THE IMPACT OF INFLUENCE
by GLENN PEASE
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THE IMPACT OF INFLUENCE OR EVERYBODY TOUCHES SOMEBODY
Based on Esther 2:15-23 By Pastor Glenn Pease.
Harriet Beecher Stowe was a preacher's daughter who was born in 1811. She certainly didn't look like she would ever amount to much. She was shy and had a large nose and a hunched back. She considered herself to be quite homely. Calvin Stowe, professor of Biblical Lit. in Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, saw beauty in her, however, and asked her to marry him. He was not exactly prince charming himself with his balding head and problem of overweight and nearsightedness.
It was never a very smooth marriage, for they both had such bad self-images. Calvin had such fits of self-contempt that he got sick in order to escape duties. The result was he never made enough money to support his wife and seven children. Harriet had to work to support the family. She wrote articles and short stories. She so dispised slavery and all it did to degrade people, and she longed to use her gift of writing to fight it, but it seemed so hopeless. She was a nobody living in a day of great male writers, all of whom also hated slavery, but avoided writing about it. Longfellow, Hawthorn, Emerson, Melville, Thorew and Whittier were just some of the great names of her day.
Harriets sister kept insisting she should write to show the whole nation what an accursed thing slavery was. One Sunday as she sat in church during a communion service the plot of her book formed in her mind. It is hard to doubt that it was a God-given plot, for her book called Uncle Tom's Cabin took the world by storm. It sold 300,000 copies in America, and 1,000,000 in England the very first year. It was translated into 36 languages. The impact of her book was so great it is considered one of the most influential books in the history of America. Abraham Lincoln's response when he met her was, "So this is the little lady who made this big war."
Here was a woman who changed the course of history. She was not a beautiful woman like Esther. Her power was still the power of beauty, however, for it was the literary beauty of her book that moved people to action. Beauty has many different forms. It may be artistic, literary, intellectual, or physical, but the point is, God's providence in history always works through one form of beauty or another. That is why the apostle Paul writes to Christians in Gal. 6:9, "Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart." The Greek word for well is the word for beautiful. Paul is saying do not grow weary in beautiful doing or beautiful action. Acting beautifully is the key to your reward and the reaping of a harvest. It is not just being beautiful, but beautiful actions that become a part of God's providence in history.
The book of Esther is full of the beauty of doing as well as the beauty of being. Esther's beauty of being depended upon the beauty of doing to accomplish God's purpose. We see from this that all of us can be part of God's providence. The beauty of being may be limited to the few, but the beauty of doing is open to all.
Everyone of us can do beautiful things that aid the fulfillment of God's plan. The book of Esther reveals that God's providence is always working with a balance of male and felmale imput. Men are constantly being influenced by women, and women by men. In our text we are looking at the key men in the life of Esther. We want to focus on the least of these three men in order to see how the influence of even the least can be great.
Hegai is certainly one of the least known characters of the Bible. I have never even heard of him being used in a Bible quiz. Rare would be the person who knew of Hegai, the keeper of Xerxes harem. He was eunuch, which means he was incapable of sexual function. His purpose in life was to see that the women in the harem were always in the best condition for the pleasure of Xerxes. It would be easy to past by Hegai without mention, and leave him in the limbo of neglect, but a careful reading of chapter 2 reveals that he was key link in the chain of events that led to the salvation of the Jews.
Verse 9 reveals how he took a special liking to Esther, and quickly got her started on the beauty aids and proper diet. He became her coach, as it were, to win and event over emorous competition. We see here the beauty of friendship. This was not a sexual male and female relationship at all. Hegai appreciated Esther's beauty and her personality. He liked her as person, and he saw her as the best for the king. Esther also came to appreciate Hegai. She obeyed his coaching and took his advice. In verse 15 we see that when her chance came to see the king and impress him, she took with her only what Hegai advised her to take. He was the best counselor she had. With him Esther had an inside track to the heart of the king.
