When Jesus taught that His followers were the “salt of the earth and a light unto the world”, He pointed to the fact that we are called to influence this world. Our influence does not come because we are wealthy or because we are politically connected or because we are philosophically sophisticated. No, our influence flows from our intimate connection to the Lord God, the Maker of the heavens and the earth. We reside on this plain as His ambassadors and His representatives. As a result the influence the Christian can have upon this world and upon the people around him or around her is nothing short of dramatic and nothing short of exceptional. The examples of this fact are myriad.
One such example is the life of J. Hudson Taylor. As a teenager, before he graduated from high school God laid His hand upon this young man’s heart. In 1853, at the age of twenty-one, after receiving a degree in medicine, he obeyed God’s call for his life and he traveled to China. His desire was to take the Gospel where it had never been taken before, so deep into the interior of this vast nation this young man went. At the willing cost of much of his life and comfort, he obeyed God’s call.
Today, if you are to go into the interior of China, you would find many, many thousands, indeed millions, believe in Jesus Christ and much credit can be given to the influence of this one young man who followed Jesus Christ with a heart’s passion to the interior of China. Such influence was so profound that after J. Hudson Taylor’s death the communist government that came into power sought to obliterate Hudson Taylor’s influence. The communist government of China commissioned an author to write a biography of Hudson Taylor after his death with the purpose of distorting the facts and presenting him in a bad light to their nation. They wanted to discredit the name of this consecrated missionary of the Gospel.
The author began to do the research for his government and as he researched he was increasingly impressed by Hudson Taylor’s saintly character, his Godly life, and his integrity. He found it extremely difficult to carry out the task assigned for him by his government. Eventually, at the risk of loosing his life, he laid his pen aside, he renounced his atheism, and he received Jesus Christ as his personal Savior.
Every follower of Jesus Christ is not going to be a J. Hudson Taylor, but we must not let loose of God’s calling upon our lives to be influences in this world, to make a difference for the glory of God, and profoundly build God’s Kingdom.
I think of the influence that my wife’s grandpa is still making in this world. Today, he leads a pretty simple life. He is eighty-nine years old. He eats lunch at the same restaurant most days. He speaks kindly to all the staff as he enters. He asks them questions in regards to their life because he takes an interest in them. He always leaves a very, very generous tip! He makes beautiful pens in his garage and as he makes those pens he hands them out as gifts to the waitresses, to the chefs, and to the bus-boys. These staff members of this restaurant began talking to him and they asked him questions about his life because they are curious about him. He talks to them about his life, about the Lord’s working in his life, and giving all of the credit for any success he has had in this life to Jesus Christ and to God’s leading.
Some of the people at that restaurant, as a result of the influence of this eighty-nine year old gentleman, have trusted in Jesus Christ and have been redeemed. Their lives have been changed.
If you had the opportunity to eat lunch with Ray Wilcox you would notice, as you walked into that restaurant, that, first, he is not met with merely a smile and a kind “Hello, it is good to see you, Ray”, but he is met with a warm embrace and with hugs. You would also discover that you would be taken to the very best table in that restaurant, not because Ray Wilcox demands it or asks for it, but because the waiting staff wants to give it to him. You will also find that most of the times that you are with him the chef would come out and say, “Hey, Ray, we have some special fish for you. I want to cook it just for you because I have saved it for you,” and he would cook Ray a special, special lunch.
How is it that such a man has such an influence? It is because he is doing what he can to build God’s Kingdom. He often wonders, “Why, God, have you left me on this earth so long?” His wife has gone to Heaven for many years now and he wonders, as he longs for Heaven, “Why, God, do you still have me still here?” The reason is the same reason that God has left you and me here: to be an influence, to be the salt and light and to come along side the people of this world and to reveal to them the glory of Jesus.
We ask the question: how can I be such a person of influence? We will examine the life of the Apostle Paul in one short incident in his life in Acts 27 and 28. We will begin in Acts 27:9 and we will see how Paul exerted considerable influence in the midst of a hurricane. The ship had broken apart and all two hundred seventy-six passengers made it safely on to shore. As Paul boarded the ship he had no influence; he was a captive, he was a prisoner, and he was a man in chains. But, by the end of this journey everyone on board wanted to find out what Paul had to say because they recognized that this was a man who was unique and he had influenced them.
We discover, through Paul’s example, five qualities necessary to be an influence in our families, to be an influence in our work places, and to be an influence in our neighborhoods for the glory of God. We will study these one-by-one.
