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Sticky Influence

Over the years, I have developed an interest in helping people work through the major transition points of their lives. It has become evident that midlife is one of those developmental passages that we don’t talk enough about. We are all familiar with adolescence and resources abound for the retirement years but the preparation phase for the second half of life gets little attention. Within the last month I met a physician who said to me, “I think there should be a training course that everyone goes through as they approach midlife. So many people seem to just go crazy during that time.” The interesting thing about this statement is that we weren’t talking about midlife at the time. It had simply been on his mind and he wanted to talk about it.
I have discovered that this transition is all about influence. Since most of us anticipate living into our eighties (compared to life expectancy of early sixties during the 1960s), the influence curve of our lives has shifted. Our greatest potential for influence occurs now during the years from 50 to 70. Since I am in this stage of life, it has become a major theme in my heart. That is why I think Judges 2:10 stirred my heart when I read it this morning, “After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.” Joshua had faithfully led the nation of Israel into the Promised Land. Along with Caleb, they unified the people with enthusiasm, direction and conviction. Their faith was real and their lifestyles reflected spiritual strength. The next generation didn’t catch it, however, and that bothers me. During my twenties and thirties, I was primarily concerned with my productivity. How was I going to make a living? How was I going to be productive enough to keep up with the needs of my family? How could I discover God’s will for my life?
The forties shifted my focus and I started asking different questions. How am I going to help others discover God’s will for their lives? How will the world be a better place because I was alive? How can I help my grandkids and great grandkids discover a vibrant faith and quality lives?
I believe Judges 2:10 contains the formula. First, I need to pray diligently for those I want to influence. The potential always exists for another generation to rise up who does not know the Lord. Loving God is always a matter of the heart that comes down to a personal decision by every individual. At some point, everyone I love will be confronted with the remarkable love and grace of Jesus. I can help them hear the message but I can’t decide for them. I have resorted, therefore, to begging God for the hearts of the next generations. I ask Him consistently to have an encounter with each of them and I pray they will have soft hearts when it happens.
The second part of the formula is to tell the stories because the potential also exists that the next generation will not know what God has done. Part of this is a matter of the heart but part of it is in how we tell our history. When the things God has done are told with a context of “I remember when . . .” they are relegated to history. It is easy to conclude that He used to do those things or He had to do those things because we needed more help than the modern world. The stories ought to be told with an attitude of “let me tell you who God is.” His working in our lives is simply a preview of what He is going to do in their lives. As a result, we ought to work on telling the stories with a sense of anticipation and enthusiasm. The stories have influence when they are aimed at building anticipation of what He is going to do next rather than on what He used to do.
Lord, help us live in such a way that those who come behind us know you and the way you work!

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One Response

  1. (Deep breathing sound) Aaaaaahhhhh. So good to have you back!

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