The Lord is my shepherd… (Ps. 23:1).
I cannot hear these words, as a Christian living this side of the cross, without hearing Jesus say, “I am the good shepherd. I give my life for the sheep. I know my sheep by name. I call them. They are mine.”
I want to draw your attention to just three words about this Shepherd, who is the Lord, and His relationship to the Christian.
He leads me… (Ps. 23:2-3).
Where does he lead me? Psalm 23:4-5 tell me that He leads me where he has already gone: He leads me in paths of righteousness, and He has fulfilled all righteousness. He leads me beside still waters. That is in the place of refreshment and joy that is already His. Even when I walk through the valley of death, I am safe because He is walking with me, and death is a place where He has already gone. Because He has passed through death in victory, He is able to lead me through it. Beyond that, He will lead me into glory where He is already seated at the right hand of the Father.
Meditating on these words has led me to this definition: Leaders are people who set out on a journey and take others with them. Christ has done this through His incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.
You may be thinking, “I’m not a leader. I don’t lead anything. I’m the kind of person who prefers to stay in the background.” Remember that God has placed you at the center of a circle of influence.
Here are three considerations to help you assess your own influence.
Consider Your Sphere of Influence
Who could you take with you?
Think about your friends—God has placed them next to you. You have influence on your friends; the only question is what kind of influence that will be. Your influence will depend on where you are heading and the pace at which you are moving. God has placed you at the center of a circle of influence with your friends.
Think about your family—your children, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and generations not yet born. Here is a word of encouragement to every parent and grandparent in the vigorous pursuit of a godly life. Jonathan and Sarah Edwards were godly parents who set the course of their lives to honor Christ, and gave careful attention to raising their children. One writer, who studied the line of their descendants, found that they included: one U.S. vice president, three U.S. senators, three governors, three mayors, thirteen college presidents, thirty judges, sixty-five professors, eighty holders of public office holders, one hundred lawyers, and a dean of a law school.  The influence of one godly mother, the influence of one godly father has massive potential for good over generations. God has placed you at the center of a circle of influence in your family.
Think about your work—God has placed customers, or employees, or students, or colleagues in your sphere of influence. Some of these folks are not Christians, and you may be the nearest they ever get to the light of Jesus Christ. Does it matter that your life shines? Of course, it does. God has placed you at the center of a circle of influence in your workplace.
Think about your church—God has joined us together in the body of Christ. Some of us are full of joy; some are quite hard to please. Some of us are full of faith; some are full of doubts. What will your influence be? What will be the result of your conversations? Your influence matters. God has placed you at the center of a circle of influence in your church.
Consider Your Present Position
Here are seven questions for evaluating your journey. Where has there been progress? Where have you lost ground?
I’m sure there are other questions that could be added, but I urge you to start with these and to use them as a grid for examining your own life, so that you can ask the question, “Where am I in this Christian life?”
- Am I praying with faith?
- Am I serving with zeal?
- Am I believing with confidence?
- Am I confessing with humility?
- Am I worshipping with joy?
- Am I giving with gladness?
- Am I reaching out with love?
As I have asked these questions of myself, I gave myself a mixed report. I found that there are areas of growth and there are areas of decline. And God is using these questions to bring to my attention what needs to be addressed. I commend them to you.
Consider Who You Are Following
The first mark of a godly leader is that he or she is first a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. Leadership begins by learning to follow. Can you say today, “Jesus Christ leads me?”
Only Jesus knows where He will lead you. Only Jesus knows what He has in store for you. You can be sure of this: There will be gifts of grace mixed in with shattered dreams, intense pressures and great sacrifices.
In a world of convenience, there are many people who are not interested in that kind of journey. They are looking for a god who will give them a comfortable life. Following Jesus will lead you to a cross, but it will not end there. Following Christ will lead you to glory.
He suffered as an example, so that we might follow in His footsteps. You may say, “That’s not possible! He forgave people who wounded Him. He reached out to serve people while in unbearable pain. He trusted God when He could not even feel His presence. How can I possibly do that?
You can do this by His Spirit living in you. You can’t do this on your own. It is not in you to live like this. Left to yourself, you will settle into a Christianized comfort zone, and the people around you will do the same, because that will be your influence.
There’s only one way to live this life: Christ awakens the desire for this life in you, He gives this life to you, and He walks this path with you. That’s my prayer for you today.