BELIEVE – Chapter 9 - Stewardship

 

Confession Of Faith:

 

I believe everything I am and everything I own belong to God.

 

Key Verse:

 

Psalm 24:1-2 (NIV) 1 The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; 2  for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters. 

Key question: 

 

How much does God want from me?

 

Everything you have is a gift from God – your health, your life, your salvation, your freedom, your friends, your family, your opportunities.  

 

Even the things you work for in life you wouldn’t have them if God didn’t give you the ability to work for them.  So everything in your life is a gift from God.  

 

Now, God expects you to make the most of the things He gives you.  The word for that in the Bible is called “stewardship.” 

 

 Some people think stewardship means money.  It does not.  Stewardship is the Old English word for “management.”  

 

Managers used to be called stewards.  When we talk about stewardship we’re talking about the management of your life.  Your opportunities, your relationships, your talents, your resources, your intelligence. 

 

 Today I’m going to talk about an area you probably never thought about – the stewardship of your influence.  

 

God expects you to use your influence to help other people.  What is influence?  Let me tell you what it’s not.  

 

It’s not fame.  You could be very famous and still not influential.  There are a lot of celebrities that are well known but nobody cares what they think.  

It’s also not wealth.  Don’t confuse influence with affluence.  You can have a lot of money and still not have any influence.  

 

Influence according to Webster is “An emanation of spiritual and moral force.”  

 

That doesn’t tell me a whole lot so I like the Cambridge Dictionary definition:  “It is the power to affect how someone develops, acts, or thinks.”  

 

God expects you to be an influence.  

 

You say, “I’m not interested in being influential.”  You should be.  You should want to be influential.  

 

In fact, it’s quite selfish to say, “I don’t really care about the rest of the world.  I don’t care about helping anybody else.  I’m just thinking about little ol’ me.”  

 

In fact, Jesus commands that you use your influence for good in this world.  You weren’t put here in the world just to live for yourself.  You were put here to be an influence for good. 

 

God wants you to do that.  Someday we’re going to give an account to God of how well we influenced others for good and for God.  

 

Matthew 5:16 (ESV) 16  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

 

Jesus says I don’t want you to waste your influence.  You don’t buy a lamp and then hide it.  You don’t get a light bulb and then never use it.  

 

He said, If I’ve given you influence I want you to let your light shine.  

 

Another verse in the same chapter He says, I want you to be like salt.  

 

Matthew 5:13 (ESV) 13  “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. 

 

“You are like salt for the whole human race.”  

 

Why does God want us to be the salt of the earth?  Because salt does three things: it seasons, it improves taste, and it preserves – you put salt on something it preserves the meat like cured ham.  

 

Those are the three things God wants you to do with your life in this culture.  God wants you to season the world – make the world tastier, not so bland.  

 

He wants you to improve the world.  And He wants you to preserve it, keep it from going rotten. 

 

He doesn’t want the world to spoil.  

 

God says, I want you to use your influence for good.  In fact, in Jeremiah 15:19 He said, “You are to influence them;  do not let them influence you.”  

 

Talking about the world, sadly a lot of Christians have reversed this verse.  

 

We are far more influenced by the world – how we think, dress, act, sleep, talk, tell jokes, etc. than we influence the world.  

 

God says, “I don’t want you to be a thermometer, which just reflects the heat of the culture.  I want you to be a thermostat that controls the heat of the culture.  I want you to be the influencing force.”

 

As your friend and as your pastor I want you and I want to help you to become an influential person.  

 

There’s enough bad influences in the world.  What we need in this world is a lot more positive influence, good influence, important influence, helping for what’s good and what’s right.

 

So today we’re going to look at the stewardship of influence on how you can become a more influential person.  The Bible says you do three things.

 

1.  I Must RECOGNIZE My Influence.

 

The truth is everybody has influence.  You are far more influential than you realize.  You just don’t think about it.  You’re not usually aware of your influence.  

 

You say, “Who do I influence?”  Everybody you come in contact with.  

 

You influence your family.  You influence your friends.  You influence your neighbors.  You influence your relatives.  You influence people you go to school with or people you work with.  You influence your boyfriend or your girlfriend or your husband or wife.  You influence the people you play sports with.  You may be a soccer mom or a little league dad.  