The first quality is a willingness to stand against the majority opinion. The second quality is a genuine interest in the happiness of others. The third quality of one who influences is a conviction to speak God’s Word boldly and clearly. The fourth quality of an influential Christian is a confidence in the future goodness of God. Finally, the influential Christian has a persistence in selfless labor.
We first look at the willingness to stand against the majority opinion. There are two hundred seventy-six people on board this Alexandrian sailing ship that is about one hundred forty feet long. It is a pretty large ship, but it is jammed with people and they have been on this ship for some two weeks now. In Acts 27:7 and 9-10, we read,
7 We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus. When the wind did not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone.
9 Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Fast. So Paul warned them, 10 “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.”
The time they were sailing was a time after safe sailing and they were entering into a period when very few ships ventured onto the sea. Paul made his comments with such conviction and confidence that, I assume, God had given him a revelation of this fact and that is the reason why he was so absolute in the prospects that this ship had in taking off from the coast that day. In Verse 11, we read,
11 But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship.
Undoubtedly the others considered that these “experts” had a better opinion than Paul. They didn’t want to stay in the coastal city of Fair Havens. It was not a pleasant place to winter. The majority sided with the ship’s pilot and with the captain and with the owner of the ship.
The majority so seldom follows after God, especially in this unregenerate world. No one influences other people by trying to “fit into” our culture and fit into this world. If we try to fit into this world and make our opinions and make our convictions and make our values and make our minds match with the mindset that this world has, rather than having influence which we desire and we think we might be able to obtain if only we could relate more and show that we agree with this world more, just the contrary will be true. We will loose all ability to influence this world that is sailing quickly in the opposite direction, away from God and away from His Holiness, away from His life, and away from His Kingdom.
Influence begins as we stand up against the court of public opinion. This principle is not a license for us to become a belligerent people; looking for ways in which we can disagree with others and enter into quarrels of various kinds. Seeking to be contrary for the sake of contrariness has no value and will bring us no influence in this world.
What this principle does mean is that we have an internal compass, a compass that is fixed by forces outside the counsel of the ungodly and outside the wisdom of this world. For our compass, the compass that we look to for direction in our lives, is set by God and it is God’s Word and God’s Spirit, so if everyone else in this world says, “North is in this direction,” (pointing South) instead of hand believing that North must be in this direction because all of the experts of this world tell us that this is due North and all of our friends tell us that this is due North, instead of just believing them, what do we do? We look down at the internal compass, the compass that God has given us, and if the compass that God has given us tells us that “this” is not due North, but is South and “this” (pointing North) is due North, guess what we believe? We say, “You all may think that is due North but that is wrong. This is where North lies. This is the direction that God takes us.”
We side always with the compass that God has given us regardless of how expert and how united the opinions of the majority may be. This is true, not only in our lives, in our neighborhoods, and in our work place, but this is also true within the church. It is vital that the church leaders continue to look at this inward compass that God has given us: the compass of His Word and the compass of His Spirit.
For instance, if a church growth expert or a demographic expert says, “You will reach more people if you begin to preach short, topical sermons with lots of stories and illustrations and very little Bible doctrine.” What we do then is we look at the compass that God has given us and we ask, “Is that true,” and we find that is not true. If the sociologist tells us that the way to grow a church is to talk of man’s natural goodness and not so much about man’s sinful condition and the sin-nature of his heart, then we need to emphasize more the love within our community of faith over and above, and in exclusion to, the necessity of individual faith and the necessity of individual repentance. The experts of the world might tell us that we loose people by emphasizing things like the “blood of Jesus Christ” and “the substitutionary atonement”, which means that when Jesus Christ came to die on a cross He suffered under the wrath of God in our place so that we might not be condemned but that we can have freedom from the guilt and the condemnation of our sin.
If all of the experts and all of the new books that are teaching us how to “do church” tell us these things, what do we do? We take those books and we examine them over the compass that God has given us and we follow God’s direction, even if it means we go against the stream at every turn and against every expert.
I ask you a question for you individual lives: this is what we desire to do as a church, together, but in our individual lives, do you live by the compass that God has given you or by the conventional wisdom of the hour? We have to examine our lives and our families deeply and in detail in order to discern that. How is it that we set the values and the priorities as to how our family is governed and how we use our time in our personal lives and with our children and with our wives?
