A couple of years ago as I was preparing a sermon, I asked several people in my life this question. Who has been the most influential for you in your faith? The people I asked were a mix of ages, and both men and women. The answers were poignant and amazing. The series was called ‘Hand me Downs’, and we talked about leaving spiritual legacies. For some of the folks it was a family member who influenced them the most. For others, like one of our nephews it was also a friend/neighbor. One person was influenced by their pastors believe it or not, and another his son. You know by now that the biggest faith influence in my life was my grandmother.
Only one person I asked mentioned their pastor. I don't say that because I feel slighted. I say that to make a point. Of the ten people I asked, one said their pastor. The other nine told me about family and friends. And that is awesome. That means there are people who take the challenge to share the good news with others seriously. Each one of us has a chance to be a faith influencer for someone else. But it doesn't happen overnight. It takes time and effort and consistency to help someone grow in their faith. My grandmother had 25 years to be my influencer.
In the text conversation I had with our nephew we talked about a spiritual legacy and I commented on how he has sown into his son...our great nephew...that he had given his son the important things, things that affect eternity. His answer still touches my heart. He told me; I made a promise when he was baptized. We make promises at baptism to walk with people. The parents promise to bring their children up knowing Jesus. The sponsors promise to help not only the person being baptized grow but also the family. And as a congregation we promise to be the faith village. When the baptismal candle is lit, we speak the words of Matthew 5:14, "Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father I heaven.”
Being a faith influencer doesn't mean standing on a street corner, preaching. It means living out our faith each and every day. It means keeping promises. It means spending time in prayer and the Word so that we continue to grow in our faith. That will help others grow and set an example. As those who bear Christ's name, we are called to be different. We live in this world, but we are not of this world. Our lives here are temporary...a vapor scripture tells us. And while we live here on earth, heaven is our home. Paul tells us in Romans 12:2 “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” The world is ruled by the evil one...the prince of darkness, the one whose language is lies and deceit.
When people find out that we believe, they watch us. Do we act like followers of Jesus Christ? Do we treat others like Jesus would? Or do we live and breathe the things of this world? Paul's verse above reminds us that the things which mold us and shape us should not be of the world. It is the Lord who transforms us, sanctifies us...bit by bit making us more and more like Jesus. That is the goal. And renewing our minds? Our transformation begins in the heart and mind. A mind and life dedicated to the world and its concerns will produce a life that is tossed about by the currents of culture. We will live the life of doing whatever is happening now. But if we dedicate our lives and mind to God's truth, we will find the hope and strength to withstand the test of time. We will be able to withstand the temporary things of this world and we will have a place to turn when temptations call our names.
Paul puts it this way when he writes to the Philippians, ”Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy...meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9. When Paul speaks of learning he isn't just speaking of intellectual knowledge. He is really speaking about learning by habitual practice. We learn about God by reading scripture...not just once but over and over. We learn how to pray by praying...again and again.
Others learn from us by watching what we do, not just once but again and again. They see what we do over and over, and at some point, we invite them to join us. We read scripture with them. We pray with and for them. All of us have the ability and the chance to influence another in the things of faith. Someone sowed into us. Who will we sow into?
In His grip
Pastor Matt W