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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Who are you trying to impress?

In Galatians 1, we see that Paul was a person of influence. As he closes out the chapter, he says, “And they praised God because of me.” Can you imagine a better way to influence others than to inspire them to praise God?

Paul was a man of influence, and in Galatians, we can see why: because he knew the difference between trying to please people and trying to influence people. There is a difference between being a people-pleaser and a people-leader People-leader don’t try to impress, they influence the lives of those around them so God can be praised.

Is this what you want for yourself at home, at work, in your areas of ministry? It takes three things. If you want to become a person of influence, you have to, first...

Seek God's approval above all else. Galatians 1:10—Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Take it from someone who has been there—it's easier said than done. I mean, after all, ministers are "professional Christians.” It goes without saying that we serve God first and foremost.

Still, most ministers I know struggle to maintain the balance between pleasing people and leading them. We don't want to rock the boat, don't want to stir things up, and if we're not careful, things can get fuzzy.

We become more concerned with what the elders want rather than what God wants. Take it from someone who has been there; sometimes what the two want are light years apart.

Here's my point: if it's difficult for the preacher to seek above all things to please God rather than men, then I certainly understand how it is difficult it is for you, in your situation

If you're seeking first to please God, sometimes you'll have to make unpopular decisions. Accept it. The possibility of being liked becomes a by-product of the decisions you make based on your top priority: pleasing God.

Next, Find God's mission for your life. Galatians 1:11—I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather I received by revelation from Jesus Christ.

Paul received the message of the gospel by direct revelation from Jesus Christ. He says he didn't make it up and neither did anyone else. It came straight from God.

The message that Paul received also came with a task. The heart of Paul's message was that Jesus Christ died to bring salvation to all people. This message came with a mission: preach the good news to the Gentiles.

Two important things to note about Paul's message. First, it didn't contradict scripture. Secondly, Paul's message didn't contradict what the church was already teaching.

Do you want to become a person of influence? Then you need to receive a revelation from God—a message from him that defines his mission for you. However, I need to make this clear. God's revelations will be consistent with his Word and will be recognized by his seasoned leaders—but it will be your mission; it will set your heart on fire.

In verse 16 Paul says that the reason God saved him was so that he could preach the gospel to the Gentiles. He was saying: This is my mission! This is my purpose! This is why I exist! Paul became a person of influence because he devoted his entire life to accomplishing one thing.

Do you want to become a person of influence? Get alone with God and find your mission. Seek him and let him reveal his purpose for your life. Let it set your heart on fire so that nothing else matters.

The third thing I want you to notice is this: To become a person of influence we must...Invest the time it takes to establish credibility.

Becoming influential doesn't happen overnight. It takes time. In verse 18, we see that Paul spent 3 years in Arabia and Damascus preparing for his life's work. In the beginning of chapter 2, we see that Paul waited another 14 years before visiting the leaders of the Jerusalem church. He spent 17 years preparing for the work that God had called him to do.

He didn't spend this time doing nothing—he was preaching through these years—but it took that long before he received the full endorsement from the church leaders in Jerusalem. Paul's message and ministry were not based on a short-term whim. He stood the test of time and proved that he was in it for the long haul.

I have talked to preachers, youth ministers, choir directors, businessmen, and parents who have lofty goals—but they expect it happen immediately. It just doesn't work that way. When God gives you a mission, you've got to decide that you're in it for the long haul, and you've got to be willing to invest the time it takes to build credibility.

Do you want to become a person of influence? Then prepare to stay. Prepare to invest years—even decades—of your life to fulfill your mission.

We are all people of influence. The question is: is our influence good or bad, positive or negative? You influence your children, your friends, your employers, and co-workers. What kind of influence do you want to be?

Do you want to be able to say, "They praised God because of me"? Then seek the approval of God, devote yourself to finding God's mission for your life, and be willing to invest the time it takes to make a difference.

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