In Numbers 16 we read a gruesome story about approximately 15,000 people who lost their lives because of the influence of 3 rebellious men who had a problem with Moses’ and Aaron’s God-given authority. One of the things that I have learned in life is that is is impossible to be unaffected by other people either negatively or positively. In this story the negative influence of Korah, Abiram and Dothan’s influence was negative and became death to those that were affected by them. Negative influence can sway even the best judgment.
As a mature adult and Christian, I would hope that my judgment and perspective is such that I’m not vulnerable to others opinions and decisions as I was when I was much younger in years and in faith. But, sometimes negative influence can be so subtle that we are hardly aware of its effect on our lives. The sad fact is that some of our biggest negative influences are not out in the “world” as we would have thought, but within the confines of the church itself.
Some of the most frequent negative influences I have dealt with in my time in church have been; those who are prone to rebel against spiritual authority as Korah, Abiram and Dothan did. They find fault with every decision made by church leadership and seem to think they know better than they how to run the church. The three men in our story today objected to the way the priesthood was handled and thought that Moses and Aaron took too much authority on themselves. In other words, Korah, Dathon and Abiram thought that they knew better how to handle all of this business they were just as spiritual as Moses and Aaron.
In my own life, it’s the need to make everyone happy and keep them that way – which is impossible to do by the way- to feed my need for approval by the congregation or my friends and family. King Saul came up against a situation when he tried to win the approval of his men and instead of waiting on the prophet, he took it upon himself to offer the sacrifice himself and faced the downfall of his kingship.
And then there is always those that encourage you to “enjoy yourself – there’s nothing in the Bible against that!” These are our friends and coworkers that just want us to enjoy life and do those things that make us happy. It might be as simple as just bringing us chocolate to feed our indulgences and ultimately packing on those pounds. It might be encouraging us to purchase that new outfit and blowing our monthly budget and running up our credit card. Or it might be introducing us to that perfect someone who would draw us away from our walk with the Lord.
We have to be wise to those around us that influence us negatively and develop a plan for dealing with them. It could be as simple as just limiting our exposure to their influence; setting up group exposure where the influence is limited; avoidance; or a frank discussion of the problem and just maybe you could be a positive influence on this negative person. I’m reminded of Joseph’s action when faced with Potiphar’s wife’s negative influence – HE FLED! I don’t think there is much call for this drastic action, but that’s a call that each one of us has to make in a given situation. Sometimes breaking up with bad company is the answer – even if it’s hard to do!
We can and should surround ourselves with positive influences – the greatest one being the Word of God. If you want those uplifting words flowing into your mind and heart, listen to a reading of scripture on your iPad, CD, or any of the myriad ways available to us today. Seek out those positive people in your church fellowship and cultivate relationship with them. Find a good Bible study and immerse yourself in this discipline. Read good christian books and listen to worship music. Spend time each day communicating to the ultimate positive influence in your life – God!
Those 14,700 people who died that day in the wilderness listened and were influenced, but did they really expect or believe that siding with those three men would result in such drastic consequences? Of course not! Neither can we afford to suffer consequences that affect our lives negatively just by listening or being influenced by unwise people.
God give us wisdom to know when to listen and when to walk away. Help us to discern and see rebellion no matter how subtle and disassociate ourselves from it. Give us hearts and minds that crave your Word and love your church. Grant us positive influence on those around us so that your Kingdom may thrive and spread throughout the earth. Amen.