 

You influence people all around you all the time.  Anybody you come in contact with on a daily basis through the day you have a potential to influence.  

 

You can make or break a store clerk’s day by how you treat them.  You can influence sales people.  You can influence attendants.  You can influence the gardeners, the ushers, the mail carriers, the barbers, the bankers, the people in stores – everybody you come in contact with you have the potential for influence.  

 

Every time you send an email you are influencing.  Every time you write a note or a letter you’re influencing.  

 

Every time you make a phone call you are influencing.  Every time you vote you are influencing. Every time you gossip to somebody you are influencing.  

 

The issue is not are you an influence.  The issue is what kind of an influence are you?  

 

You’re an influence for good or for bad, for right or for wrong, for Christ or not for Christ.  

 

What influence are you?  

 

The Bible says that God wants you to think about this and be more intentional about your influence.  

God wants you to recognize where you could be influence for good.  Think about your interests.  

What kind of person am I and how could I use that for influence?  

 

Think about your job, your career.  What do I do at work and how could I use that for influence?  Then I should use that to the best of my abilities for good.

 

Galatians 6:4 (ESV) 4  But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.

 

Know who you are and know what you’re doing and then do it the best that you can.  Be a good influence.

 

One of the greatest questions of life is a question that God asked Moses.  Moses was a murderer on the run.  He was a criminal.  He was a fugitive.  He was running from God and from Egypt.  

 

Out in the desert he came upon a burning bush.  You know this story, where God got his attention.  God started talking to him.  God said, “What is in your hand?” – one of the most important questions in life.  

 

Exodus 4:2-3 (ESV) 2  The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” 3  And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it.

 

Why did God ask Moses, “What’s in your hand?”  Didn’t He already know?  Of course He already knew.  When God asks a question it’s not for His benefit.  It’s for yours.  God already knows the answer.  But He asks Moses “What is in your hand?” because of what the staff represented.  

 

Remember how God says, “Throw it on the ground.”  When he throws it on the ground the staff becomes a snake.  It becomes alive.  It’s filled with power.  Then He says, “I want you to pick up the snake,” and the snake becomes a staff again.  That’s a pretty cool little miracle.  

 

Why in the world did God do that?  Just to show off?  No.  God never does a miracle to show off.  There’s always a lesson, there’s always a spiritual truth.  There’s always a principle behind it.  This is what He was saying to Moses.  

 

First He says, “Moses, what’s in your hands?”  Moses was a shepherd and he had a shepherd’s staff.  It’s just a stick.  

 

But that staff represented everything Moses was.  He was a shepherd.  So it represented his income – he raised sheep.  It represented his identity – he was a shepherd.  And it represented his influence – get along little sheepie!  

 

That’s what you do with a staff, you kind of move them along.  So when he says, “What’s in your hand?” and Moses says, “A staff,” it represents his identity, his income, and his influence.  

 

God says, “Moses, if you will give Me your influence, your identity and your income I will empower it.  I’ll make it come alive.  I’ll do miraculous things from it.”  

 

Moses, when he laid it down, he in essence was saying, “God, I am giving You my identity, my income, my influence.”  

 

He lays it down and it becomes something of power.  From that point on that staff was the same staff Moses uses for all the miracles.  

 

It’s the staff that he raises up to split the Red Sea.  It’s the staff that he holds in the water of the Nile to turn it into blood.  

 

It’s the staff that he uses to strike the rock and water comes out.  It’s the staff to do all the miracles.  In fact, from this point on it was never again called Moses’ staff.  

 

But the Bible refers to it as, “the rod of God.”  All of a sudden what had been simple and plain – a crazy little stick – God is using for miracles and as a tool.  

 

Here’s the point.  Because Moses gave what he had in his hand – his identity, his income, his influence – because Moses gave that to God, God used that as a tool to influence history.  

 

History was changed because those things were used to influence for good and for God.  And it was never the same again.

 

God wants to ask you the same question this morning.  What is in your hand?  

 

You say, “I don’t know what’s in my hand.”  Of course, you don’t know what’s in your hand.  Cause you don’t even think about what you’ve got.  

