Influence: What Does It Mean?
When I think of "influence" I think of the President of the United States of America, the Queen of England, Angelina Jolie and her philanthropy campaigns, Walter Cronkite and his news, or movie stars with fashion and glitz. These people appear to have a blessing of influence wherever they go - they make a big impact.
However when I think about who influences me, I think of my funny, good-spirited Mom who has just as much spunk as my gregarious, playful Dad. I think of David Lawson; a military man turned cop turned homeschool Bible study leader. And I think of my friend Amanda who has done so many married and parenting things before me; she passes down that wisdom to me step by step.
When I compare the two groups, the first pales in comparison to the second. Sure the President and Angelina Jolie get more press, but my parents and friends have far more impact when it comes my immediate world.
So I looked up the definition of what influence means on Google:
The capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something.
It turns out that my first opinion of what it means to have influence was a pretty poor measure of the true meaning. For in truth, the President never affected my character, development, or behavior. That honor was left to the friends and family that have loved and cared for me.
I see this same truth ring true in the Apostle Paul. His influence over Titus, over Crete, over most followers of Christ does not come because he was such an amazing Jewish man. It came because he loved the Lord his God and he loved people. In Titus 1:1 Paul explains this when he starts his letter with this introduction:
“Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ…”
From that devotion to the Lord, flowed out his love for Titus and for all of God’s people. Paul isn’t shy about expressing this love.
- In Titus 1:4 Paul address Titus in this manner: “To Titus my true child …”
- In Roman 1:8 and 11 Paul tells the christians: “First, I thank my God...for you all...For I long to see you in order that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established.”
- In reference to his brethren who do not love Jesus, Paul says this in Romans 9:1-3: “It’s an enormous pain deep within me, and I’m never free of it. I’m not exaggerating—Christ and the Holy Spirit are my witnesses. It’s the Israelites . . . If there were any way I could be cursed by the Messiah so they could be blessed by him, I’d do it in a minute.
Paul loved the people God put in his life. He loved them well. I believe this is why Paul had such a huge arena of influence. He toiled, he went hungry and thirsty, he was slandered and persecuted and so on and so forth, all so that he could care for his “beloved children” (1 Corinthians 4:9-14).
One person who has loved me well in my life is my dear friend Amanda; she has been like an apostle Paul to me. I’ve made huge everyday decisions in my home from insight that Amanda has helped me to see. Most of the world doesn’t know the name Amanda Turner. However, it is Amanda that has loved me, cried with me, invested in me, and helped change me to be more like Christ. Amanda is the influencer in my life not the President.
This leads me to a very compelling truth. I don’t have to be elected, rich, or famous. I do not have to work to get to the top, to look fashionable, or spend millions in Africa to be an influencer.
I have the same capacity to influence people as Paul did. I have the capacity to influence people like Amanda has influenced me. We all have this power to be a godly influence. It only takes two things:
- Love the Lord
- Love the people God puts in my life
It’s kinda funny. Jesus said this in Luke, and I can remember reading this command as a child and thinking of it only as a missive. I didn’t realize that Jesus was giving me a way to be a powerful influencer.
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself." (Luke 10:27)
I had been looking at influential people as though they had received some mystical blessing of “Influencer.” I didn’t understand, until studying the book of Titus, that God calls us all to be great influencers. God created and commissioned me to influence those around me. He created and commissioned you to influence the people around you.
In a way, we can feel a lot like Titus now. All of a sudden, we are in a world where we are the influencers. Paul tells Titus in Titus 1:5:
“For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might set in order what remains…”
Titus, as an influencer, had a job and a mission. He had a reason he was in Crete--He had to set things in order. Reading this verse made me ask myself two questions. You can ask yourself these questions too.
“Where have I been placed?”
“What does God have for me to set in order?”
The answers to the first question came fast for me:
- I am in Chattanooga.
- I am a wife. I am a mother.
- I am a part of Shalom Shalom, a Bible study.
- I am part of an extended family - mine and my husband’s.
- I work in an operating room with many people.
- I have a church and sunday school.
- I have friends.
The answers to the second question came slower. I don’t know about you, but I really had to think about what God had for me to ‘set in order.’ Finally, I remembered what I learned earlier.
I am to love the Lord FIRST in all the places I’ve identified.
Also, I am also to love the people in all these places in my life.
This was the answer to what God has left for me to set in order. God, has left me to love my neighbor as myself in all the areas that he has placed me. But...how was I to do that? How do I love people and thus influence them towards Christ?
It used to feel like it was a daunting task to love all the people around me. I realized that part of the reason it felt daunting was because I saw “love your neighbor as yourself” as a nebulous thing. I never identified how it looked to love my neighbor in the places that God has put me.
As I was working through this, I realized that God’s command was never nebulous. In fact, God is quite clear and give detailed directions on how to love my neighbor. Here, in Titus chapter one, He gives us guidelines to help with this large task. God uses Paul to teach Titus, and us, exactly what good influencers look like. He teaches us how we can go about loving one another.
The Message paraphrases what Titus 1:7-9 says about influencers like this:
“(he is) not pushy, not short-tempered, not a drunk, not a bully, not money-hungry. He must welcome people, be helpful, wise, fair, reverent, have a good grip on himself, and have a good grip on the Message, knowing how to use the truth to either spur people on in knowledge or stop them in their tracks if they oppose it.
So, after working through this I began to think about what that means for my practical everyday life. What did that mean for me today? I went back through the list of what godly influencers look like and I saw one thing pop of the page. A godly influencer is “NOT SHORT-TEMPERED.”
That direction from God makes a big difference in my life today. You see my older son is two years old, and he is pushing the boundaries. He is having a lot of moments where he is jealous of his baby brother, where he is upset and yelling, where he wants his way and not the way that is good.
If I have to choose to be a Godly influence in my son’s life today that means not being short-tempered, even if he is. In a way this appears to be such a small thing, but when we obey God the impact is never small. It has the eternal weight of God’s glory to it.
So, what about you? Make no doubt about it: you are an influencer to those around you! What will it take to choose to be a godly influencer? Are there any directions that you need to take from Titus 1: 7-9 to equip you to love the people that God has placed in your life?
Hannah Michael Wolfkill Snyder has always loved all of her names (yes, each one is on her passport!). However, the name she loves the most is Jesus. Jesus taught her how to play in the throne room of Heaven and sit in the lap of God the Father. This is her identity, where her heart loves to abide (even if her hands and feet are busy on earth running a household or meeting up with people). Because of her joy in the Father, her heart’s desire is to show women their God given identity in the kingdom of Heaven. You can find her on Instagram.