Years ago, I was given the best definition of leadership I have heard. “Leadership is influence.” That is to say, it is not a position or a title. Nor is it necessarily the power to enact the rules, contracts or legislation we want. Of course, the latter is a form of leadership. God grants governments power to enforce rules. He also calls upon those who work for employers to submit to them. But we all know that dictators enforce rules, and they do lead. People are forced to follow. But, quite often, the people that are forced to follow are looking for a way to break the yoke that is imposed on them. For this reason, dictators are often suspicious of others around them. Once the dictator has passed from the scene, the influence they bear on people soon dissipates.
There is an influence that lasts long after the influencer is gone. Paul commanded Timothy, “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also”. (2 Timothy 2:2) Paul is convinced that his influence in Timothy’s life, and Timothy’s influence in the lives of others will continue through successive generations.
Every Christian is called to be an influence. It may be in their family, their work, their church or in the variety of different relationships that people have. We should know the gospel, and be able to share it. But we also know that the person who influences others, is a person who has the capacity to influence others. For this reason, the nature of the person who is influencing is as important as the gospel they are sharing.
1 Timothy 6:11–12 should be studied by all Christians. Paul tells Timothy,
“But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
There are 4 key commands that Paul has for Timothy. By extension, these are commands for all would be Christian influencers. They are the commands, “flee”, “pursue”, “fight” and “hold on”. These are the kinds of commands a soldier might receive on a battle field. They are required of all who would have a lasting impact on others.
The first command is to flee. There are some things in the life of every Christian, in which the response of flight must be taken seriously. We might remember Joseph fleeing from Potiphar’s wife, after she had solicited him for sex. In the context of 1 Timothy, Paul has been warning that those who want to get rich fall into a trap, leading them to ruin. Paul may be warning Timothy to flee the money centered life. In any case, all Christians must identify those temptations that might seize them, and blunt their witness for Christ.
The second command is to pursue. As important as it is to run from some things, so important is it, to run toward other things. Paul speaks of righteousness, or always doing what is right in the eyes of God. Notice the 6 descriptors of moral purity that Paul gives.
The third command is to fight. In the context of 1 Timothy, Timothy is to go to the Christian church of Ephesus and command certain elders not to teach false doctrines. Every Christian will have to fight for correct doctrine. We will also need to fight against that which is evil. Good influence means that we are on the side of righteousness.
Finally, Paul calls on Timothy to hold on. He means, that Timothy is to hold on to the faith. He means the truth of the gospel, without varying.
Any Christian who has these four commands realized in their personal lives, will be very effective when they share the gospel. But should these commands be ignored, the influence of a life comes to naught.