“Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one.” Acts 5:15–16
Peter brought healing to people he never met. In some cases, he never even knew it happened! As Peter walked the streets of Jerusalem sick folks were brought out. When his shadow crossed them, they were healed. Peter’s shadow was far reaching and touched more people than he could have touched himself. Every Christian casts a spiritual shadow. That shadow is far reaching and influences people that we would never imagine.
How can we bring spiritual healing to people with our shadows as Peter did?
First, we must walk in the light. You cannot possess a shadow if you are not near the light. Jesus is the Light of the world. If we are to influence people for good, we must have a constant and close relationship with Christ.
Secondly, we must get close to people. Influence comes from the same root word as influenza. You catch influenza or the flu by being close to someone who has it. If someone is to catch your spirit, it will be because you come in close contact with him. Jesus was a friend of sinners so He could influence them.
The following are five ways we cast a shadow:
1. What We Do
When I was in fourth grade I had a classmate named Daryl. As the year progressed he developed a nervous habit of twitching his nose like a rabbit. His nose was constantly moving. I thought it was odd and even commented about it. He said it was something he did subconsciously. Before the semester was over our entire class looked like a family of rabbits. We had watched him so much that we began doing it! We will influence people by what we do.
It was three Hebrews in a fiery furnace that caused a king to draw nigh to God and see His Son for the first time. In the next chapter of Daniel the king got saved!
It was David slaying a giant that motivated an entire Israeli army to get back into the battle. Those who had been paralyzed by fear began chasing the Philistines.
You are influencing by what you do—giving, praying, witnessing, and serving.
2. What We Say
Souls are saved because of what we say. What is said in sermons changes lives. Encouraging words keep people from quitting. Words of counsel direct unsure minds to stay on course.
Be careful of negative, unwise, or sinful words and advice. They always have a consequence:
- The serpent spoke to Eve and she ate the fruit. Eve spoke to Adam and he plunged the entire human race into sin.
- Rebekah talked Jacob into deceiving his father. He had to leave town.
Our words may be used for positive influence. Consider the positive effects of the words that some Bible characters spoke:
- Joshua spoke to the nation of Israel and they crossed the Jordan River. Words are powerful!
- Mordecai spoke to Esther to advise her on saving her nation. Esther spoke to the king, and her nation was saved.
- Jonah spoke in Nineveh, and the entire city got saved!
- Haggai and Zechariah preached to the discouraged Jews, and they finished the temple.
- John the Baptist said, “Behold the Lamb of God,” and people followed Jesus.
- When Jesus spoke; souls were saved, the church was started, men were trained, and the Great Commission was given.
- When the disciples were commanded to be silent, they replied, “We cannot but speak.”
3. What We Wear
There was a book written years ago entitled, Your Clothes Say it for You. What we wear affects and influences others. Those of us old enough to remember dress codes in our schools know how much education has been affected by students wearing whatever they like. The military has uniforms. Great businesses have dress codes. It does something for morale.
As a youth, I remember trends that came from California all the way to Louisiana—bell bottoms, longer hair, skateboards, ID bracelets, etc. Whether you dress gothic, formal, immodest, worldly, gang banger, or baggy, you are influencing somebody.
4. Where We Go
When we go places, we are telling people that those places are acceptable. It may not be a sin to buy a glass of milk, but if you walk into a bar or nightclub to do it, you are influencing a weaker brother in the wrong direction. Just your automobile being in the parking lot says, “I go to bars.” The appearance of evil is warned about in Scripture.
I remember the last movie I ever saw at a theater. The Holy Spirit was letting me know I should not have been there. When the marquee shows six movies showing from a “G” rating to an “X” rating, no one on the outside knows which one you entered to see. All they know is that you are grouped into the statement “they go to the movies.” Your name is more important than that.
I remember eating with a friend in Reno, Nevada, years ago. There was a great special for all you could eat steak, seafood, and dessert buffet for $9.95. Wow! What a deal! The only catch was it was a part of a casino. You had to go past the one-arm bandits, cigarette smoke, and card tables. The food was delicious! The company was not. Our automobile was in the parking lot. Our name was on the line. No one could tell if we came to eat or to gamble. I determined I would never enter a casino again. When you want to be a strong Christian it does matter what weaker Christians think.
5. What We Are
The beatitudes begin with, “Blessed are.” That is where God begins building Christian character. What we are is more important than what we do. If we are what we ought to be, then we will do what we are supposed to do.
When Henry Stanley, the reporter, went to Africa to find David Livingstone, he found him by following the converts. He said that Livingstone never witnessed to him—he didn’t have to. Stanley decided he wanted to be a Christian just by observing Livingstone.
A country preacher put it this way, “Be what you is, not what you ain’t. Cause if you is what you ain’t, you ain’t what you is.” Be what you ought to be. If you are real, you never have to act.
Is your shadow crossing someone in need? In need of salvation? In need of encouragement? In need of teaching or training? Let’s live close to Jesus so we cast a large shadow to influence as many people as we can for Christ.
If you want to cast a shadow for good, you must be careful who influences you. It has been said that we will be the same person tomorrow that we are today except for the people we meet and the books we read.
When a pastor, church, family, or individual changes direction for the worse it is not what happened to them but who happened to them. Someone influenced them! In the book of Galatians, Paul rebuked the Christians who had gone back to trusting the law for their salvation and asked them, “Who hath bewitched you?”
How are we influenced? By words, people, places, music, books, television, news, radio, and videos. Anything you see or hear affects your emotions and will influence you. That is why Paul warned believers to withdraw from disorderly Christians and to not eat with fornicators.
Some people are stubborn and slow to change. For our own safety we are to withdraw from them, lest they change us. Billy Sunday said, “If you lay down with the dogs, you’ll get up with fleas.” If you get close to a skunk, you will leave with the scent.
When I first became a pastor twenty-four years ago, I noticed a tall chain link fence around the front of our church property. There were two large gates at the entrance installed for the safety of our Christian school children. To me, they looked like a German concentration camp (simply missing the barbed wire, spot lights and guard). I wanted to remove the fence immediately, but I feared that the church may have become so comfortable with the fence that they would not want to remove it.
I decided to speak to our men one by one to share what “someone” had said about the fence (the someone was me). I would say, “Someone said it looks like we are trying to keep people out of church by the fence.” I spoke to man after man one by one sharing what “they had said” about the fence. In two weeks a group of men asked my permission to rip down the concentration camp fence that surrounded our property. I said, “If you must.” Words are a powerful influence. Be careful who and what influences you.