We have the capacity to influence others in tremendous ways. In fact, no matter how old we are, how messed up we’ve been or how many resources we lack, the one area of unlimited potential for us involves relationships. Through our lives, we can influence others.
The apostle Paul acknowledged that he was just like us, struggling with anxiety about his public speaking. Later he admitted that people considered him unimpressive and even a worthless speaker in person (2 Corinthians 10:10). Paul recognized his limitations, but he did not let them keep him from influencing others. His influence was not just a ripple in the river of time—he created a tidal wave!
Paul helped other ordinary and even less-than-ordinary people discover their capacity to influence others. One of the oddest groups he served was the church at Corinth, which was worthy of its own episode on Jerry Springer. Some were eating all of the food at church potlucks while others got drunk; others ate food sacrificed to idols; some married unbelievers; others got divorced; and some even dressed like prostitutes. A few of the people were sleeping around with each other, including one man who was sleeping with his stepmother. This was a seemingly hopeless group.
In spite of all this, Paul saw an unlimited future for his friends. In fact, Paul wrote one of the most beautiful lines to this group: “Love is patient. Love is kind … It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). It was to the Corinthians that he wrote about spiritual gifts. Paul even refers to this group as “sanctified,” another way of calling them “saints” (1 Corinthians 1:2). It was also to this motley crew that Paul wrote words of encouragement that are just as true to us as they were to them. In essence, he wrote, “Your future is limitless.”
“Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).
Like the Corinthians we may not be considered wise, influential or noble; yet God chooses us. In choosing us, He is entrusting us with the opportunity to continue influencing others to find Christ. We are unleashed from our limitations in order to impact others.
When talking with a friend of mine, I asked him if there was anything in my ministry that was worth sharing with others. Without hesitation, he mentioned I had learned how to lead people who are more talented I am. As I thought about my friend’s comment, I moved rather quickly from being encouraged to feeling confused and finally embarrassed. In essence, he was telling me that I am probably the least talented person in my ministry. Ouch! Eventually, after acknowledging this to be true, I was actually affirmed. If I can learn to influence others who are more talented than I am, then I have an unlimited group of people with whom I can work!
As a teenager at youth camp, my buddies and I ridiculed one of the cafeteria workers, a mentally challenged 22-year-old who had the mental capacity of an 8-year-old. At the end of the camp he approached the microphone. Rather than laughing at him, this time I sat in stunned silence. Had he heard our cruel jokes? What would he say?
Stuttering and mumbling, this courageous young man told us he loved working in the cafeteria of a youth camp so that he could help teenagers discover how much God loved them. My buddies and I were numb. I felt so evil. I felt so unworthy of his love—much less God’s love. Tears started rolling down my cheeks. During that week I committed to live for God rather than myself. From the eyes of the world, this young man had no potential. But in spite of his “limitations,” he changed my life.
There are no limits to our capacity to make a difference in this world. When we connect to God’s Spirit, He begins to whisper visions, dreams and possibilities that we could never have imagined for our lives. We are no longer subject to any of man’s judgments or limitations, including our own. Through our relationship with the Creator of the universe, we have the opportunity to live a life without limitations.
“‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’—but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).
Eric Michael Bryant serves as an elder, speaker and navigator overseeing the leadership team at Mosaic in Los Angeles, a church known for its creativity and diversity. His book, Peppermint-Filled Piñatas: Breaking Through Tolerance and Embracing Love, is a guide for overcoming the negative Christian stereotype by embracing the people Christians “love to hate.” Eric lives with his wife, Debbie, and two children, Caleb and Trevi in the middle of Los Angeles County.