Secretly (or perhaps not so secretly), we all would like to feel we've left our mark on the world when one of life's great inevitables comes. Will our mortal mark be through fame, philanthropy, amassing riches or being recognised in an industry?
Or instead, can we live a life where one of our primary aims is to be an influence (for the good) in situations and with people? Or can true influence only come as a result of one or more of the above?
A number of factors have recently come together to make me aware of my own influence. From conversations with friends who know I align myself with Christian values, to relationships at church—people in my life group, teenagers I connect with over coffee and people I speak to on Sunday—the awareness of others watching my choices forces me to consider how I influence others.
Meeting a wide variety of people through my work, I've watched with interest the kind of prominent figures who seem to have influence in our nation. Ranging from sports stars to celebrity chefs, these figures have gained notoriety through one particular talent—or being leaders in their chosen field. The flipside to fame through their genuine talents is the pressure of influence, the impetus to suddenly be seen to be 'doing the right things.' It intrigues me to think of what it would feel like having a spotlight shining on everything you do and say. Suddenly privacy becomes a valuable commodity.
Yet being 'an influencer' isn't just confined to the spaces of famous sports stars, or to Christians trying to behave 'appropriately' in front of teenagers at church! What if each moment, every day we all lived as 'influencers'? I'm not talking about striving to be well-behaved, or trying to do the right thing in every moment. What if we naturally lived differently, where the spirit we bring to situations would feel tangibly different for those we interact with?
I've been thinking of Romans chapter 12, verse 2, 'Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.'
For me, it links in perfectly with my current life group study of the book of Daniel. The early chapters are all about an influencer (Daniel) who finds favour with the king, despite not aligning himself with what the rest of the kingdom did (he forewent all the choice meats and incredible foods). Daniel was able to interpret the king's dream and in that dream, he prophesied the next 500 years until Jesus' birth, and how history would play out.
Daniel's Babylon was a physical place and a spiritual place—it was a city far away from God—and not so different to the world we live in right now. Daniel was relevant then: instead of choosing to be a son of Babylon he chose to be a son of God. Through this choice he found himself influencing those around him.
Influence didn't come through striving every moment, Daniel even asked permission of the chief official, 'not to defile himself' with the 'royal food and wine.' He went about it in the correct way—he 'resolved' to stick to what was important to him. It struck me as I studied these early chapters—the way Daniel lived is still relevant now.
I have to admit that at times my benchmark for being an 'influencer' in my industry is sneaking the words 'Jesus' or 'church' into conversation. Yet, as I was challenged by a friend recently, to be an influencer is to be led by the Lord in our conversations and connections with people. Rushing to get in our God-speak is not necessarily what God is even wanting from us—we can't 'Christianise' situations. I'm not talking about evangelism—it is essential that people hear the gospel in some way. Influence is the capacity to have an effect on someone. For example, do you leave that person thinking differently, or seeing something in a different way from before?
Let's not forget what it is to be a negative influence. I've been a Christian for over ten years now, and I can forget newer Christians are often watching for a response to a situation. I feel a choice I made recently mistakenly gave a 'green light' to a younger Christian; it felt like my action enabled them in continuing to believe their current choices were fine. Instead of influencing someone for good, my poor decision had a negative impact. My choice may not have been 'wrong' for me, but if our choices are going to negatively influence a brother or a sister, then surely we need to be guarding our thoughts, words and actions, considering the influence we have.
The irony is I want to live freely. I definitely don't want to spend my time analysing every little decision and behaviour pattern, worrying if I am good enough to 'influence' someone for the good, or indeed, being a stumbling block for someone else (see 1 Corinthians chapter 8, verse 9).
The good influence of joy
I want to remember each day is made by the Lord; and he is in all circumstances. As the Psalms say, 'This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.' Will rejoicing in all circumstances bring influence? I think yes; it takes the focus from us onto Jesus, while recognising influence isn't just about one moment—it's about heaps of moments strung together. If God is actually in our every moment, we will influence more than we think, bringing a tangible presence or spirit of God into our many moments of connections.
Originally from The Lake District in the UK, Amanda works in Publishing in Auckland and is passionate about seeing Christians bring salt and light into the media, arts and creative industries.
Amanda Robinson's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/amanda-robinson.html