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Increase your influence

A Peanuts cartoon showed Peppermint Patty talking to Charlie Brown. She said, "Guess what, Chuck. The first day of school, and I got sent to the principal's office. It was your fault, Chuck."

He said, "My fault? How could it be my fault? Why do you say everything is my fault?"

She said, "You're my friend, aren't you, Chuck? You should have been a better influence on me." (See Galatians 6:4,5*.)

Influence. Its root meaning carries the idea of one fluid flowing into another and affecting the properties of the second. Mythology taught that an ethereal fluid flowed from the stars and influenced the actions of men.

Influence is also defined as "an act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command; the power or capacity of causing an effect or altering in direct or intangible ways; power exerted over the minds or behavior of others."

We use word like power, control, sway, effect, rule, prestige, and authority to communicate the idea of influence. Influence is the effect of one person's life upon the lives of others.

Asa was a godly king of Judah during the time of the divided kingdom. He had a positive influence on Judah because he carried out godly reforms in the nation. "He did what was right in the sight of God" (see 2 Chronicles 14 and 15).

Asa is an example of a leader who makes a difference in his world. His values determined his actions; his actions and values determined his influence. Let's discuss three of Asa's actions, motivated by core values, that increased his positive influence.

First, Asa removed evil influences
because he valued righteousness.

"Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God. He removed the foreign altars and the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He commanded Judah to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, and to obey his laws and commands" (2 Chronicles 14:2-4).

Undoubtedly Asa began to remove the evil influences in his own life before he began to destroy the evil influences in the country. He led first by personal example, and then he took action through his authority, position, and influence.

Asa let God, not his own ideas, determine good and bad influence. It is easy for a person to become the judge of right and wrong and, ultimately, to do what is right in one's own eyes. Asa's strong influence came from the fact that he valued God's perspective and lived his life to reflect it. There is a difference between what I think is right and what God says is right.

There are three internal battlefields--potential towers of wrong influence-- that we all face and must conquer: Passions--appetites and desires; pride--arrogance and pretension; and position--aspiration and ambition. We must win our private battles before we can win public victories.

How do we overcome these internal battlefields? We overcome the powerful forces of our passions by exercising self-discipline and self-denial. When we overindulge, we impair our mental abilities and judgments and have problems in relationships. Overindulgence leads to insensitivity to others' needs, and it creates an inner dissatisfaction. This causes us to be angry with ourselves and, ultimately, to take it out on others. We either control our appetites and passions or they control us. Only through daily disciplines do we build strength, character and confidence. Sir Walter Scott wrote, "He who indulges his sense in any excess renders himself obnoxious to his own reason; and to gratify the brute in him, displeases the man and sets his two natures at variance."

We overcome the powerful forces of pride by developing first our character then our competence. Socrates said, "The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be." We are often more concerned about image than we are about character. The world is very image conscious. The pressure to appear powerful, successful, and fashionable causes many people to manipulate others.

If we are not secure in Christ, we look to social relationships for security, identity, and approval. Our self-concept becomes what others think about us rather than what we are. Pride and pretension lead to playing games, acting out roles, and mastering manipulation.

We overcome the powerful forces of uncontrolled aspiration and ambition by dedicating our talents to God's purposes and by serving others. Aspiring people may be more concerned about glory, power, position, and agendas than about the good of others or the cause of the whole. Ambition often blinds and causes them to see people, things, family, and relationships as means to their success. They are deeply competitive and view people, even family members and close friends, as competitors or conspirators. Aspiring people frequently manipulate through threats, fear, bribery, pressure, deceit, and charm. Rather than looking at time, talents, relationships, and possessions as areas of stewardship that they're accountable for, they view them as ways to achieve power, position, and prestige.

Stewardship is the realization that you don't own anything and that you are to give your life to the highest principles, causes, and purposes.

Second, Asa overcame his opposition
because he valued loyalty and commitment.

Zerah the Cushite came to fight against Asa and Judah. Asa faced him, called upon God, and defeated him (2 Chronicles 14:9-15). How we face opposition and difficulties in our lives determines how we influence others.

There are three primary sources of opposition: people, circumstances or environment, and self. The source of conflict sometimes confuses us, but identifying it enables us to deal properly with it. There are three general purposes for opposition: to perfect our faith, to perfect our character, and to reveal God's character and nature.

There are three correct responses to opposition: (1) Don't try to remove it, but allow it to reveal true weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9); (2) don't focus on outward circumstances, but realize that you're dealing with unseen spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:12); and (3) don't attempt to live for Christ in your own efforts, but realize that Christ must live in you through the power of His Holy Spirit (Galatians 2:20).

First, Asa recognized the enemy. He knew what the real battle was. Second, he called upon God for help and didn't try to make a difference in his own strength. Third, he trusted in God's character and nature. He appealed to His Name and glory. He knew that although he was facing battle, it was really God's reputation at stake. Fourth, he destroyed the enemy.

We glorify God when we conquer life's battles through His power and grace. We damage our ability to influence if we allow habits or problems to go unresolved. Asa realized that God used opposition to demonstrate His power in his life and lives of others. Because he faced and overcame the opposition, Asa's positive influence increased.

Third, Asa brought spiritual renewal
because he valued spiritual growth.

Asa led the people to reestablish their covenant with God and to seek Him with all "their heart and soul" (2 Chronicles 15).

Judah experienced problems because they had begun to live as if God didn't exist. They were practical atheists. They were without spiritual leadership and sound teaching.

There were five consequences to their spiritual poverty, depravity, and rebellion: (1) Widespread anarchy--everybody did what was right in his own eyes; (2) lack of safety; (3) fear for their lives; (4) constant turmoil and fighting; and (5) distress for everyone (2 Chronicles 15:3-7).

Asa, however, brought spiritual renewal (2 Chronicles 15:8-12). He destroyed the idols, and rebuilt the altar. He reestablished true worship and Judah's covenant relationship with God.

Asa's godly influence brought rejoicing and freedom from guilt and bondage. The people had hope and peace, and there was rest from the enemy. Their spiritual sensitivity and discernment increased, and they were willing to sacrifice and make commitments. True revival broke out, and there was a genuine spiritual renewal (see 2 Chronicles 15:10-18).

All of these things happened because one man chose to live by God's values and standards. His influence was positive and significant. These results will characterize the positive influence of all godly leaders.

Like Asa we can increase our positive influence if we remove evil influences from our lives and demonstrate that we value true righteousness. Then we can overcome difficulties and demonstrate our loyalty and commitment to God. Finally, we can renew our spiritual lives and demonstrate that we value spiritual growth.

*Unless noted, all Scripture references are from the New International Version.


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