 

You have talents you’ve never even developed.  You don’t even know that you’ve got them.  

 

You have relationships you don’t think about.  You have contacts and networks and influences that you’re totally unaware of how you influence other people.  

 

But God says if you will give to Me your life, give Me your business, give Me your family, give Me what’s in your hand – your talent, your relationships – give Me your intellect, give Me your freedom, give Me your health, give Me your influence and I will turn it into the rod of God and I will do miracles and I will do wonderful things through you and we will influence history.

 

God says I will use whatever you’ve got if you give it to Me.

 

That’s where we start.  First you recognize your influence then…

 

2. I Must EXERCISE My Influence

 

I’ve got to exercise it.  I’ve got to realize that influence is like a muscle.  You either use it or you lose it.  So I’ve got to exercise it.  

 

I’ve got to use the influence that God has given to me.  The truth is for most of us we have far more influence than we ever imagined.  

 

We can have a far greater impact with our influence.  

You meet hundreds, thousands of people a day that you influence in some way.  The influence that you have can be incredibly more powerful if you and I would just take the simple step of being a little more intentional about our influence.  

 

Not just accidental but intentional.  

 

FIVE WAYS TO BE INTENTIONAL ABOUT INFLUENCE

 

Here are five specific ways you and I can be intentional about our influence.  Some of the things we can do.  

 

These are actually five levels of influence.  

 

Starting with something that is pretty easy for all of us to do and ends with something pretty difficult.  

 

The first of these any of us could do.  The last of them, it might cost you your life.  Let’s begin with the easiest one.  How can I influence people?

 

    1.  By SMILING at people.

 

Just start real simple.  We influence people by smiling at people.  When you smile what happens?  They smile back.  

 

When they smile back that means you just influenced them.  They did something they wouldn’t have done because you made the choice to smile at them.  

 

There’s just something about the smallest kind word, the simplest smile, that can make a difference in somebody’s day.  Sometimes it can turn their whole day around.  

 

Proverbs 15:30 (NIV) 30  A cheerful look brings joy to the heart…

 

 Smile brings joy to your heart.  But it also brings joy to the heart of the people you’re smiling at.  You’ve influenced them.  It’s a simple way we can all exercise influence.

 

The second way we can all exercise influence is…

 

    2.  By SYMPATHIZING With People

 

Showing emotional support, encouragement, care for people in our lives. 

 

2 Corinthians 1:4 (MSG) 4  He (God) comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.

 

God has comforted you and it’s not just for your sake.  He comforts us so we can comfort other people.  There’s something about sympathy, letting other people know that we care about what they’re going through that opens the door to influence.  

 

I care about people that care about me.  I care about what they think, what their ideas are. 

 

 The fact that they care about me makes me want to listen to them.  It opens the door for influence in life.  That’s what sympathy is all about.  

 

If you’re like me there’s a lot of people you care about but you never let them know.  

 

Sympathizing is doing something about it.  Not just caring but writing a note or having a word or going by and seeing them, letting them know “I care about what you’re going through.”  

 

That’s a powerful way to influence people with your life.  

 

We influence people by smiling at people, by sympathizing with people and there’s a third way we influence people.

 

    3.  By SERVING People.

 

It’s pretty easy to smile.  It’s pretty easy to sympathize.  However, the next step is to start serving people which takes a little more effort.

 

The more effort you put into this, the more influence you develop. 

 

 In God’s economy the greater you serve someone the greater influence you have in their life.  The more you serve others, the more influence you’ll have.  

 

1 Corinthians 9:19 (MSG) 19  Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: 

 

Paul basically is saying… “I serve other people so I can influence them.  I serve them so I can tell them about God and teach them to do good.”  

 

That’s why Jesus said, “If you want to be great, learn to be the servant of all.”  

 

If you serve a few people, you’re going to have a little influence.  

 

If you serve no one, you’re going to have no influence in life.  If you serve a lot of people, you’re going to have great influence in life.  It all is dependent upon how many people you serve and how well you serve.  

 

You have to decide in life whether you want to impress people or you want to influence them.  Those are the options.  

 

Do I want to impress people or do I want to influence them.  