The paradox here is, we have a pagan, who cares nothing about the Jews or God's plan for Israel, playing a key role in God's plan for their deliverence. God did not need Hegai, for He could work out things in another way if He chose. In fact, later on Mordecai says that God did not even need Esther. Nobody is indispensible to God. He can always get His purpose accomplished, but the point is, He chose to use the influence of this pagan servant, and that choice of God opens up a fascinating insight into God's providence in history.
We have a tendency to limit God, and we assume He will only work through His own people. This limited view makes us miss the values that God can achieve through the influence of non-Christians. Hegai was a pagan. He did not even know the God of Israel, and Esther could not be a witness to him, for she had to keep secret she was a Jew. There is no evangelism or witnessing on the part of Esther. She was just a friend to Hegai. This reveals that our relationship to those outside the kingdom of God can be a factor in our success in serving the kingdom of God. Do not think that non-Christians play no role in your life. There are many examples of how non-believers are a key influence in believer's lives.
Joseph's whole life was a series of encounters with pagan people. He was thrown into prison because of a bad encounter, but gets out of prison to share his dream by the aid of a pagan servant of the king. He went on to become a leader in Egypt and had a positive relationship with a pagan Pharaoh. All around him there were pagan people who respected him and depended upon him. Joseph lived most of his life in a relationship with non-believers. Daniel had a simular experience as a political leader in Babylon. He had his close Jewish friends, but he also had a good relationship to the king.
The Apostle Paul was constantly envolved with non-Christian Roman leaders. One of them was to him like Hegai was to Esther. In Acts 27 we read of the Roman Centurian named Julius. He is another very obscure character of the Bible. He was in charge of Paul as he headed to Rome to stand before Caesar. In Acts 27:5 we read, "And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him leave to go to his friends and be cared for." Later, when they were caught in a storm on the sea, the Centurian listened to Paul and cut loose the boat some were going to use to escape. By so doing, this entire ship of pagan sailors was saved. 276 persons were spared by the providence of God, using the influence of a pagan leader.
There was a crisis when the Roman soldiers felt the only wise plan was to kill all the prisoners lest they escape. Paul would have died had it not been for the friendship of this pagan Centurian. In Acts 27:43 we read, "But the Centurian, wishing to save Paul, kept them from caring out their purpose." The beautiful acts of friendship between Paul and this pagan leader led them to be a team that brought everyone through the entire ordeal. God used a believer and a non-believer together to fulfill His plan of sparing all these lives. Doctor Luke then goes on to record in Acts 28, after they were all safe on the Island of Malta, "And the natives showed us unusual kindness." The cheif, whose name was Publius, showed them great hosptiality for three days. Then when they sailed, we read in verse 10, "They presented many gifts to us."
These experiences of Paul with pagan friendship and kindness reveal that what happened to Esther was not just an isolated incident. All through history God's people have been blessed by the kind and beautiful acts of those who were not believers. God's plan includes doing many good things in history by the influence of non-believers as well as believers. There are millions of Christians who have been
healed, taught, spared and aided by non-Christian doctors, teachers and professionals of all kinds. You are a rare Christian indeed if you have never been positively influenced by a non-believer. They are not saved by the many good works they do for us, but God's will is often done on earth because of their good works.
The relationship we have to all people is important, for God can use everyone's influence for His purpose. One of the most amazing examples is the experience of Stenborg, the painter. Over 200 years ago in Dusseldorf, Germany, he painted his famous Gipsy Girl. His model let her black eyes wonder about his studio. Then they were arrested by the thorn crowned faces of Jesus he had painted for the church. She begged the artist to explain the picture. He told her the story of the cross. When he finished the Gipsy girl said, "You must love Him very much when He has done all that for you." The painter was stung with shame, for the fact was, he did not love Jesus. That remark motivated him to respond to Christ, and then, as a painter who adored the Saviour, he painted another picture of Christ, and displayed it int he public gallery of Dusseldorf. Underneath he inscribed the words, "All this I did for Thee; What hast thou done for me?"
One day, Count Zinzendorf, a rich young man, stood before that painting, and the question challenged him to the depth of his soul. He surrendered to Christ and became the founder of Moravin Missions. In a few years there were missionaries going to all parts of the world. The Moravinans had a profound influence on John Wesley, who was used of God to change the world, and the influence goes on and on and on from a little Gipsy girl who simply asked a painter if he loved Jesus.
