What is Influence? The dictionary defines influence as “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development or behavior of someone or something.” Influence, by design, is a process used to help us make a choice, a decision. For example, when buying a new car, we could do a ton of research and find a car that fits most of our needs and buy that one. Here, we are being “influenced” by the information we found on the vehicle we fell in love with. Or, we can see any car that looks good to us and comes in the color red. Here again, we are being influenced by looks and by color.
Influence is all around us and is something that we cannot escape. God designed us with the capacity to leverage influence in our decision-making responsibilities. However, it is important to understand, influence is just that, influence, it is NOT choice! Choice remains separate and apart from everything regardless of what influenced the choice. Which means, God can and will hold each and everyone of us accountable for the choices we make.
I think God wants all of us to influence the lives around us. This doesn’t mean we get to make their choices for them, this just means we get to influence the choices they make. For example, Billy Graham passed away this week of natural causes. Billy Graham had a tremendous influence on my life, yet I never met the man. I know very little about him. However, his influence in my life is profound. Why? Because he was able to influence others who in turn influenced others who in turn influenced me.
I think Jesus was onto something when He simplified our relationship with Him and His father down to two commands. Love God and love others. Now, what one thing do you think has the greatest influence on others? It seems to be more powerful than any other thing? This one thing is love! Coincidence? Or Design? Since God is love, I’m thinking this is by design!
Of all of the men born in the past 100 years, Billy Graham has probably had the greatest influence and impact on others than any other man or woman. This doesn’t mean that others haven’t had an influence, it just means, that Billy Graham’s influence far out-strips anyone else’s. Why is that? I think the answer is simple, He lived by the very same rules that Jesus laid out: Love God and love others.
I think the reason Billy succeeded where so many others failed was because he was always himself. He never tried to be something different or someone else. He loved God and wasn’t ashamed of it. He passionately pursued a close, personal, intimate relationship with God and his life’s work reflects the effort he put into this task. He was never ashamed of the Gospel, he was never ashamed of his God and although he was not perfect, he always strived to honor God in everything he did. Whether that was meeting with Presidents, Foreign Dignitaries, speaking to thousands at one of his many Crusades around the world or visiting with family and friends at his home in North Carolina.
I never met Billy, although I’ve seen him on TV and read a few of his books, I did not know him personally. For that matter, I don’t even know the two friends of his who have had the greatest impact on my relationship with God, Pastor’s Greg Laurie and Skip Heitzig. Now, I have met them both, I’ve even taken a picture with Skip, but I can’t say we are friends. I’m pretty sure, they don’t even know I exist, which is ok. However, because of Billy’s influence on them, they have had an even greater influence on me.
You see, influence grows and magnifies as it is passed along. Both Pastor Greg and Pastor Skip have taken Billy Graham’s influence as well as the influence of other great Godly men and packaged that influence together and given it to me. I guess now it is my turn to take Billy’s, Greg’s and Skip’s influence as well as the influence I’ve been given by hundreds of other Godly men and women as well as the influence God has given me personally, package it all up and give it to you personally.
What is my hope in doing this? My hope is to encourage you to fall in love with Your God. To passionately desire to get to know Him and pursue a close, personal, loving, intimate relationship with Him through His Son Jesus. If I can do this one thing, then all of those who have shared their influence with me can one day share in the joy of you coming to know Him personally. You will get to repay them one day, I know what that payment will be. A simple hug and thank you!
When I get to Heaven, I know I will have a lot of people I want to see and meet for the first time, my Lord and Savior for one, Peter, James, John, Paul and many others all of whom have had a considerable influence on my life. And to meet others again, like my two dads, my brother, my aunt, some of my grand-parents, some family friends. I know I’m going to want hugs from my two-boys, something I’ve never had because of their handicap. I know I’m going to want to hear them say, “hey dad, I love you,” again something I’ve never heard. When all of that is done and I have a few minutes to catch my breath from being overwhelmed by the awe all around me, I will take a minute or two to go find Billy. I will say hi, my name is Walker, can I have a hug?
Thank you, Billy Graham, for your love for Him and for your influence on others and for your influence on me!