Conventional wisdom will often tell us one thing. Scripture and God often tell us completely another. The compass that God has given us is eternal and it never changes. The opinions of man blow with every passing wind. Friend, if you are a Christian you will have to stand all alone often in this world. If you look at your life and you seldom experience this standing alone against the flow you likely are not being very influential. People may like you and they may even pat you on the back, but at the end of the day, at the end of your life, it is likely you will look back and say, “I have made a very little impact and have had very little influence in this world.”
Remember, Jesus carried His cross down the Via Dolorosa all alone. He was nailed to the cross with the crowd against Him. If we follow Him faithfully we will have to stand against the majority opinion often. What a joy it is to have a sure Truth and a sure God to direct us.
Psalm 1:1 tells us,
1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.
The second quality of an influential Christian is a genuine interest in the happiness of others. In Verses 21 and 22, we read,
21 After the men had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. 22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.”
This isn’t Paul’s way of saying, “I told you so,” but, rather, this is Paul’s way of saying, “Listen to me now for your own benefit and because I care about you. Listen to me now!” Paul took a genuine interest in the happiness of others. Remember, Paul himself is in this storm, but who is he thinking of? He is thinking of the other two hundred seventy-five people aboard the ship and how he might come along side of them to encourage them.
Often crises reveal a self-focus in our lives that surprises us. When fear grips us we tend to be driven to move inward and make sure that we and ours are safe and secure first. Then, maybe, after we secure ours then we might look over at our neighbor and say, “How are you doing,” but not Paul. Paul is still in the midst of the danger of this ship and in the midst of the danger of the storm, and yet, immediately, rather than looking in to secure himself a safe spot on a life boat, he looks around at the others and thinks, “Here are a whole bunch of people who are in the midst of the storm and they are afraid and they are scared for their lives. What can I do to help them?” He took a genuine interest in the welfare and in the happiness of others.
People of influence push against the force of self-interest, and even self-preservation, to think about the group. We are reminded of United Flight 93 and as that story and its details unfold how we discovered the actions of different men and women of influence. I think of thirty-two year old Todd Beamer, a Christian on board that 757 bound for San Francisco. In the midst of the crisis he could have thought, “I have two boys at home and I have a pregnant wife. What I need to do is stay here, in the back of the plane, and try to make the best of myself. Maybe I will survive this thing.” That is not what he did. Instead he thought of others who were with him, and with a shout, “Let’s roll!” charged the terrorists, putting himself directly in harms way for the welfare of others on that plane. Todd Beamer was and still is, even in death, a man of influence.
Paul constantly thought of the happiness of others in this wild, fourteen-day, Mediterranean cruise. No sun and no stars could be seen for two weeks straight, and yet, in Verse 31,
31 Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.”
Paul is still thinking about them and he is still thinking about their acts. He is saying, “Listen guys, you have to act differently or your lives are going to be lost.” In Verse 33, we read,
33 Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. “For the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything.”
If I am onboard that ship I am not even taking very much notice of what other people are eating or not eating. That is not Paul, though. He is constantly aware of the welfare of others and now he says, “I urge you to take some food. You are going to need it to survive. Not one of you is going to loose a single hair on your head.” Continuing in Verse 34,
34 “Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.”
He got the food prepared, he got it out, distributed it to them, thanked God for it, and in Verse 36,
36 They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves.
The pilot of the ship didn’t do this. The owner of the ship didn’t do this. The Roman Centurion didn’t do this. Who did? Paul, the prisoner did. Who had the influence on that ship? Paul had it.
Influencers follow the Lord Jesus in the pursuit of obtaining life and joy for others.
We have to ask ourselves, “Who am I looking out for in this life? Am I looking out for ‘Number One’ as the world tells me to? Or, am I looking out for others?” It is so tempting to rush to get to the front of the line, to get the best seats for ourselves, and to work for our own promotions.
I love Philippians 2, and I like Eugene Peterson’s translation in The Message. Listen to how he renders this passage:
1-4 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
The question might be asked, “Why should I do that?” Paul would say, continuing in The Message,
5-8 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.
9-11 Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.
When Jesus was dying upon the cross, do you know what He said? In one of the Seven Words from the Cross, He looked down at John, His disciple, and He looked down at Mary, His earthly mother, and He said to John, “John, behold your mother.” (John 19:27) Here He is, in the throws of a painful death, about to experience the wrath of God coming down upon Him, bearing the weight of the sins of the whole world, and yet who is He caring for and who is He thinking of? He is thinking of the care of His mother!