John Donne was right when he said no man is an island. Paul put it in Rom. 14:7, "For none of us lives to himself, and none of us die to himself." None of us live or die without influencing others for good or ill. This is not just a law for believers, it is true for all men, for even the lost have an influence for good or ill. This world is better or worse for every person in it. It has been better because of people like Hegai, Julius, the Gipsy girl, and innumerble obscure nobodies. What are the implications of this reality?
For one thing, it means your relationship to non-Christians can be a significant part of life. Non-Christian family, friends, neighbors, and others may play a very important part in your life. Non-Chrisitan authors may influence you in many directions. Paul read pagan poets and found in them truths that he could quote in his sermons. In his famous sermon on Mars Hill in Acts 17:28 he said, "For in Him we live and move and have our being, as even as some of your poets have said,
'For we are indeed His offspring.'" Paul quotes the pagan poets because they confirm what the Bible says. Today, preachers are constantly quoting non-Christian poets, scientists, psychiatrists, and a host of other authories, who in their realm of study discover that Biblical principles are true, not just for Christians, but for non-Christians as well.
What we need to see is that a Christian has a duel relationship to the world. Some of the world is like Haman, who hated God's people and God's truths, and they do all they can to persecute and destory. But, there is also a world that is sympathic to God's people and God's truths. It is open to the influence of God's people, and can be used as an instument in the providence of God. When the Bible warns us not to love the world, and not to be comformed to it, it is referring to the danger of getting intrapped in the world's value system. Some Christians interpret this to mean, have nothing to do with non-Christians. This leads to a life of isolation where they have no influence on the world because they are not open to be influenced by the world. Separation from the world means separation from the sin of the world, and not separation from people. Jesus was a friend of sinners, but totally free of sin.
Christians who feel they have an obligation to be obnoxious and unkind to non-Christians are blind to the way God's providence works in history. Paul said Christians are to live peaceably with all men as much as is it possible. Paul knew from his own experience that good relationships, to even pagan people, can mean a better atmosphere in which the providence of God can work toward positive goals. The pharisees were very strick in not associating with the unclean people. They did not relate to non-Jews and even other Jews who did not attend the synagogue. One of there chief objections to Jesus was that He would eat with anyone, even the publicans and sinners. These people were to them mere nobodies, and not a part of God's people. These godless nobodies did not count with them. They failed to see that everybody is somebody with God, and everybody touches somebody in a way that hurts or helps. Jesus blased them, in spite of their high and strick principles, because they did not love people and relate to them in helpful ways.
We should never be so proud that we cannot take advice from a non-Christian. Esther took Hegai's advice and it was the best thing that ever happened to her. We may never have heard of her had she not listened to this pagan friend. She could have chosen to snub this Gentile pagan, and instead inquire of her Jewish neighbor.
But her Jewish friend may have told her to eat onions and leeks before she went in to see the king. You recall, the Jews were willing to give up their freedom to get back to Egypt so they could have onions and leeks. Esther could have taken this advice
and have been so offensive to the king that she would have been dismissed on the spot. The point is, Hegai was the best authority, and she was wise to follow his advice. It is wise for any Christian to follow the wisdom of a non-Christian who is authority in his field. It is not only not wrong to follow such advice, it is wrong not to follow it if it does not conflict with the revealed of God. You could be missing God's will by neglecting it. Do not count anybody out as a resource for knowing God's will.
If God uses everybody to touch somebody, and that includes obscure pagans like Hegai, how much more does He use His own children to touch the world? Do not be deceived, you are constantly influencing everyone who knows you for good or ill. The poet has written,
My life shall touch a dozen lives
Before this day is done,
Leave countless marks of good or ill,
Ere sets the evening sun.
This, the wish I always wish,
The prayer I always pray:
Lord, may my life help others' lives
It touches by the way.
May God help us all to pray such a prayer everyday, for everyday, everybody touches somebody.
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Oh wow! What a great article! It really moved and touched and encouraged me. -Carole