Have you ever gone somewhere and met someone who told you that they have heard of you? It’s happened a few times in my life. The first thought that goes through my mind is, “Uh oh. What did they hear about me? Did they hear that I was a pig at the buffet? Did they hear about that time I forgot to do something important? Did they hear about my inability to play guitar well, or that I hurt someone’s feelings, or that I said something I should not have?” Yep, panic starts to set in. Are you that way too — assuming the worst?
I’ve been teaching for more than a decade now. Accordingly, I sometimes hear about a student before we meet each other. I love it when a student tells me something like, “I hope you get my brother next year. I’ve been telling him about you, and he is excited. But you need to be tough on him because he doesn’t like to do his homework.” Sometimes a teacher will tell me about a student who might need to be transferred to my Pre-AP class because of a strong work ethic. What people hear about others can be good — or it can be bad. It’s called a reputation. Accordingly, while some reputations are big others are small, some are strong while others are weak, and while some are positive others are negative. Ultimately, it is simply an opinion someone has based on what they’ve heard from others.
However, sometimes the things we do have a bigger impact than just creating an opinion. Occasionally, our actions can influence a person in regards to what they do or believe. That’s huge! Maybe they want to be like us, they might want to be the opposite. Maybe our lives impact some important decisions that somebody needs to make. And sometimes, well, sometimes our example can stimulate change that lasts for generations. This is different than just a reputation. It’s more powerful, more important, more eternal.
The apostle Paul makes reference to impacting others in 2 Corinthians 10:15-16. The apostle speaks of an area of influence where followers of Jesus spread the gospel message. Depending on the version you read, he may call it a territory, region, province or a field. Strong’s calls it a “sphere of activity.” I like that a lot — but it’s much more than just the circle of influence we have on those who are intimately close to us. In context, Paul is telling the Corinthian church that while they were currently the outer edge of his missionary efforts to spread the gospel, as their faith grew he expected that outer edge to expand.
Remember, Paul is talking to a church full of new converts. They were not very mature, yet Paul told them that as they grew in their walk with Jesus, he expected the territory of Christ to expand as the gospel was spread. From the NASB, “… but with the hope that as your faith grows, we will be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you, so as to preach the gospel even to the regions beyond you …”
So, that begs the question: are the borders of Christ’s kingdom growing because of your efforts? Or is your lack of effort causing the kingdom of Jesus to remain stagnant or even shrink?
I encourage you to take a self-inventory.
1. Did I talk about Jesus today with someone who is not actively seeking the Lord?
2. Did I invite someone to church this week?
3. Did I share the gospel with someone this month?
4. Did I ask someone if they would like to study the Bible with me this quarter?
5. Did I talk to my neighbors about creating a neighborhood Jesus class this year?
6. Did I help save anyone in the last five years?
7. Have I suffered a life changing persecution for the sake of righteousness?
8. When was the last time I was slandered, reviled, hated, ostracized and insulted because of Jesus?
9. Did I spend more time arguing with other believers than helping those in need?
10. Did I debate some inconsequential point of doctrinal opinion instead of reaching out to the lost?
11. Did I build up the church or tear it down?
12. Did I forget that even if I convinced the worst of sinners to stop their wickedness, that they are still headed to Hell if they don’t know Jesus — yet the one who has given their life to the Lord and while trying to shed their old ways continues to struggle is “new every morning?”
13. Have I substituted having a good reputation for expanding my sphere of activity?
14. Do I limit my sphere of activity solely to people I am related to or to my best friends?
15. Is my evangelism limited to inviting people to gospel meetings?
16. Do I concentrate on talking to Christian background people and avoid speaking to Muslims, Buddhists and Athiests?
I know. I KNOW!!! This is a hard lesson. And, I am chief among those who have poor responses to almost every single one of those. So, my friends, join me. Do something. Get up! Speak to everyone about Jesus – especially those who have no idea who He really is – those who need Him the most.
Don’t know how to speak to others? Fill up your heart with Jesus and you won’t be able to stop your mouth from talking about Him (Matthew 12:45b). We just need to trust and obey. By immersing ourselves in the words of the Word, we will produce good fruit. Luke 6:45 says, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart.” So study. Pray. Prepare yourself. And then increase the sphere of your activity.