Influential people are “others” oriented. They take an interest in the happiness of others. It is interesting, in Acts 27:24, Paul says that an angel came to him,
24 “…and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’”
What does this indicate? It indicates that God has heard the cries of Paul’s heart and that Paul is genuinely interested, that he is not just “trying” to look interested in the lives of others, but God says, “I know, Paul, that you are so concerned for the lives of these two hundred seventy-five strangers, people you have never met before, and I am going to be gracious to you, Paul, and I am going to influence their lives in this ship wreck for you sake, Paul, because you love them and you care for them.” Such is the influence of the Christian when the Christian begins to pray to God and call out to God for those around us to receive the grace and the love of God in their own lives.
Are you praying that everyone around you will be saved? That is what Paul is saying. Paul isn’t praying, “God, can you save the ship’s captain. He has been kind to me. God, can you save Luke and Aristarchus? They are my buddies.” No, Paul’s prayer was, “God, save every man on this ship! Save every one of them!” God said, “I am going to be kind to you, Paul. I am going to answer your prayer.”
I discussed J. Hudson Taylor earlier. J. Hudson Taylor, as a teenager, was not a believer in Jesus Christ. He was still kicking against the Gospel. One day he found a journal that he thought was his because it looked like his and he opened it up and he discovered that it was his teenage sister’s journal. He began to read it and in that journal he discovered that his teenage sister wrote in there, “God, I am going to pray for my brother everyday until he is saved.” It broke J. Hudson Taylor’s heart and that was one of the influences that caused J. Hudson Taylor to trust in Jesus Christ.
I wonder how many teenage girls have written in their journals, “God, I am going to pray every day for my brother and for my sister, for my mom and for my dad, and my friends until they come to Jesus Christ.” This is the kind of journal that leads to a life of influence.
The third quality is a conviction to speak God’s Word. In Verse 23 and 24, Paul is explaining,
23 “Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me 24and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’”
Paul is not interested in sharing his personal opinions at this point with the crew members of that ship, but he is interested, very much, in sharing the revelation that God had given him with the crew members of the ship and that is why he comes to the crew members of the ship and says, “Listen, this is what God says, not one of you is going to loose your life. This is good news.” He knows that all of those ship members, two hundred seventy-three of them, worshipped false gods and my have looked at him and said, “What, your god says that we are going to be saved. What does your god know, Paul? Why did he keep us in the storm in the first place?” It didn’t matter to Paul whether or not the people were going to believe his God. In order to be a person of influence we must be willing to boldly, in faith, communicate and speak in plainly the revelation that God has given us.
The Apostle Paul received a revelation by way this angel; by way of a visitation. We have no reason to envy Paul because we have something more sure: we have God’s Word established forever in Heaven and passed down to us as God’s Spirit preserved the record for us so that we might know exactly what God’s Truth is. If we are faithful to speak God’s Word to others we will have great influence, for the power of influence is in the Word of God. The Word of God is living, active, and is sharper than any double-edged sword. It penetrates down into the deepest parts of humanity and of a man’s and a woman’s soul, dividing the soul from the spirit, judging the thoughts and intents of the heart.
In 2 Timothy 3:15, Paul will write to Timothy to remind him,
15 “…how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
What greater influence could we ever possibly have than to have someone come to the knowledge of God through faith in Jesus Christ as we explain to them, from the Scriptures, “This is what God says.” They may say, “I don’t believe the Bible.” “That is fine, but let me tell you what God says. I am going to tell you what God says. I am not assuming that you believe what God says. I am going to tell you, though, what God says.”
God’s Word always influences others. In fact, God’s Word influences those who reject it. It is very difficult for a person hear someone say, “This is what God’s Word says…”, to reject it and never think about it again the rest of their life. They may reject it, but that Word follows their path. When we speak God’s Word we do not speak God’s Word to condemn others. That is not why Jesus came. We do not speak God’s Word to win a debate or an argument. We speak God’s Word in order to urge others to believe God and that is what the Apostle Paul did. He said, “Believe God. I believe God,” and he is urging them to follow him in believing in God so that they, too, might receive the full benefit of His grace.
