Winning Friends or Influencing People
By Nathele Graham
Most people want to have friends. We enjoy socializing and being around other people because that’s just part of being human…God made us that way. We like to laugh with friends, feel the love of family, and care for others. This can be a mixed blessing. Too often it becomes more important to have friends than to influence people by honoring God, and that’s when we begin to stumble down a slippery slope and fall into sin. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:1-2. Sometimes it’s difficult for even the most devout Christian to avoid stumbling, but it’s in those times that we need to turn to Jesus for strength to overcome temptation. The important question to ask is if it’s more important to join the world and win friends, or to stand firm on God’s word and influence people to come to know Jesus as their Saviour?
I don’t know why it is that the lure of the world is so appealing. Any pleasure found in living in opposition to Jesus is temporary and can never fully satisfy or bring lasting joy. Even those who have been raised and nurtured in a Christian home sometimes feel that having friends is more important than serving God. The pull of the world brings temptations that many people just can’t resist. Jesus told a parable about a young man who was raised in a well to do family, but that wasn’t enough for him. He wanted to chase his dreams. He asked his father for the money he would inherit and off he went to make new friends and enjoy the so called pleasures of life. His dream became a nightmare. “And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living..” Luke 15:13. This prodigal son found that his money bought friends and all the wild living he could desire. When the money was gone so were his fair weather friends. He spent time and money winning friends, but his influence on people left a lot to be desired. When famine came upon the land he found himself in dire straits. He had no friends and no money, but he did find work feeding swine. Now, for a Jewish man this was sinking as low as he could sink. He was so hungry that he was even tempted to eat the swine’s food. The story has a happy ending because this young man repented of his wild ways and returned to the safety of his father’s house. No good comes from being so enamored by the world that you will do anything to win worldly friends. If you are rebelling and living a sin-filled life, now is the time to repent and return to the safety of walking close to Jesus. He is a true friend who will never leave you nor forsake you.
Christians should be concerned with influencing people. Many people who have accepted Christ for salvation face rejection by family and, in many cases they face death because of their faith. By living by Biblical standards your way of life can be a positive influence on other people. When Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem He faced these same problems. He never compromised and because of that He changed lives, healed disease, and raised the dead. He also faced anger and scorn from the religious establishment that accused Him of everything from being a drunkard to blasphemy. “For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil. The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!” Luke 7:33-34. Jesus won friends among the people who were considered outcasts of society by loving them and seeking their friendship, but unlike the prodigal son Jesus did not let these sinners influence Him but He influenced them. Even a few Pharisees to come to faith. He loved everyone and He still does, but it’s up to each individual to accept or reject Him. Most of the religious leaders hardened their hearts against Him, but because of His way of life, today we are still being influenced by His example.. We can look to Jesus for guidance in whatever we may face.
The need to be strong in our faith and not become a part of the world is not new. Satan sets his traps to ensnare us and pull us away from God just as he always has. In recent times the news media has been quick to proclaim the failures of Christians, or I should say those who claim to be Christians. Some high profile preachers have been caught up in the lust of the flesh and their names make headline news. They found friends in worldly people and their influence is certainly not good. The secular world likes to point fingers and group all Christians into the same category, but many Christians live their lives so that Christ shines through. These are the ones who represent Christ and honor Him. They don’t allow anger to control them and they reject sin in their lives. Like Jesus they may have friends who are worldly, but they don’t allow the world to get a hold of them. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world:” Titus 2:11-12. These blessed people live among the wolves of the world, but let God’s light shine before men for all to see. They may be missionaries in a foreign land or the Sunday school teacher who shares God’s truth with a new generation of Christians who need to learn to embrace Christ rather than sin. Are you one of these people who unashamedly live for Christ? If so, then you are the influence that this dark and fallen world needs.
We should always be on our guard so that the things of this world don’t stumble us. Moral standards as set by Hollywood are not acceptable for Christians. People who don’t know Christ cannot understand how important He is to a believer. Have you repented from sin and through Christ turned away from addiction or various activities that are opposed to God? If so then the worldly people around you, both friends and family, will try to draw you back into the sinful life you left behind. “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” Colossians 2:8. Bible study and solid Christian friends are important to keep us walking close to Jesus. When people try to draw you back into sin, stand firm on God’s word. This is when influencing people becomes more important than winning friends. The Holy Spirit lives within you and will guide you and give you the strength to resist temptation. “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:12. Jesus loves you and laid down His life for you. He is your strength when you’re tempted to enter into sin.
On the night of His arrest Jesus knew what He was about to face and He knew what His disciples would face. He prayed a beautiful prayer and asked God the Father to protect them from the evil of this world. “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” John 17:14-16. Jesus didn’t pray that these men would be taken out of the world because they would be the ones to take the Gospel to the world. If they had been removed from this life or lived as hermits in a monastery the Gospel would have been lost. By living in this world the men whom Jesus had chosen were able to influence generation after generation of people to come to a saving faith in Christ. They faced persecution, temptation, and most were martyred, but they were strong in their faith and their influence is a blessing to us today. When Jesus prayed for them, He also prayed for those of us who believe because of those first disciples. “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word” John 17:20. That’s me. Jesus prayed for me. I believe in Him because I heard about Him, read my Bible, and understand its truth. Do you? Since I believe and want to honor Him, my desire is to introduce others to Jesus and also to strengthen other Christians in their walk with the Lord. That means I try to win friends, but I don’t join in sin. If I see a fellow Christian walking down the wrong path, then I need to influence them to return to Jesus. I also need to keep studying my Bible to be sure that I’m following the narrow road that He wants me to walk upon.
Are you winning friends or influencing people? Be sure that winning friends isn’t more important than influencing people. That is, influencing people to come to Jesus.
God bless you all,
All original scripture is “theopneustos” God breathed.
If you’d like to be on my mailing list to receive the commentaries just drop me an email and let me know.