The Night with a Mosquito
The Night with a Mosquito
History is in many ways a story of influence. Leadership is about influence. Everyone influences someone. Therefore, in a sense, everyone is a leader. Sociologists tell us that even the most introverted individual will influence 10,000 other people during his or her lifetime. We all influence one another in all sorts of ways – from what to have for lunch and what films to watch, to more important matters of truth and ethics.
My life has been influenced by so many people – my parents, teachers, friends and family. Just as I have been influenced by others, inevitably what I do and say will influence others for good or ill.
As the African proverb puts it, ‘If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent the night with a mosquito.’ The mosquito makes a difference in an annoying way, but the principle is the same. One person can stop a great injustice. One person can be a voice for truth. One person’s kindness can save a life. Each person matters.
How can you maximise your influence and use that influence for good?
For the good of everyonePsalm 96:1-13
God chose Israel. He blessed the people of Israel in a special way. His purpose was not that they should feel proud and superior to others. Rather, it was that they should be a blessing to the whole world (Genesis 12:3). They were blessed to be a blessing. They were called to use their influence for the good of all nations.
Now, God has chosen us, the church, to be a blessing to all people. You are blessed to be a blessing.
This psalm has a multi-national focus. It proclaims the wonders and blessings of God to everyone. You are called to bless through:
It is interesting to note in passing that worship should be creative and include innovation: They sang ‘a brand-new song’ (Psalm 96:1, MSG).
‘Shout the news of his victory from sea to sea,
Take the news of his glory to the lost,
News of his wonders to one and all!...
Get out the message – God Rules!’ (vv.2–3,10a, MSG).
Help us, Lord, never to become inward looking or self-indulgent. May everything we do as individuals and as a community be outward focused in order to bring blessing to the world – proclaiming your salvation day after day.
To spread the good news1 Corinthians 9:1-18
Paul is deeply conscious of his influence as a Christian and, in particular, as an apostle. He is absolutely determined to maximise his influence for good and to ‘put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ’ (v.12b).
It appears that he sees his calling to singleness as one of the ways he can maximise his influence. He is not suggesting that there is anything wrong with marriage. It appears that the other apostles, including ‘the Lord’s brothers and Cephas [Peter]’ were all married (v.5).
Another way he seeks to maximise his influence is by having a second job; working for a living. He is very keen to point out that he does not need to do this: ‘The Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel’ (v.14). Or as Eugene Peterson translates, ‘… those who spread the Message be supported by those who believe the Message’ (v.14, MSG). In other words, as Christians we should support financially those who spread the gospel full time.
Paul’s point is that although he had this right, he did not make use of it: ‘Our decision all along has been to put up with anything rather than to get in the way or detract from the Message of Christ’ (v.12b, MSG).
Paul is absolutely passionate about the preaching of the gospel. He does not want anything to hinder its maximum impact. Hence, he does not make use of any of his rights – his mission is paramount (v.15a). He is ‘compelled to preach’ (v.16a). He writes, ‘Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!’ (v.16b). He is simply discharging an obligation that he feels.
What he wants more than anything is that people should be able to hear the gospel ‘free of charge’ (v.18): ‘I’d rather die than give anyone ammunition to discredit me or impugn my motives’ (v.15, MSG).
This is one of the reasons why we are determined that no one should ever have to pay for doing Alpha. And, this is why we need to resist every attempt to persuade us to fundraise from guests as soon as they have finished Alpha. We do not want people to pay directly or indirectly for the privilege of hearing the gospel. Paul says, ‘I would rather die…’ (v.15b).
I remember when Billy Graham came to preach the gospel in London in 1989. It was suggested at one point that in order for the tickets (which were all free) not to be wasted, they should be sold for a nominal sum of £1 each. The suggestion was rejected out of hand. Billy Graham had determined that he would always preach the gospel free of charge.
Lord, help us always to follow this example of the apostle Paul and to maximise the impact and influence of the preaching of the gospel by making it available free of charge and to put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.
To plant good seedsEcclesiastes 9:13-12:14
Solomon is very aware of the power of influence. This influence can be for good or evil.
One wise person can save a city (9:13–18a). On the other hand, ‘one sinner destroys much good’ (v.18b). Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot are glaring examples of this principle. One human being can use their influence for evil and cause great harm.
But, the influence does not have to be as great as these tyrants in order to have a bad effect: ‘Dead flies in perfume make it stink, and a little foolishness decomposes much wisdom’ (10:1, MSG). If even a dead fly can have a bad influence, the least influential human being can have an influence for evil or good. We can all be the fly in the ointment!
The writer has much to say about how to be a good influence, rather than a bad one:
- Watch your words
Solomon reminds us that ‘words from the mouth of the wise are gracious’ (v.12a). Respond to hot-tempered words with calmness (v.4).
Avoid gossiping and bad-mouthing your leaders. Be careful what you say or even think. Don’t revile people ‘even in your thoughts’ or curse them ‘in your bedroom, because a bird of the air may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say’ (v.20).
- Take risks
To maximise your influence for good you need to take risks. ‘Be generous: Invest in acts of charity. Charity yields high returns. Don’t hoard your goods; spread them around. Be a blessing to others’ (11:1–2, MSG). In other words, he says ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’. To love is to risk not being loved in return. To try is to risk failure. But risks must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
If we are too cautious we will never achieve anything. ‘Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap’ (v.4). We could apply this principle to church planting. It will require risk and determination. We must not be daunted by seemingly insuperable obstacles. We must not be put off due to ‘wind’ and ‘clouds’.
- Spread your efforts
In order to maximise influence, you might have to juggle different opportunities in your life: ‘Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed’ (v.6).
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Press ahead on all fronts and make the most of every opportunity. This is why as a church we try to sow seeds in every direction – through worship, prayer, leadership, discipleship, theological training, social transformation, evangelism, work in the prisons and with the poor and the marginalised.
- Take your opportunities
Life is short. Don’t waste time worrying. ‘… banish anxiety from your heart…’ (11:10). Your opportunities are limited: ‘Even if you live a long time, don’t take a single day for granted. Take delight in each light-filled hour... You who are young, make the most of your youth’ (vv.8a,9, MSG).
The book finishes with a conclusion to all its searching and questioning. The meaning of life ultimately rests in your relationship with God. Revere him and keep his commandments. This is the whole duty for every person (12:13b).
Lord, help me to revere you and keep your commandments. Help me to use my influence for good and not for evil. Help me to make the most of every opportunity that you have put before me.
‘Of the making of books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.’
What a prophetic statement! Had Solomon any idea how many books would be written on every subject over the years? There are so many beautiful, inspiring books, but plenty of others less so. I had some sympathy many years ago when helping one of our children with their reading homework. They complained, ‘I don't like books. They have words in them’!
Verse of the Day
‘… banish anxiety from your heart…’ (Ecclesiastes 11:10).
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.