – all from the afflicted child of God.

I shared this experience with the church council that night as an opening devotion, and now I share it with you, because on my way home from the hospityasl, it hit me. What a simple by profound truth! We are all influential people! God gives to his children many opportunities every day to influence others.

How often do we think of that as we go about the business of our lives each day? How often do we think of that – of others – when we get bad news or suffer setbacks. But it is a way to inluence people, or better yet, to put them under the influene of the Holy Spirit with the witness we give, the confession we make, and the conviction we show. I am, and you are, influential people.

Maybe it’s simply the big values or even the little routines of life that we instill in our children. Or it could be through the mission and ministry of our church. The work ethic we display on the job or at school, being honest, faithful, and respectful to people and things can be an influence. Likewise, how we talk, the manner in which we handle tough situations or bad news, and how we use blessings, can speak volumes. Living your faith, applying God’s Word to a situation, standing up for Jesus, and having the courage of you God-given conviction, can be uncomfortable if not difficult. But what an impact God can make through you!

“God in Chrtist has reconciled us to himself, not charging our sins against us,” St. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5. Wow! Talk about being influential people! God loves, forgives, and saves us – all for Jesus’ sake. Now, Paul goes on, “We are Christ’s ambassadors.” In other words, WE ARE INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE. Who will you influence today?