Most of us choose the first way because it’s easier and we can be more distant.  You can impress people from a distance.  

 

You see a star walking across the stage and you go, “That’s impressive!”  When you’re far away – you don’t see all the flaws.

 

But you can only influence them if you get up close.  When you get up close they can see you, warts and all.  

 

That’s why we don’t like to get close to people.  Because then they’ll see our faults, our frailties, our weaknesses.  

 

I can’t tell you how many people, sometimes somebody will see me up close and say” then fill it in – “…fatter… shorter … etc. …” whatever.  

 

They just say it because you see a person from a distance is one thing but you get up close it’s something else.   

 

God says, I don’t care about having you impress people.  What I want you to do is influence them.  You’ve got to get up close to serve them.  

 

    4.  By SPEAKING Up.

 

This level is a little bit harder than the other three.  Speaking up for God and for good.  

 

Psalm 107:2 (ESV) 2  Let the redeemed of the LORD say so…

 

Let there redeemed of the Lord say so.  If you claim to be a Christian don’t hide it.  

 

Don’t try to be some kind of secret agent Christian, a lady Clairol Christian: nobody knows for sure, does she or doesn’t she?  Don’t hide your faith.  “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.”  

 

 

It takes courage to be an influencer.  Here’s my question: what do you need to speak up about?  

 

You know that friend’s heading down the wrong track and you’ve said nothing.  

 

“It’s none of my business.” Oh, yes it is!  If you care.  You’ll share.  

 

If you see something going wrong at work we say,:  “I’m not going to get involved.”  It’s your business!  

 

What about that person who lives next door to you who’s headed for hell?  

 

You’ve got to care enough to share.  Do you have the courage to be a person of influence?

 

Edmund Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”  

I would say the only thing necessary for our culture to go to hell in a handbag is for Christians to say nothing.  … “I don’t want to offend anybody.”  

 

If you see something wrong, you ought to talk about it.  You ought to stand up for it.  You ought to speak up for it.  Sometimes God puts you right in the middle of a problem at work, home, school, wherever just so you’ll speak up about it.  So He’ll have a voice.  

 

That’s what happened to Esther.  There’s a book in the Old Testament that tells the story of Esther.  

 

Esther was a young Jewish woman.  Her nation had been taken captive to Iraq.  The king was Xerzes.  

 

He held a beauty contest to choose his queen and out of all the women in the land he chose a Jewish woman – Esther.  So she became the queen. 

 

 Later on a rule was decreed that all the Jews in the country would be killed.  And Esther’s friend’s came to her and said, “Esther, do you not realize that God has put you in this position of influence for such a time as this.”  

 

She could have lost her head in challenging the king’s rule.  But she went in.  She made her appeal.  

 

She said, “I’m Jewish.  My friends, my family are all Jewish.  You can’t do this.”  

 

She put her own life on the line and gambled her influence and the king gave in and all the Jewish nation was saved because of one woman who had the courage to speak up.

 

Will you do that?  

 

Proverbs 31:8-9 (ESV) 8  Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. 9  Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. 

 

There’s a fifth way that you and I can exercise our influence and it’s by far the toughest.

 

    5.  By SACRIFICING.

 

By our sacrifice we can exercise our influence.  Without a doubt the most influential person in human history was Jesus Christ.  It was because He made the greatest sacrifice in human history.  

 

He gave His own life to influence all of human history.  Look at what Christ did for us.

 

Hebrews 9:14 (ESV) 14  how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. 

 

Great sacrifice equals great influence.  

 

I’d say that the second greatest and most influential person in human history would probably be the Apostle Paul.  

He’s the one who carried the message of God’s sacrifice through Jesus’ love to the entire known world of that day.  One man.  One man did that.  

 

What gave him the ability to do that?  He changed his culture.  He changed history.  

 

What gave him the ability to have that kind of an influence?  We see his heart in the next verse.  

 

Philippians 2:17 tells us something about Paul 

 

Philippians 2:17 (ESV) 17  Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 

 

It was a joyful sacrifice because he saw the impact that it was making.  He had an influence that changed everything. 

 

 Again, you see in his life.  

 

If you want great influence you’ve got to make great sacrifices.  In fact, you cannot have a great influence without making great sacrifices.  