Notice that God’s Word infuses in Paul a deep conviction. He is not one of those who sticks his finger in the wind to decide whether they are going to live or die that day. No, he doesn’t vacillate, he doesn’t waiver; he is a rock on the open sea in the midst of the storm because he was grounding his life upon the Word of God. The storm did not tear him away from God’s Word, but rather it gave him a platform whereby he was able to speak more of the wonders of God’s glory in his revelation.
The fourth quality we will look at, of a Christian who is influential, is that there is a confidence in the future goodness of God. It is easy to have confidence in the past goodness of God as we look over the past in our lives and say, “Well, God has been good to me.” There is somewhat of an ease in saying, “I can believe that God is good in the present moment.” But, what about the future as we look out in our lives and we have various storms come and rage against us, do we really believe that God is going to be good to us all throughout our lives and into eternity?
That is what Paul did. God was not just good right now, but Paul had this confidence that God was always going to be good so that changed his whole demeanor about the storm, as we read Verse 25,
25 “So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God…”
The King James Version says, “…I believe God…” It is not that he “just believes in God”, but that he believes God. There are many who believe in God, but who don’t believe God in the midst of these trials. They don’t say, “I am absolutely at peace because I trust God.” Because Paul believed that God keeps His promises and because Paul believed that God is good in His future, he is not a pessimistic person. His soul isn’t downcast. He is not a “glass is half-empty” kind of guy, but rather is he is a guy filled with hope even in the midst of this storm. Paul is a realist! Look at Verse 26. Right after he says, “I believe God,” he says,
26 “Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”
He is not saying, “Hey, we are going to get this great, soft wind and we are going to slowly coast up to the shore and then we are going to have a holiday.” No, he says that they are going to run aground and that they are going to ship wreck. He is a realist; he is not some “Pollyanna” trying to paint a picture of the future and of life that is not real and one that is not rooted in truth and in reality. He is not trying to put a spin on an unfortunate storm, but I tell you he is optimistic. Why, because he is confident in God’s future goodness.
I want to quote from Charles Spurgeon: “Notice that Paul’s faith was faith in God; ‘I believe God,’ he said. Nobody else on the ship could see any hope in God. With the exception of one or two like-minded with Paul, they thought that God had forsaken them, if indeed they thought of God at all. But, there, had that night stood by Paul’s side an angel, fresh from Heaven, bright with the Divine presence and strengthened by His message and Paul said, “I believe God.”
“That was something more than saying, “I believe in God,” as many do and derive the slender comfort from the belief. But, I believe God, believe Him, believe His truthfulness, believe the Word that He has spoken, believe in His mercy, believe in His power, and I believe in God.” This made Paul calm, peaceful, and strong. Would to God that all professing Christians really did believe God?”
Faith is what makes people strong in the midst of the storm. We remember in the days of Daniel when Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were threatened by King Nebuchadnezzar to be thrown into the fiery furnace, in Daniel 3, and they
16 replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Why did they say that? It was because they believed in the future goodness of God. They were saying, “We don’t know how God is going to be good to us. We think God is going to be good by rescuing us from the fire, but even if He does not we know God is going to be good to us and we are willing to die because God is going to be good to us.” That changed their whole demeanor in relation to this incident in their life and, I believe, every other incident that came across their paths.
It is easy, as Christians, to become very negative for we, of all people as a result of God’s Spirit and God’s Word, see the spiritual corruption that seems to be growing in our present world. It is easy to become pessimistic as we look at our culture and as we look at the direction of our nation, but in the midst of this we have to be careful; we have to remember that the Gospel is good news filled with hope. We have a reason to look forward to the future. This does not mean that we are blind to the moral and spiritual depravity around us, but it does mean that we have the antidote and we know that one day the “cure” will be exhaustive and comprehensive throughout this world.
Certainly it is appropriate to speak of the epidemic of sin that destroys so many lives, but it must always be in the context of proclaiming the cure. We must never say, “This world is becoming so sinful,” and we stop there. We always must jump back in and say, “But, Jesus Christ died and rose again to redeem this world from sin and one day He is going to return.” It is the midst of the confidence of God’s future goodness that we have hope instead of despair; joy instead of sadness; faith instead of fear.
Friends, when we stand with God the story is always, always, always a happy ending. That is the confidence of the believer.
I like Dr. Randy McFarland of Denver Seminary’s statement in regards to hope and faith. This is what he said: “Hope is the ability to hear the music of the future. Faith is the ability to dance in the present.” I like that. Christian hope is the ability to hear the music of the future. We might not hear very much of the music of the glory of God in our present culture, but hope says that it is coming and we can hear it. Faith, even without the presence of the music, is able to dance in the presence of God because we know, and are confident, that this is absolutely true.
