Influence Devotion 5
Spiritual stillness silences worldly influence
No one enjoys being accused of doing wrong or even being wrong. Our first response is to fight back, to make sure that everyone knows the accusation is false. At the very least, we work quickly to explain and justify our position, even when we are aware we are in the wrong we are quick to defend ourselves. There is nothing wrong with protecting yourself, especially when we are falsely accused, but the desire to explain away any negative reflection that is not positive can feed the voices of worldly influences that manipulate and control our actions.
When Jesus was praying in the garden before his capture and crucifixion, he asked his disciples to pray with him. The Bible records that the disciples fell asleep and could not stay awake to pray. Later when the soldiers came for Jesus, Peter took his sword and cut the ear off one of the soldier’s servants. Jesus rebuked Peter and told him to put his sword away. Too often we respond like Peter, unwilling to be still and pray, but quick to fight back and defend ourselves. Stop defending yourself, justifying yourself and learn what it means to be still and trust God.
The people of Israel that came out of slavery in Egypt carried an enormous amount of doubt and insecurities. They found it very difficult to trust God and not to take matters into their own hands. Moses reminded them that “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still,” (Exodus 14:14). These are the very words God is reminding us today. He will fight for us; we need to discover what it means to be still. You will need to throw down your sword of insecurities, your sword of rejection, even your sword of a righteous cause, be still! Peter stood before the Son of God, who walked on water, performed miracles, cast out demons, yet Peter thought he should carry his sword in case things became intense. Our defense can be just as ridiculous as Peter with a sword. Today, find a time to be still, listen for God to speak to you.
Influence Devotion 4
Spiritual secrecy destroys worldly influence!
Have you heard someone begin to tell you about a TV show they enjoyed, but first they let you know that they hardly ever watch TV, but just happen to see this one. Why did they feel the need to explain their TV habits to you? No doubt you have said or heard it said of a student, “I barely even studying for this test!” In both cases, it was not about what they said but how they wanted you to think about them. No one wants to be seen as just sitting around watching TV all day. If the student receives a poor grade on the test, he has an excuse, if he does well, he has bragging rights. The power we give others over our lives, by living up to what we perceive to be their opinion of us, can render us competent in our spiritual walk with God.
Jesus understands these pressures from the world, so he gave us an answer. Several times Jesus taught that we should live right and be generous to others, but to do so without calling attention to it. This goes against the very grain of our human nature. It is hard enough to do the right thing, so when we do, we want others to notice. He taught, “be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them…be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you,” (Matt. 6:1-4). Our spiritual secrecy is not just about the reward we gain from God, but that secrecy crucifies our human nature. The need to be noticed, recognized and approved of feeds the influences that control our lives. However, nothing will starve out and ultimately destroy the worldly influences in your life like allowing our good deeds to be seen by the father only!
The power to break influence is found in doing good and then dropping the mic, walking away! Commit to living spiritual secrecy, find a way to do good, give generously, speak kindly, forgive graciously without intentionally drawing focus to your spiritual acts. Residing in this state of self-denial will crush the worldly influences that try to control your thoughts and life.
Influence Devotion 3
The real meaning of cool
After winning her second Oscar, the actress Sally Fields held the trophy up and proclaimed, “You like me, you really like me!” Even though this was her second Oscar, something inside her would not let her believe she deserved her success. We are not controlled as much by the failure and success of what happens in our life, but what we feel about ourselves. Growing up in church, I would imagine myself as Peter standing before Jesus and proclaiming with confidence and boldness, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” However, the reality was I often found myself more like Peter standing by a small fire at Jesus’ trial trying to impress a young servant girl whispering, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.” This young servant girl had no power over Peter, but his fear and insecurities inside his heart were controlling is every word.
The Bible teaches us that instead of caring about what others think or seeking their approval you should, “cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you.” (Ps 55:22). The word translated “sustain” is pronounced “kuwl” and means God will support and hold us secure. I love to think how God can keep us cool, “kuwl” in the face of every struggle or trial. In the sitcom, Happy Days, the character Fonzie was always cool, not matter what happen or even if he stumbled; he would make it cool. That is what God promises he will do for us. To cast your cares on God means you are not allowing the cares and influences of the world and in your heart to control your life with fear and doubt. No matter what you’re facing or what kind of pressure is in your life today, the power and presence of God can and will sustain you; He will keep you cool as you throw down the cares that try to grip your life. Think about the concerns that your carrying in your heart. Then take each one by name and cast them into the hands of our savior. As you do, he will sustain you, keeping you cool through every trial and pressure in your life.
Influence Devotion 2
Little pushes that control your life.
Being one of the smaller students in my third-grade class, they decided it would be fun if my friend, also small, and I fought one another. So, every day many in the class would tease and encourage us to fight until just to end the pressure, we decided to meet after school and fight. It was not much of a fight, just a couple of young boys rolling around on the ground. After what seemed like an appropriate time we ended the fight and walked home as friends. The next day we proclaimed the exaggerated details of our “deathmatch,” much to the surprise of our class and at least temporarily, ended the constant and little pushes for us to fight.
The very first fight recorded in the Bible between Cain and Able ended in the very first murder. Cain did not kill Able because he was teased or threatened by Able, but from the constant inner pressure, Cain felt from his feelings from a lack of approval. God came to Cain and told him that he would approve of his offering if he were willing to change his heart. He warned Cain that sin was “crouching” at his door. This picture is not a tiger like an animal ready to pounce, but rather something laying at the door that easily trips the unaware traveler. Very often it is not the big “tigers” ready to pounce that cause us to stumble, but the small constant pushes from our insecurities that trip us up.
Years later I wondered, what motivated me to fight my best friend. It certainly wasn’t the class; they could not believe we fought. Instead, it came from my desire for approval by my class and covered my deep insecurity of not being accepted. You might be well prepared against the big pouncing tigers that would try to dislodge your faith, but how are you doing against the attacks from the inside, your insecurities, your doubt, your fear of not just failing, but being seen as a failure? Psalms 86:13 teaches that because of God’s great “love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths.” God will reach into the depths of your fear and deliver.
Influence Devotion 1
What are the influences in your life?
What are the influences in your life? The small voices from inside your heart that tell you how to act, what to say and what to feel to gain the approval of those around you. Most people would say they are not controlled by feelings of jealousy, envy, greed or insecurity, yet the desire to compare ourselves to others can quickly overwhelm the strongest fortitude. Before you dismiss those temptations, ask yourself if the little criticism that comes your way makes you feel angry. Does a little rejection make you feel depressed or discouraged? Does a little success fill your heart with excitement? What effect does a little praise have on your spirit? We soon realize that we are like small boats on a vast ocean of waves that quickly push us out of control.
These little waves of comparison, pride, and doubt pound our life and influence us to act with negative responses to those around us. Our inward need for acceptance and approval drive us to compare ourselves to others and seek the approval of this world rather than God’s approval. The very first king of Israel fell into the trap of seeking approval from others. In the end, King Saul continually cared more about how others saw him then how God would judge him. When faced with his failure Saul responded with “I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people”. He could not see how controlled he was with seeking the approval of this world.
The Apostle Paul understood the pressures of this world, but he would not allow the approval of man to decide how he would live. In fact, Paul said, “If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Allowing the approval or influence of this world to control your life means you cannot faithfully serve what Christ wants to do in your life. Seeking the approval of others is never really knowing what they are thinking about us. Instead, it is about what we think others are thinking about us. Today, ask God to reveal to you the inner voices that are influencing your life, then surrender your heart to God’s voice and approval.