The Stewardship of Influence
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 4:21 (Holman) Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and He called them.
Jesus liked to divert attention toward the spiritual. He went from talking about fields white unto harvest to harvesting souls (JN 4:35), from chatting about Jacob’s well to explaining living water (JN 4:10). Here He met men who were fishing for fish, and pointed them to fishing for people.
Humans too often obsess with tasks and things. Jesus saw people and eternity. Let’s learn to view life, and see others, through His spiritual lens.
The four brothers learned to do this. They took propensities they had in the secular world, and lifted them to a higher level, to the spiritual. Many believers show remarkable abilities in the secular world, but never switch these talents to Kingdom-work. Do a skills-set inventory on yourself. Pray over it. How can you transfer to the spiritual realm the skills you do well?
Jesus wants His followers to significantly impact the world spiritually. Influence may be our most important stewardship. Our lives should be streams cutting a channel for other people’s futures. Ripples from our lives should still emanate for Jesus if our body is dead and our name forgotten.
Some anonymous persons were doing something right in Capernaum. From this small town came five (Peter, Andrew, James, John, Matthew) of history’s greatest men. Someone helped Capernaum be a good enough environment where these five men were open to spiritual change. The influencers’ names are forgotten, but their influence lives on forever. Remember, it’s not about today; it’s about tomorrow and forever; it’s not about us; it’s about His Kingdom and others.
Of the Apostles, James was the first to die, martyred by King Herod (Acts 12:1). John, the last to die, was exiled to the Isle of Patmos (Rev. 1:9).
They epitomize the Moravian emblem of an ox standing between an altar and a plow, underscored with the inscription, “Ready for Either”. For James, it was the altar. He was a brief bright blaze consumed on the altar of early martyrdom. For John it was the plow, a long life of devoted service.
It doesn’t seem fair that James died young. I wonder how he felt about it. Maybe the last words of another faithful servant can indicate what James thought at the end. Allen Gardiner, faithful missionary to Picton Island at the southern tip of South America, experienced many hardships and physical difficulties in serving Jesus. Despite his troubles, he resolved, “While God gives me strength, failure will not daunt me.” In 1851, at age 57, he died on the mission field of disease and starvation. When his body was found, his diary lay nearby. It bore the record of hunger, thirst, wounds, and loneliness. The last entry showed the struggle of a shaky hand trying to write legibly. It read, “I am overwhelmed with a sense of the goodness of God.” My guess is, this is what James felt, a sense of gratitude for having been called away from a fishing boat toward a cause worth giving his life for, even when young.
John wrote five New Testament books: The Gospel of John, I, II, III John, and Revelation. His highest honor was being known as the disciple Jesus loved (JN 13:23). Jesus loves all people equally, but being human, was subject to bonding with certain personalities. Temperaments can resonate.
I want the bonding with Jesus that John the Beloved had. I was named for John the Baptist. He is still my hero, but as years pass, I more and more find John the Beloved stealing my heart. I know Jesus loves me. I also want Him to like me. I want Him to feel special affinity between us, to sense our personalities resonating, with no sin in the way.
Matt. 4:22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed
“Immediately” is the key word. No debate or persuasion needed. They trusted what John the Baptist had told them about Jesus being the Messiah.
James and John left their father, but did not leave him destitute. He was able to keep his business afloat with hired servants (Mark 1:20). Their mother regularly contributed to Jesus’ ministry (MT 27:55-56). The family knew Annas the High Priest (John 18:15). These indicators point to a family of standing and means. The Twelve did not come from abject poverty. Peter later reminisced that they “left everything” (Matt. 19:27) to follow Jesus.
For the disciples, being called by Jesus was the chance of a lifetime, but they did not realize how serious its ramifications would be. They had no idea they were headed to a cross, not a crown; and to thorns, not a throne.
They had no concept of a spiritual kingdom, no understanding of the value of suffering, no passion for souls, no understanding of compassion. Their solution to sin was to call down fire from Heaven to exterminate the sinners. They had no humility; they all wanted to be top dog, number one.
Jesus changed all this. They began clueless, unprepared for their duty, but Jesus called them anyway, and used them mightily. All they knew to do was to obey in this moment, and every moment thereafter. This recurring obedience opened for them the door to the wonderful traits they had to have.
Matt. 4:23a Jesus was going all over Galilee, . . .
Noted Bible teacher Ivor Powell called this our Lord’s first missionary journey. In our parlance at Second Baptist, we would call it Jesus’ first short-term mission trip. From His home base in Capernaum, our Master repeatedly went on short-term trips. He set an example we all should follow.
Jesus came to Earth the right way; He was born of a virgin. He came to the right town, Bethlehem, and grew up in the right region, Galilee. He had the right message, repentance, and the right disciples, the Twelve. In our text He modeled the right method to advance His kingdom: He “was going”.
He by His own example reminded us our mantra has to be “go”, not “come”. We are not given the luxury of influencing only those who happen to come our way. We have to overcome our spiritual inertia. Jesus said lost sheep are scattered. Hence, we have to scatter to find them. We must go.
To sit idly by and wait for the lost to come to us is a strange way to go and seek them. Hunters don’t sit in their kitchen and wait for ducks to fly through. Fishermen don’t sit on their porch and hope a fish will swim by.
Farmers don’t stand at the fencerow and summon a crop to come in. Dad, a cotton farmer, in 1948, recently discharged from the Marines, picked 2290 pounds in one week (514 in one day) to buy Mom a 21-jewel Bulova watch for $90.56. She still wears it. Dad did not stand inside the barn and beckon, “Here, cotton; this way, cotton; come jump in my sack, cotton.” Nor did he put a sign on the barn, “All cotton welcome.” He had to go out among the cotton stalks. We too have to move, defeat inertia, and draw near sinners.
We cannot sit still, requiring sinners to come to us. Jesus went to “all” Galilee. He saturated His area. One reason we circled our city with church plants is; we want to saturate, yea inundate, with Jesus’ name the city God assigned us. Jesus touched as many as He could, as near and far as He could.
Jesus “was going” till He was near enough to enable all who wanted to come to Him to do so. For us, in practical terms, I believe our goal should be to put a Bible, and plant a vibrant church, near everyone on the planet.