Have you ever noticed that when you and your friends or family want to grab a bite to eat you typically end up going to the same place again and again?
What restaurants do you go to on a regular basis?
Why do you keep going back to the same place again and again?
If you love a particular restaurant, the chances are someone or something influenced you to become a fan. There are many different influences that drive you one way or the other. Have you ever considered what “drives” you? Some people claim their parents or family members have the most influence in their lives, while others give their teachers, coaches or friends credit for the direction they are headed. Whether you realize it or not, you’ve been influenced – where you shop, what cell phone you have, the clothes you wear and what’s on your iPod.
Think of your preferences. What is your favorite:
- Soft Drink/Food
- Sports Team/Band
- Movie/TV Show
- Style/Brand of Clothing
- Game/Gaming System
How did these become your favorites? What influences your decisions? You are pushed and motivated by a wide variety of things – from people to social attitudes to your own feelings.
You may be wondering why any of this matters. Here’s the deal: the driving influences on your life will shape the person you become.
The Bible is full of stories about influential leaders. One of the most fascinating young leaders recorded in Scripture: Josiah. He and his friends completely changed the direction of their entire community and even nation!
Read 2 Chronicles 34:1-2. Josiah became king at a very young age: 8. How does an 8-year-old suddenly become the leader of a nation? Josiah was born into the royal family. Unfortunately, it was a dysfunctional family. If you take a look at how his father and grandfather ruled, you will see a perfect picture of what not to do as a leader. Check out 2 Chronicles 33:1-10.
What words can you pull from Scripture to describe Manasseh’s leadership style?
Josiah’s grandfather was an evil leader who made God very angry. It gets worse. Josiah’s father was Amon. Read 2 Chronicles 33:21-25.
What kind of leader was Josiah’s father?
How did Amon die?
At age 8, Josiah became king because his evil father was so awful that his own servants killed him. Fortunately for Josiah, he had an ancestor who had set a much better example. Who is mentioned as part of Josiah’s family tree in 2 Chronicles 34:2?
There are times along the journey when you come to a crossroad and have the chance to change direction. Josiah had the opportunity to make a choice that would certainly define his destiny. He could choose to follow the example of his father and grandfather, or he could find another leader after which to model his life.
Josiah chose to return to the best example in his family history. His ancestor, King David, was described as a man after God’s own heart. Josiah was careful about the example he followed and the influences he allowed into his life. He recognized that some of the people around him did not provide the best influence.
Look at some choices Josiah made:
- He didn’t follow the example of his father
- He didn’t take his cues from his grandfather
- He didn’t choose to follow the traditions of the culture
- He didn’t worry about the approval of others
- He didn’t want to focus on being popular
- He didn’t follow the crowd
- He didn’t get sidetracked
Josiah chose to follow King David’s example. He did what was right in God’s eyes. This decision had a huge impact on Josiah and the people in Jerusalem.
Every day you make decisions about what or who will influence you. Some relationships and experiences will have a huge impact on your destiny while others won’t.
Circle below the things you consider big decisions. Underline the ones you consider small decisions.
- Who you date
- Where you go to church
- Friends you hang out with
- Jobs you choose
- Places you go
- How you dress
- Who you marry
- Movies you watch
- College you attend
We make more big decisions than we realize! It would be nice if we were given some sort of sign that revealed which decisions will have a lasting impact on us. We need to make all our decisions as if they had the potential to impact us for a lifetime – because they might. Your everyday decisions need to be made with your destiny in mind.
Read Proverbs 3:5-6. What does it mean to “rely on your own understanding”?
Face it. Someone or something is currently shaping your view of life, your beliefs, your behaviors, your decisions and your outlook. The question is: Who or what will you allow to be your driving influence?
Zach Hunter followed Josiah’s example when he decided to do something about modern-day slavery. From migrant labor camps in Florida to brothels in Cambodia, slavery still exists. Between 600,000 and 800,000 people, mostly women and children, are trafficked across national borders while millions more are bought and sold within countries, according to the U.S. State Department.
At the age of 15, Zach started a fundraising campaign dubbed “Loose Change to Loosen Chains.” The student-led campaign calls on youth to collect change and sell T-shirts to help abolish slavery.
“I really believe in my generation,” Zach said of the effort. “A lot of kids are volunteering their own time on the weekends to help other people out. And that sort of gives me hope for my generation.
“In Isaiah 1:17, God says to learn to do right, seek justice, rescue your oppressed, defend orphans and plead for the widow,” Zach said. “It really doesn’t get much more straightforward than that, I think. It’s a biblical mandate to go out there and help those who are in need and who are oppressed. And that’s really what the campaign is based on.”
Zach also wrote “Be the Change: Your Guide to Freeing Slaves and Changing the World” and “Generation Change: Roll Up Your Sleeves and Change the World” to help students understand the reality of slavery.
Something or someone is driving you. When you resist the bad examples and follow the good examples, you – like Josiah and Zach – will make a difference.
As we travel the road to destiny, prayer is critical. Use the following suggested prayer points as you communicate with God.
- Ask God to show you the dominant influences in your life.
- Praise God for the positive influences in your life.
- Ask God to teach you how to guard your heart and mind from influences that don’t honor Him.
- Confess any influence you need to avoid. Pray for strength to do it. Ask God to help you make Him the dominant influence in your life.
Excerpted from “Josiah Road,” NavPress.
Luke Harper is a full-time student who spends his free time hanging out with friends and speaking at camps and retreats. Harold Harper is executive vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and cohost of the radio broadcast For Faith & Family.