Sphere of Influence

We are all fascinated by celebrities. Anyone who has it all or has done it all is elevated to celebrity status in our minds. We love stories about those who have come from poverty to wealth or started with a small passion and have been able to reach millions. It is as if we are all trying to live vicariously through the lives of these we celebrate as successful. It is true of our society and true of our church culture.

Everybody wants to be Billy Graham, but nobody wants to be Jesus. We want to be the one that draws a stadium full of people, not someone who turns away thousands of people (John 6). We want to have hundreds of Facebook friends or thousands of Twitter followers, not someone who deals with twelve uneducated, frustrating men. We want to be like Rick Warren with a mega-church that reaches the masses, not the no-name pastor who has been faithful to his little congregation for years.

While we want our “Hall of Fame” to be filled with those who can bring the numbers, I believe Scripture has a different requirement for induction. In Hebrews 11, the so-called “Hall of Faith,” we find some extremely interesting people. Consider the following people:

  • Abel. His accomplishment? By faith, he offered an acceptable sacrifice. He didn’t save the world. He was simply faithful to God, and “through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.”
  • Enoch. His great contribution? By faith, he walked with God. God didn’t even leave him on earth to affect millions; He took him to heaven.
  • Noah. By faith, he built an ark. His action saved the world by saving his family.
  • Abraham. By faith, he moved his tent.
  • Sarah. By faith, she had a baby.
  • Isaac. By faith, he blessed his sons.
  • Jacob. By faith, he blessed his grandchildren.
  • Joseph. By faith, mentioned the coming Exodus.
  • Moses. By faith, he did a LOT (Heb. 11:23-31).
  • Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel…

The point is, while some did influence the lives of thousands and millions, most influenced a few. Sadly, many would look at this list and laugh at the “small-minded” focus of our spiritual fathers and mothers who raised a generation to put faith in God. We smirk at the idea of simply moving to another community as our great influence on the larger story of God. Yet each one is listed here to show that “without faith it is impossible to please [God]” (v. 6). It’s not worldwide fame and success that matters, but faithfulness to what God has given to you. The faithful are the ones “of whom the world [is] not worthy” (v. 38).

I hear many people dreaming of becoming the next Chris Tomlin but few talking and dreaming of being like Jesus Christ, “the faithful witness” (Rev. 1:5). Our hearts seem to be set on self-glory instead of God-glory. And I believe that if anyone spoke personally to Billy Graham, Rick Warren and Chris Tomlin, you’d learn that their desire is the glory of God.

What is the difference, then, between us and them? God has chosen to use them differently. Many of us may not like that thought, and we need to practice the discipline of contentment. Our desire should never be to “be like Mike,” but rather, to be like Christ. Our hearts should be set on faithfulness, not faithful masses. Our lives should be focused on following Christ not creating more followers for ourselves.

Let me ask you a question. Would your life be different if Jesus were your role model? If so, then perhaps repentance is in order. Good people and great dreams can become idols if it keeps our highest goal, effort and priority from loving and following Christ.

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