When I was in school, most children wanted to be an astronaut, a teacher, or a veterinarian when they grew up. In today’s classrooms, “social media influencer” is a popular career aspiration. While the titles of “YouTube star” or “Instagram model” might be new, the concept of influencing others through words, images, and videos is not. However, the digital age has skyrocketed media content in terms of volume and unlimited access. If you’re looking for someone to affirm a feeling or opinion, you can find it immediately.
Outside of the media world, we have real-life, personal influencers who speak into our lives every day. Family, friends, and colleagues can sometimes have the strongest influence because their beliefs and actions can directly impact our relationships.
We live in a society with no shortage of opinions, which can be overwhelming. It’s easy to feel bombarded by conflicting messages that make it hard to separate truth from lies, healthy from toxic, and righteous from unrighteous. As Christians, we must be on guard to discern whose words are influencing our decisions. Thankfully God has given us His Word, His presence, and His people to guide us.
The influence of God’s Word
The Bible is our foundation for understanding God, His purpose, and our place in this world. Second Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
I sometimes joke that I wish God would write me a letter, seal it in an envelope, and drop it on my doorstep, so that I could know exactly what He has to say about a certain situation. The truth is, God has already spoken to us through the Bible. His Word is unchanging, and it speaks truth into whatever circumstances we face today.
The Bible is not only a guide book, but it is also a weapon. Ephesians 6 describes different pieces of the armor of God, and interestingly, only one piece is used offensively: “the sword of the Spirit—which is the word of God.”
Jesus modeled the use of Scripture against Satan’s attack in the wilderness in Matthew 4. The devil tempted Jesus three times, and after each assault, Jesus replied with Scripture. Jesus—God Himself—relied on God’s Word to provide strength and clarity in His current situation.
Surprisingly, the devil also quoted Scripture, manipulating the meaning of the text to serve his own purpose. Jesus was not fooled. Jesus understood Scripture in its intended context, so Satan’s copy-and-paste trick was ineffective. We have to meditate on and memorize Scripture while studying to understand its true meaning. The Bible is a gift for discerning truth, and we must treasure it in a loud, chaotic world.
The influence of God’s Presence
Think about the last time you spent five minutes voicing your prayer requests to God. Perhaps you were waiting in the carpool line, sitting in your favorite chair with a fresh cup of coffee, or praying with your small group. Now think about the last time you spent five minutes listening to God.
Bringing our burdens to God is an important part of the Christian life (1 Peter 5:7), but so is intentionally opening our hearts to receive His guidance. As believers in a relationship with God, we must remember that communication is a two-way street. As often as we pour out our hearts to the Father, we should be ready for Him to pour His wisdom, love, and truth back into us.
In Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit, Francis Chan writes, “Our lack of intimacy [with God] often is due to our refusal to unplug and shut off communication from all others so we can be alone with Him.” When the voices of the world or others’ opinions of our personal life feel overwhelming, let us not forget that we serve Immanuel, God with us. He has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit, who promises to teach us and lead us in the way of truth. Be purposeful in taking time and making mental space to listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit within you.
The Influence of God’s People
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed many truths about our society, including just how badly we need people. We simply are not designed to live in isolation, to walk through life alone. The Christian life is no different. As part of the body of Christ, believers are charged with encouraging each other, praising God together, caring for each other’s needs, and training each other in the truth. In turbulent times with conflicting influences, meeting regularly with our church family helps us stay grounded in the truth of Christ.
When writing to the church at Ephesus, Paul spoke about how church unity brings maturity, especially to a congregation who faced worldly teachings. “Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into him who is the head—Christ” (Ephesians 4:14-15).
If your judgment is clouded and you struggle to determine wrong from right, seek counsel from your godly brothers and sisters in Christ. The church is a God-given support system that provides sound guidance in difficult seasons.
When you feel burdened or confused by the many influences in life—whether from personal relationships or society at large—do not be discouraged. God has given us His Word, His presence, and His people to guide and direct us down the narrow road of Christ that leads to abundant life.