by Pastor Tim Burt
One morning while on a vacation in Mexico, I was taking an early morning walk along the ocean beach while Renee was still in bed catching a little extra sleep. The sun was just about to rise above the horizon, and the moon was still hanging in the sky. I loved the early mornings on the beach, where the only noise you heard was the waves rolling in. It was perfect quiet time with the Lord. As I was walking and talking with the Lord, a question rose up in my heart. What would you do if you were here to stay? How would you stay strong in your walk with Me? How would you continue to be an influence for Me? I knew that the Lord wasn’t suggesting I live there. I knew this was one of those times when He wanted to lead me in thought! He wanted me to think through this thought to remind myself that either you intentionally live to have an influence for Him no matter where you are, or you get influenced by the atmospheres around you.
One thing was sure. Resort-type atmospheres did not support anything but the temptation to yield to carnal behaviors. It was a fabulous place to relax, but it was also a place where people seemed to stop exercising every restraint and instead take up eating, snacking, and drinking alcoholic beverages as if they were a competitive sport. People sat around the pool, eating and drinking all day while doing little of anything else other than talking and sunbathing. They talked loudly (induced by alcohol) about their drinking escapades from the night before. They shared past drinking stories. They were busy creating new drinking stories. I didn’t get the impression that there were too many people sitting around thinking or talking about Jesus and the Christ-life. And so, as I thought the Lord’s words over, it made me think that I’d have to be very intentional about being a witness and a light, or get sucked into being lonely in a carnal place having no influence and getting sucked into backsliding (although that would not happen.) I’ve watched people backslide on vacations and crumble under the pressure and temptations from surroundings like this.
Jeremiah the prophet, had a difficult life because of what he was obedient to do for the Lord. He was the Lord’s spokesman in very negative and ungodly atmospheres. God’s people were backslidden. God instructed Jeremiah to warn them to repent from their idol worship and sinful lifestyles or judgment would overtake them. They were so backslidden and hard-hearted they didn’t want to hear it. They hated Jeremiah because they were ignoring God enjoyably and didn’t want to feel guilty about it. The carnally-minded people who did not know God also hated Jeremiah because they thought he was a religious kook. So he was hated by the world, and he was hated by God’s people. He was lonely. He was discouraged. Unbeknownst to him, he was being influenced by the negative influences around him. His attitude began to slip, and he got whiny before the Lord. He fell into a pity party. He whined that he couldn’t count on God—that God wasn’t there to help him like he wanted. Jeremiah said to the Lord, “I never joined the people in their merry feasts. I sat alone because your hand was on me. I burst with indignation at their sins. Why then does my suffering continue? Why is my wound so incurable? Your help seems as uncertain as a seasonal brook. It is like a spring that has gone dry.” (Jeremiah 15:17-18 NLT)
God quickly chastised Jeremiah about his attitude. “The LORD replied, “If you return to me, I will restore you so you can continue to serve me. If you speak words that are worthy, you will be my spokesman. You are to influence them; do not let them influence you!” (Jeremiah 15:19-20 NLT) The Lord was defining Jeremiah’s attitude as backslidden! Not to the degree of the people around him, but he was slipping. His attitude was being influenced by the negative influences around him. His hope was diminishing. They were pulling him down. He told Jeremiah—“You are to influence them; do not let them influence you!”
This is the challenge we all face. You are meant by God to be the influencer for Him—not to let others drag you down to their carnal lifestyles, selfishness, and poor attitudes. God calls us a written epistle.
Renee and I have purposed to remember that at any minute of any day, we may have the opportunity to influence someone. It may be with words, with the witness of our behavior, or maybe through an act of kindness. We purpose to influence at home, on vacation, or wherever we are. We are just like you. Things could get to us and pull us down. It would affect our influence. That’s why we think about it a lot—so that we don’t forget our life’s purpose and blow it!
Jesus told His disciples, “The harvest is ripe.” That was not a momentary thing. The harvest is always ripe. We are always surrounded by people who may be wearing a masked smile, but who are lost, searching for truth, and hurting. Isaiah tells us in 50:4 that we are also surrounded by the weary but that God will give us a word to encourage them daily! No matter where we are, we purpose to spend time with the Lord and pray to be a light and to be used. Light always attracts! It opens the door to influencing others in some way for the Lord. As Jeremiah learned, no one is exempt from being influenced. You will create your atmospheres to keep you strong and then work to be an influence for the Lord, or you will get caught up in the carnal attitudes and atmospheres around you and be influenced. As God said, “You are to influence them; do not let them influence you!”
Isaiah 50:4 (TLB) “The Lord God has given me his words of wisdom so that I may know what I should say to all these weary ones. Morning by morning, He wakens me and opens my understanding to His will.”
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In His love,
Pastor Tim Burt
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