“We…will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you.” -2 Corinthians 10:13
Yesterday morning I came across a phrase in 2 Corinthians that caught my attention. In this particular section of Scripture, Paul was writing to defend the legitimacy of his ministry. Apparently some people were questioning his message and methods, and Paul was compelled to refute their claims.
Tucked away near the end of chapter 10, we find the phrase “area of influence” three times. The expression appears first in verse 13 when Paul attributed the scope of his ministry to God. Two verses later, he voiced hope that that scope would eventually broaden. Finally, in verse 16 he affirmed others’ God-given realms of service.
The translation “area of influence God assigned to us” is unique to the English Standard Version; other translations include “the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us” (NIV), “the measure of the sphere which God apportioned to us” (NASB), “the measure of the area of ministry that God has assigned to us” (HCSB), and “the boundaries of the work God has given us” (NLT).
Although the precise wording varies between translations, they all communicate the same concept. As I’ve contemplated Paul’s words, a few principles have stood out to me.
First, influence is God-given. Regardless of the size or shape of your particular area of service, God is the One who entrusted it to you. The ultimate task, then, isn’t manufacturing influence but identifying the influence you’ve been given.
Second, influence is God-contained. While God does appoint you to a certain sphere of ministry, the flip side is also true: there are certain tasks to which He doesn’t call you. No one influences everyone, but everyone can influence someone. The ultimate goal, then, isn’t expanding your influence but faithfully stewarding the influence you already have.
Third, influence is God-glorifying. Although God gave Paul an exceptionally large area of influence, Paul didn’t have a monopoly on effectiveness for the kingdom of God. Paul recognized the influence of others believers, indicating that ministry is to be a God-honoring, cooperative partnership rather than a self-exalting competition. When we realize we’re playing on the same team, it’s easier to embrace the positions we’ve been assigned. The ultimate victory, then, isn’t your influence being applauded but God being adored.
If you’re like me, it’s tempting to be jealous of someone else’s area of influence, but it’s liberating to be reminded that God is the One who makes us influential, sets the boundaries of our influence, and honors Himself through that influence. Instead of focusing on what God has called someone else to do, take a look at the people you know and the positions you hold.
There is an area of influence God has assigned to you. Will you leverage it for His glory and others’ good?