Nehemiah was an influencer. The Old Testament book that bears his name tells his story. Nehemiah, whose name means “The Lord has comforted,” served the Persian King Artaxerxes as a cupbearer. Being a cupbearer doesn’t sound too impressive. The position seems comparable to a butler or a headwaiter. But the cupbearer was far more critical than that. The cupbearer put his life on the line daily by tasting the wine and the food before it was served to the king. A poisoned meal meant no more cupbearer, but spared the king’s life. Because of the access to the king, the cupbearer was a man of significant influence, which he could use for good or evil. Nehemiah was chosen for this job because of his personal qualities like stable character, sharp eyes, discerning wits, common sense, initiative, attention to detail, and loyalty.
Nehemiah was visited by his brother, Hanani, and other Jews from Jerusalem in the citadel of Susa. Nehemiah asked about his fellow countrymen and the Holy City of Jerusalem. Three words summarized Jerusalem: Remnant, trouble, and shame. Instead of a land inhabited by a great Jewish nation, only a Jewish remnant lived there. Furthermore, the city was in great trouble for Jerusalem’s wall was broken down, and its gates had been destroyed by fire. Without walls and gates, the city was vulnerable to attack. The Jewish inhabitants were without protection. And, the citizens were experiencing great affliction, struggling to survive. Instead of a magnificent city, Jerusalem was in shambles. Where there had been glory, now there was shame. The blame for this misfortune and circumstances would have been directed toward God.
Upon hearing the news, Nehemiah’s heart sunk—it was broken. He not only heard about the need. He felt their need. He could have said, “That’s too bad, but what can I do about it? Jerusalem is a month journey away while I’m here is Susa.” Instead, Nehemiah wept, bitterly cried, mourned, fasted, and prayed to God. He wouldn’t dismiss the news about Jerusalem.
God used his broken heart to create a burden for action. And, Nehemiah used his position to influence the king.
From his example, we learn valuable lessons on how we can use our platform to influence others. Here are seven steps we can apply in our situation to influence others.
1. Ask the right question.
By asking the right question, we gain insight and clarity. We discover a deep need. Asking the right questions will serve us well in all walks of life. Insight is found in asking the right question. If you ask the right question, you will discover the correct answer.
2. Find a need and fill it.
It’s a trite statement, but it is true: “Find a need and fill it.” Looking for the apparent need and bringing all your energies on meeting that need yields tremendous results.
3. A broken heart leads to active response.
The heart must engage before the body acts. But once the heart is involved, little will prevent the body from moving. We must feel before we act. Dave Ramsey says that for people to get out of debt, they need to get angry about their debt. That is true for most noble movements and individual actions. Our emotions must be engaged before our bodies will act.
4. Anything God can do prayer can do.
Never underestimate the role of prayer in influencing people. God can do more than we can ever dream of doing. Spend much time in prayer, seeking the Lord’s leadership and asking for the Lord’s influence.
5. Moving from a place of comfort to a place of discomfort yields excellent results.
We can’t accomplish what our heart is telling us to by staying where we are. We can’t lose weight by lounging in the recliner and eating bonbons. We must move from a place of comfort to a place of discomfort. Any successful athlete, musician, or business person knows this fact to be true. God often challenges his people out of their comfort into a place of discomfort to accomplish his purpose.
6. A change in vocations may be needed to accomplish God’s purpose.
Many great people of faith have left one area of service to engage in a totally different and often unexperienced area of service to make an impact. When God calls people, he leads them from one area of vocation to another. In that new arena, they bring the gifts, talents, experience, and passion to make a difference.
7. Never wait for perfect clarity before you act.
Often, we think that all the dots have to line up, and all the circumstances have to be right before we act. But, as the Swiss philosopher, Henri-Frederic Amiel, wrote, “He who insists on seeing with perfect clearness before he decides never decides.”
A final word. Ken Blanchard wrote, “The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” Weak people seek authority in position or title. The masses are looking for influence, someone worthy to follow.
Will you be that person? Will you use your platform to make a difference?
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Rick Ezell is the Managing Partner of Employee Care of America, which provides care, chaplaincy, coaching, and crisis management to the workplace (www.employeecareofamerica.com). Read more of his writings at www.rickezell.com.