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Short Run, Long Influence

Then and NowI saw a picture yesterday of a leader who has had a great deal of influence in my life. As a young man, I read everything he wrote. I listened to him speak as often as I could. I even bought a series of his that was designed for me to listen 5 minutes per day to increase my skills. He was, and is, a man of integrity and influence. I thought many times that I would love it if my life turned out like this man. If I was honest, I wanted to be like him so that others would want to be like me. What struck me when I saw his picture was the obvious aging that had taken place and the toll that life had taken on his body. He is still energetic and has many more years of influence but his picture shifted my perspective. I could see clearly that we all have short runs that come to an end far too quickly. People can only follow us so far and we can only accomplish so much. The real race is to get people to know us in order for them to know Jesus.
We cannot take out either side of the equation. We are social creatures and we want to follow leaders. Jesus told Peter to “feed my sheep.” Ministry is often referred to as shepherding in the New Testament. As a result, we will always have human leaders and some of them will become well-known. A clear example is 1 Corinthians 1. Paul points out a silly controversy with a sound conclusion in verse 12, “One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Paul, Apollos and Cephas had followers because they were men of integrity and influence. They spoke the truth, lived with character and invested in others. As a result, they created a following. Paul was clear, however, that their influence could only go so far. It was limited in scope and time. The influence of Jesus, on the other hand, knows no limits and lasts forever. That is why Paul asked, “Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (v. 13) Only Jesus paid the sacrifice that lasts forever. Only Jesus gives freedom that lasts forever. Only Jesus places hope in the heart that outlasts all difficulties and fends off all discouragements.
It was an interesting shift of perspective. I still want to be known. I still want to invest in the lives of others so they can grow and learn. I still want to build a ministry that is worthwhile and worth my best effort. More than ever, however, I want it to be clear that the goal is to meet and follow Jesus. I can give people direction, only Jesus can give purpose. I can give people encouragement, only He can give freedom. I can give people help, only He can rescue them from themselves. Hopefully my temporary run in life will result in an eternal run for many others.

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2 Responses

  1. That’s the bottom line. The real purpose, for all of us, regardless of what we’ve chosen to “do” for a living. Because in this purpose you’ve highlighted in truth, “do”-ing is not the most important or relevant focus or function. “Be”-ing is.

    A friend and mentor of mine once told me that the world and its culture focuses on the “Do-Have-Be” model, emphasizing and actually cajoling us into believing and acting that if we “Do” a certain thing, perform a certain job, say certain things at the right time in the right way, etc., then and only then will we “Have” what we want and need in our lives (money, material possessions, influence), and only THEN will we “Be” somebody.

    This hugely flawed and fractured way of looking at life – and ourselves! – represents not only most of the problems that we find ourselves in, both individually and collectively as a society, but also reveals our true fallen nature, as it directs and re-directs the focus of our thoughts, energy and actions completely on … ourselves!

    He pointed out to me that God’s way, and His model for our lives, is the “Be-Do-Have” model: We need to constantly strive to “Be” the person that He fearfully, wonderfully and uniquely made us to “Be”, and then we will naturally be “Do”-ing only those things that naturally and organically come out of our “Be”-ing, supporting, re-confirming, reinforcing and validating who we are “Be”-ing. And only THEN will we have EXACTLY what we need!

    I must confess that I have by no means mastered this way of “Be”-ing. “Be-Do-Have” is bloody difficult, exacerbated by the fact that in living this way you’re constantly swimming against a very strong cultural current that is consistently, continually and systematically telling you you’re wrong and there’s something wrong with you in doing so, like the proverbial spawning salmon. The attraction of money and stuff and the cultural perceptions of the man who has these pulls on as from all sides 24/7 like a giant super-conducting magnet. I stumble often, and must frequently remind myself of who I am, what His purpose and plan is and how He has designed me to fit into that.

  2. Bill, that’s a great reminder to me that we need to chose who we follow very carefully. Finding faithful leaders that direct us to Christ is key. In my 30 years of walking with Christ there have been numerous people (like James Dobson), pastors, and friends that have helped me along the way learn more about Christ and inspire me to follow him faithfully. At times I’ve strayed from following Christ but have always returned to where I know I need to be.

    It also reminds me that I am a leader to some (like my family) and I need to stay connected to Christ so my words and actions point to Him. I’m going to try and be more aware of my influence on others and try to be mindful that my influence is an opportunity to direct people to Jesus. Our lives here are short; thanks for the reminder!

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