Let’s look at Verses 35 and 36, which are very interesting.
35 After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. 36 They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves.
Have you ever been in a restaurant with some friends, or some co-workers, and you are about ready to eat lunch and what happens? For the Christian it is “rub our eyebrows” time: we look down, rub our eyebrows a little bit, and then look up and that is called a prayer before a meal. As I look out, maybe many of you aren’t even tempted to rub your eyebrows. I don’t know, but I know often times that is the context for Christians, “What do I do? I normally pray to God.” Here is what Paul did; he said, “Hey, we are about to eat some lunch here and I know that you don’t believe in this God, but do you mind if I pray and thank Him?” Paul opened up his mouth and he began to thank God for the food that God had provided for them. These guys were all unbelievers but this is his way of having an influence; of recognizing the provision of God, even in the midst of a pagan environment.
Last, but not least, the quality of an influential Christian is that there is a persistence in selfless labor. Finally, we get to Chapter 28 and I want to make just one observation. For two weeks, and you can imagine how exhausting this journey must have been, they are battered about on the open sea and they are not getting much rest at all, if not any, and not eating a lot of food. There is constant danger of constantly having to bail water out of the ship. The ship breaks apart and they have to hold onto to something and float to shore or swim to shore. They are exhausted when they get to shore, but look at what Verse 1 says,
1 Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. 2 The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. 3 Paul gathered a pile of brushwood…
Notice what it says in Verse 3 because that is interesting. It is something that is easy to look right past. Paul could say, “You know, if the islanders are willing to serve me at this point, I think it might be time to take a bit of a rest and be served for a moment.” Not Paul! He said, “I am going to go out and I see that there is a need.” Nobody asked Paul to go and get some brushwood; he just saw that there was a need to get more brushwood because the fire needed more fuel, and what did he do? He went out, as dog-tired as he must have been, and began to gather it.
Friends, if we are going to be people of influence, we have to have persistence in selfless labor for the Lord.
Who does the dishes at your house? Who vacuums? Who makes the bed? You may say, “Pastor, you are meddling now! I come home and I am so tired from work.” Men, you won’t have influence with your wives or with your children unless you are persistent in selfless labor in the home as well. Can I hear an Amen, at least from the women!
Our dear friends, Dave and Carol Beakley, were on a home assignment from the mission field in South Africa and they were staying in a house that Grace Community Church, California, had provided for them until the summer when they come to Bethany Baptist Church. They told us of a funeral at Grace Community Church which is a big church and one that has many funerals, but this one was a bit unusual. It was a funeral for a woman who was 108 years old! This dear 108 year-old woman taught Sunday school up until six months before her death when her illness took her so low that she simply, physically did not have the strength to go to church and teach. All the way up to 108 years old she would climb a set of steps in order to get to her Sunday school class; they didn’t have an elevator in this particular building. Every Sunday she climbed up the steps, laid out her materials that she had prepared, and she began to teach these children.
When Dave and Carol were in seminary five years ago, before they left for the mission field, one of their sons, Jason, was in this woman’s Sunday school class. Their older children would take Jason to Sunday school class and pick him up, but they never saw or met this Sunday school teacher. One day they asked Jason, “What did you do in Sunday school class today?” Jason said, “Well, we had a birthday party for my teacher.” They said, “That’s nice.” Then Jason said, “She is 103 years old!” Carol looked at Jason and said, “She is not 103 years old.” “That is what she said.” “Oh, Jason, I am sure what she meant was that she felt like she was 103 years old. She was not 103 years old.” This went back and forth to the point that Carol got a little frustrated at her son, Jason, thinking that he was just being belligerent. She rebuked him and threatened to discipline him if he didn’t stop absolutely insisting that his Sunday school teacher was 103 years old.
A month later, graduation comes and Carol feels this tap on her shoulder. She turns around and very elderly man who is in his 80’s says to her, “Are you Carol Beakley?” She said, “Yes.” He said, “I want you to meet someone. I want you to meet the woman who taught your son, Jason, in Sunday school class. I want to introduce you to my mother.”
I think the glory that must have been that woman’s as she crossed and entered into the joy of her rest. I think of how much influence this woman has had because she simply persisted in her labor for the Lord.
Friends, God has a purpose for your life. It is to have a great influence for His Kingdom.