The constants of influence
Someone asked, where did this thing about relational geometry originate? Several years ago I tripped across a concept that intrigued me. It was the idea of social geometry and it was launched by this quote---
Draw a circle around yourself. Invite people in or keep them out. We are creators
of our social geometry. Calculate your volume.
It wasn't attributed to anyone and my Google background research didn't provide convincing evidence of who actually authored the quote. So, I'm breaking the rules by not crediting it. But, in thinking about personal influence it was an immediate fit. The idea of social geometry and personal volume registered something that was stuck in my memory banks from tenth grade geometry. Because I'm a little sensitive to the whims of society and culture I decided to make a change, however. Social was just too secular a motif for me. Relational works better. So, let's explore the dynamics of relational geometry and how to enlarge your circle of influence. Or, how to increase your volume. It's how we are to be salt and light in the world.
Math was a struggle for me. But, I do remember better grades in geometry than the others because i could see the math beyond abstractions. And, there were constants too, things in those calculations and equations that never changed. Pi was always 3.14159265359. A right angle was always 90 degrees. There were many others that I've long forgotten. Even so, that constants were so significant in the renderings and calculations meant there must be some parallel in figuring personal volume too. If we are to enlarge the circle of our own personal influence, there must be constants.
Inconsistency is the nemesis of influence. Some of us are uniquely wired to handle the unpredictable surprises and changes of life. But, most of us prefer what is known, the value mark of expectations. In a broad brush fashion, we humans like to know what is coming, the trip-wires and mine-fields that are down the road. So, consistency is about the constants in our influence. It is one of the elements that enlarges our circle and helps magnify our impact on our area of the world.
There's a strong theological framework for living the consistent life. Scripture affirms that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). The skeptic in us wants to say, "well, that's Jesus, not me". But, Scripture again is clear that we're "...being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another" (2 Corinthians 3:18). Being like him is our goal in life. So, consistency is the pattern we're supposed to duplicate, the model Jesus gave us as our aim in life.
But, alas, we're inconsistent, blown by the winds and currents of a whimsical culture. The question is, how can we sinful humans discover consistency in life? Well, there's the world's answer, and the biblical solution to this dilemma---
The world's solution is to develop stubbornness. Stubborn people have drawn
lines and decide to hold them. Being stubborn is our human, egocentric way to
stand against the cultural waves that sweep across life. People honor us for our
stubborn resolve. But, in Scripture, stubbornness is never a virtue. Being
stubborn in the Bible is about resistance to God's plan. It is a vice.
The biblical solution is to grow steadfastness. This is a Christocentric virtue that
recognizes the lines Christ has drawn and relies on his grace to stand firm on
those lines. The world belittles steadfast Christians as being fanatics. But, being
steadfast is a virtue (see 1 Corinthians 15:58; Colossians 1:23; and others). It
depends on his provision of grace to sustain us in times of difficulty.
So, the real question is, how can this steadfastness introduce consistency in my life? Here's a path to consistency, and an enlarged influence---
1. Focus your life on Jesus.
Jesus is the north star of our personal navigation system. Like John the Baptist,
we need to affirm "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30). He is
our only way to discover the consistent life (see John 15:5).
2. Let the Word of God abide in your heart.
Our lives are transitory, like grass that withers. Only the Word of God endures
(Isaiah 40:8 and 1 Peter 1:25). His Word in our hearts help us discover
the constants of an influential life. .
3. Let God grow the fruit of the spirit in your life.
Life is hard. Living the life of faith tests us at so many turns. Steadfastness is
not a fruit of the Spirit. But, the fruit of the Spirit produces patience and
self-control (see Galatians 5:22-23) which move us past being stubborn and
gives us the strength for steadfastness.
4. Be accountable to other believers.
You cannot understand the Christian life without some grasp of the relational
geometry that governs us. The Epistles guide our relationships with other
Christians. We must learn the disciplines of confession, instruction, rebuke,
encouragement, and prayer within the community of faith. Fellowship and
accountability will grow steadfastness within all of us.
5. Accept trials and hardship as doors to steadfastness.
James always offered a practical word. He wrote, "Count it all joy, my
brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing
of your faith produces steadfastness" (James 1:2-3).
In forty years of pastoral leadership my most disappointing moments occurred when gifted, talented, knowledgeable, and informed people squandered their influence because they failed to be consistent. A while back I wrote about the five sparks to ignite your spiritual influence. This week it's about what needs to happen to enlarge the circle of our influence. Consistency is step one. To be influential in a world like this one, we need constants. It's first in relational geometry.
And, this is a world that needs the constants of influence.
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