Every person on planet earth influences others. True, the sphere of his influence may be small. In that case his desire is likely to increase the number of persons he inspires to follow his teachings and righteous example. Or, sadly, some influence others in following a wrong course for their lives. In that case, hopefully, the desire is to first alter the direction one takes on his earthly journey and then to entice others to join him when he sets his course aright. Then by following the precepts of Holy Scripture he can achieve both the ambition to influence more people and to lead others to live godly lives.
Obviously, to influence others toward a godly life one must first follow such a pathway himself.
Peter outlined what traveling that highway is like.It requires that one constantly strive to add to his faith in Christ the attribute of virtue, and that he add to that knowledge, and to that self-control, and to that perseverance, and to that godliness, and finally to that brotherly kindness (1 Pet. 1:7). Then he promised, “For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (8). Without doubt that fruitfulness includes winning souls to the Lord.
Proverbs offers a most simple and yet profound principle on influencing others in life. The work declares, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly” (18:24). Of course, he must be genuinely interested in those to whom he manifests friendship. Otherwise, he is a mere flatterer and a hypocrite. Absalom, one of David’s sons, was such a person. The Bible says that, largely through flattery, he “stole the hearts of the men of Israel” (1 Sam. 15:6). The moment others see such a person for what he is, they turn away from rather than being positively influenced by him.
Jesus taught that being a leader of others requires humility.
He said, “Whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all” (Mark 10:44). Yet, despite the emphasis on modesty in leadership throughout Scripture, Paul boldly invited others to follow his influence. More than once in his writings he said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Most who lead others in today’s world counsel, “Don’t follow me. I am almost certain to disappoint you. Always keep your eyes on the Lord.” Yet, maybe one should be bold, as was Paul, in intentionally inviting others to follow him.
Scripture also indicates that a degree of flexibility on non-essentials in doctrine and practice is helpful in influencing others to live a godly life. In this way Paul declared that he had made himself a servant of all that he might win the more to the Lord. To the best of his ability, he sought to understand and relate successfully to both Jew and Gentile, to those under the law and those without a law, as well as to the weak and to the strong (1 Cor. 9:19-22). He made such adjustments along the way, he said, “So that I might by all means save some” (22).
On the other hand, experience teaches that it is a mistake to seek directly to be successful as a leader of others in this world. The world of politics has produced more than ample evidence of those who ply all the tricks of their trade in seeking merely to influence the way people vote in their favor. Rather, success comes as a by-product of useful living.Then what one should seek is to make full use of all God has entrusted to him in serving the Lord and fellowmen. If he does that, as Paul said, God will give the increase, making his life fruitful (1Cor. 3:9).
Indeed, sometimes, one is not aware of the extent of his influence on others. Rarely, if ever, does one realize what God is doing in his life in the present. He must move ten years or so into the future, then look back, and only from that vantage point can he see the wonders the Lord has wrought in the lives of others through him.
To illustrate, once others engaged themselves in the unprofitable activity of assessing the quality of Paul’s ministry.
To them the apostle wrote, “With me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court.” Then somewhat shockingly he declared, “In fact, I do not even judge myself” (1 Cor. 4:3). After all, the extent of his influence on others depends, in part, on gifts and graces which come from the Lord, including the personality he came into the world with. He would be foolish, then, to take credit for things whose real source is God. Of course, one must not use Paul’s words as an excuse to not seek self-improvement to the fullest extent possible in this world.
Then Paul counseled all not to focus too much on themselves in this life. Rather, they should leave the matter of judging their effectiveness in life with the Lord. He wrote, “Therefore, judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God” (1 Cor. 4:5).