By Maurice Cowley, art by Scott Erickson
It is a fact of life that each of us has a sphere of influence. Equally true is that each of us exists within numerous spheres of influence. We are influencers, and we are influenced.
But I wonder: to what degree do we control those spheres? Can I select which of my actions or words are influential and to whom? Am I able to decide what influences me and how? Or is influence more like the rain: it falls wherever it may?
I don’t know that I have a definitive answer. However, as I look back over my years, I can pinpoint specific people and circumstances that have wielded influence (positive or negative) and dramatically shaped who I am: parents, wife, pastors, bosses, friends, coaches, students, kids. And while I don’t believe I can wholly eliminate the influence of any of these, I know there is an Influence that supersedes each of them.
The other day I was read the story of Caleb in the book of Numbers.
Caleb was one of twelve scouts sent into the promised land to report back to Moses and the people of Israel. It stands out to me that each of these men was described as “leaders of the Israelites.” Men of influence. These leaders, aware of God’s promise to the people, returned with an incredible report: the land is every bit as good as God said it would be, but we shouldn’t go up there or we’ll get killed by giants. They allowed the ‘reality’ of their circumstance to influence their hearts. They disbelieved God’s covenant, and not only that, they wielded their influence over the people to lead them in the same erroneous way.
Well ten of them did.
Caleb stood in the assembly and recalled God’s promise to the people. He encouraged his fellows not to lose heart, to move forward in God’s favor. With Joshua at his side, Caleb tried to use his status as one under the influence of God to have a positive impact on the people around him. Fear of circumstance did not hold much sway over Caleb’s thinking. He wasn’t afraid of the giants. He wasn’t afraid to disagree with ten leaders of his people. He wasn’t afraid to lose his status as a respected leader. Caleb’s primary influence was the Word God had spoken.
While there are plenty of things that have potential to influence the trajectory of my life, I want to be like Caleb. I want to tune my heart and mind to operate under God’s influence. And yes, sometimes godly influence will come through the people and circumstances around me, but in order to recognize those moments, it takes an ear that knows God’s voice. To develop such an ear, I need to place myself--through prayer, through scripture, through community--in a place to receive the messages God is sending.
I hope you’ll join us at the Men’s Retreat as we explore what it looks like to be one who is under the influence of God, wielding our influence to accomplish his purposes in the world.
Men of Imago Dei, join us for our next men’s retreat: April 27th-29th at Camp Magruder on the Oregon coast. Register today at idcpdx.com/influence.