Leadership is about influence. Everyone influences someone. Therefore, in a sense, everyone is a leader. Sociologists tell us that even the most introverted individual will influence 10,000 other people during his or her lifetime.
African proverb puts it, ‘If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent the night with a mosquito.’ The mosquito makes a difference in an annoying way, but the principle is the same. One person can stop a great injustice. One person can be a voice for truth. One person’s kindness can save a life. Each person matters.
History is in many ways a story of influence. In reality we all influence one another in all sorts of ways – from what to have for lunch and what films to watch, to more important matters of truth and ethics.
What we do as individuals, as a community or a nation affects others. How do you use that influence for good? How do you maximise your influence?
1. Use your influence for the good of everyone
God chose Israel. He blessed the people of Israel in a special way. His purpose was not that they should feel proud and superior to others. Rather, it was that they should be a blessing to the whole world (Genesis 12:3). They were blessed to be a blessing. They were called to use their influence for the good of all nations. This psalm has a multi-national focus. It proclaims the wonders and blessings of God to everyone. It does so through:
It is interesting to note in passing that their worship was creative and included innovation. They sang ‘a brand-new song’ (Psalm 96:1, MSG).
After worship comes witness:
‘Shout the news of his victory from sea to sea,
Take the news of his glory to the lost,
News of his wonders to one and all! …
Get out the message – God Rules! (vv.2–3,10a, MSG).
Help us, Lord, never to become inward looking or self-indulgent. May everything we do as individuals and as a community be outward focused in order to bring blessing to the world – proclaiming your salvation day after day. Amen🙏
2. Use your influence to spread the good news
Paul is deeply conscious of his influence as a Christian and, in particular, as an apostle. He is absolutely determined to maximise his influence for good and to ‘put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ’ (v.12b).
It appears that he sees his calling to singleness as one of the ways he can maximise his influence. He is not suggesting that there is anything wrong with marriage. It appears that the other apostles, including ‘the Lord’s brothers and Cephas [Peter]’ were all married (v.5).
Another way he seeks to maximise his influence is by having a second job; working for a living. He is very keen to point out that he does not need to do this: ‘The Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel’ (v.14). Or as Eugene Peterson translates, ‘Those who spread the Message be supported by those who believe the Message’ (v.14, MSG). In other words, as Christians we should support financially those who spread the gospel full-time.
Paul’s point is that although he had this right, he did not make use of it. ‘Our decision all along has been to put up with anything rather than to get in the way or detract from the Message of Christ’ (v.12b, MSG).
Paul is absolutely passionate about the preaching of the gospel. He does not want anything to hinder its maximum impact. Hence, he does not make use of any of his rights – his mission is paramount (v.15a). He is ‘compelled to preach’ (v.16a). He writes, ‘Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!’ (v.16b). He is simply discharging an obligation that he feels.
What he wants more than anything is that people should be able to hear the gospel ‘free of charge’ (v.18). He would rather die than be deprived of the opportunity to preach the gospel free of charge: ‘I’d rather die than give anyone ammunition to discredit me or impugn my motives’ (v.15, MSG).
Let our focus be on the word🔥
3. Use your influence to plant good seeds
Solomon is very aware of the power of influence. This influence can be for good or evil.
One wise person can save a city (9:13–18a). On the other hand, ‘one sinner destroys much good’ (9:18b). One human being can use their influence for evil and cause great harm. Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot are glaring examples of this principle.
But, the influence does not have to be as great as these tyrants in order to have a bad effect. ‘Dead flies in perfume make it stink, and a little foolishness decomposes much wisdom’ (10:1, MSG). If even a dead fly can have a bad influence, the least influential human being can have an influence for evil or good. We can all be the fly in the ointment!
The writer has much to say about how to be a good influence, rather than a bad one:
- Watch your words
Solomon reminds us that ‘words from the mouth of the wise are gracious’ (v.12a). Respond to hot-tempered words with calmness (v.4), and avoid gossiping and bad-mouthing your leaders (v.20).
- Take risks
To maximise your influence for good you need to take risks. ‘Be generous: Invest in acts of charity. Charity yields high returns. Don’t hoard your goods; spread them around. Be a blessing to others’ (11:1–2, MSG). In other words, he says ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’. As William Ward wrote, ‘To love is to risk not being loved in return. To try is to risk failure. But risks must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.’
If we are too cautious we will never achieve anything. ‘Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap’ (v.4). We could apply this principle to church planting. It will require risk and determination. We must not be daunted by seemingly insuperable obstacles. We must not be put off due to ‘wind’ and ‘clouds’.
- Spread your efforts
In order to maximise influence, you might have to juggle different opportunities in your life: ‘Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed’ (v.6).
- Take your opportunities
Life is short. Your opportunities are limited: ‘Even if you live a long time, don’t take a single day for granted. Take delight in each light-filled hour … You who are young, make the most of your youth’ (vv.8a,9, MSG). 🙇🏽💯
The book finishes with a conclusion to all its searching and questioning. The meaning of life ultimately rests in your relationship with God: ‘Fear God [revere and worship Him, knowing that He is] and keep His commandments, for this is the whole of man [the full, original purpose of his creation, the object of God’s providence, the root of character, the foundation of all happiness, the adjustment to all inharmonious circumstances and conditions under the sun] and the whole [duty] for every man’ (12:13b, AMP)🙏🔥
Lord, help me and help our community to make the most of every opportunity that you have given us. Help us to fear you and keep your commandments. Help us to use our influence for good and not for evil. Help us to make the most of every opportunity that you have put before us. Amen!!!!🙏🙌🙇🏽