On History and Influence

I am both a Pastor and a Historian. It all makes sense now I’m sure. My goal is to write about spirituality and history and I often use one to illustrate the other. Let’s face it, nothing illustrates life better than, well…life. It is often said “those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it.” We tend to focus in on the “repeat” rather than the “learn”.

I recognize many find history boring. It’s dry and does not apply to my life…etc. I believe pastors learn much about human nature, man’s conflict with sin, and triumphs of life from history. We learn that greed can cause a downfall…Napoleon. Hatred can spark a war…too many illustrations to count on that one. We also see that a single life can affect many other lives. That is both true for famous people like C. S. Lewis and not so famous people like the farmer that invited Billy Graham to Sunday School. No matter where we turn in the annals of history, the actions of one always affect another.

As a student of history, I have developed a love for many characters that lived large and changed lives. From secular history, I love studying King Cyrus of Persia. He developed a code of human rights that were way before their time. (See the Cyrus Cylinder for more info.) Most of my history heroes were equally influential in the secular and the sacred realms. I think of William Wilberforce, C. S. Lewis, Count Von Zinzendorf, Harriet Tubman, and William Ewart Gladstone. This list could go on and on.

I love to study every part of history. Presidents of the US are among my favorites. As is World War I and all points of Church History. I think there is often a disconnect with people when it comes to history. I view history as living and vibrant. There are lessons to be learned and actions to be avoided. I see the hand of God in all of history and it affirms to me my place in God’s grand plan. I may never be the President of the US or a famous leader in the world, but I do have the ability to change lives in my sphere of influence.

God has uniquely positioned each of us in time. In other words, you were not born at the moment you were by accident. Each of us have our place in history. We have the opportunity to be a blessing or a curse to others. Think of the balance and influence of Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill in World War II. Both had influence, one used it to create evil and perpetuated chaos. The other used his creative wisdom and power to liberate a continent.

Most likely God is not calling you to be a Churchill, but He is calling you to be an influencer. Life is a gift and one of the greatest parts of that gift is training others to love God, to love people, and to recognize their potential. Your potential is realized by helping others see their own potential. Use your gifts for God and for the good of your fellow man. In the process, study a little history too. Who knows, you might just learn something about yourself.

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