 

Here’s the tough part for us.  That means if I’m going to have a great influence, if you’re going to have a great influence you can’t just live your comfortable life.  There are going to be some sacrifices involved.  But the sacrifices are worth it because it changes the world.  

 

When I talk about sacrifice I think most of us think, “That means to give my life.”  

 

And maybe that’s what God would call you do.  But for most of us those sacrifices are going to be part of our everyday life.  It is the small sacrifices of being unselfish in everyday life that make the greatest impact on this world.  

 

That’s what the next verse is talking about – Hebrews 13:16 

 

Hebrews 13:16 (ESV) 16  Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. 

 

These are the kinds of sacrifices that please God.  

 

God wants you to influence your world.  I want you to become an influential person.  So what does it take?  

 

First you recognize your influence, that you do have it.  Then you become more intentional.  When you get up in the morning you say, “God, I want You to use me today to influence every person I come in contact with for good and for God.”  You be intentional.  You recognize.

 

Then you exercise and you start doing these five ways we just talked about.  Serving, sharing, speaking up.  Then you not only recognize and exercise … 

 

3. You Must Maximize Your Influence.

 

That means do your best to develop it.  Do your best to cultivate it.  Do your best to expand your influence.

 

You say, “Isn’t that kind of egotistical?”  No, it’s not.  You should want to expand your influence because you’re not doing it for your benefit; you’re doing it for Jesus’ sake.  

 

That’s why He leaves you here on earth.  Once you’re saved why doesn’t He take you immediately to heaven?  You’re here to be an influence.    

 

Get this.  It’s very important.  

 

There are only two legitimate reasons for expanding your influence.  One is ministry and the other is mission.  

 

In other words, you do it in order to help more people and you do it in order to bring more people to Jesus.  

 

Any other reason is illegitimate, self-centered and selfish.  

 

On the other hand, there is almost nothing that God will not do for the person whose ultimate goal is the glory of God.  

 

God will do almost anything for the person who says “God, use me as an influence for You and for good in this world.”  God puts His hand on that person and blesses that person and uses that person.  

 

Ephesians 5:16 (ESV) 16  making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

 

He says I want you to maximize your influence for good and for God.

 

Psalm 72 is Solomon’s prayer for more influence.  When Solomon prayed this prayer he was already the wealthiest man in the world.  He was the most powerful man in the world.  

 

He ran the biggest kingdom in the word at that the United Kingdom of Israel.  He was the most influential person in the world.  And he was the wisest person in the world. 

 

 In this Psalm 72 he says, “God I want you to give me more wealth and more power and more influence.” 

 

 That sounds pretty egotistical.  It sounds pretty selfish.  Until you read the whole psalm and he says, “This is why I want You to bless me with more influence. 

 

Psalm 72:11-15 (ESV) 11  May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him! 12  For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. 13  He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. 14  From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight. 15  Long may he live; may gold of Sheba be given to him! May prayer be made for him continually, and blessings invoked for him all the day! 

He is saying – “God give me influence so I can help  the poor, the neglected, the widowed, the orphans, the homeless, the helpless, those who have no education, those who can’t speak for themselves.”  

 

The purpose of influence is to speak up and use it to help people who have no influence.  And I intend to do that.

 

You might  say, “I don’t have any influence.”  Use what you’ve got!  Start using what you’ve got.  

 

Be an influence in your family.  Be an influence in your school.  Be an influence with your neighbors.  Be an influence with your boyfriend or your girlfriend.  Be an influence with the people you work with.  

 

Let me tell you an interesting fact about influence.  When you use it wisely, God gives you more.  And if you will just start using the influence that you’ve got God will expand it and expand it and expand it and blow your mind in ways that He could use you.  

 

You might say, “I’m just an ordinary person.”  That’s what Moses said with that staff.  “I’m a shepherd on the backside of the desert.” 

 

How could God use me?  You have no idea.  Are you using the influence God has given you?  

 

Have you ever thought about praying that God would expand your level of influence – that you would be a good steward of what God has given you?

 

This should be our theme today as we dismiss from this service.

 

Remember when it comes to influence it’s not about you.  And it’s not about me.  It’s about Him.