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Acronyms! We who use the English language are obsessed with them. In fact, in every facet of life we are hard-pressed to communicate without them. My title is CEO. At GuideStone Financial Resources, we have a COO with an MBA, a CFO with a CPA, and a CIO with a CFP. Those who are graduating must have an acceptable GPA and score well on the SAT so they can get into a university to earn a BA, then an MA. We are protected in the present war on terror by the CIA and the FBI and every April 15 the IRS comes knocking on our door. I am cancer free today because of a PSA test and each year in my annual physical I have an EKG. Those of us in a wellness plan avoid KFC but we do indulge in a BLT from time to time. In my Bible reading I prefer the ESV to the NIV. Then, of course, the new social media craze has a language of acronyms all its own...LOL.

Perhaps no other single acronym has muscled and maneuvered its way into our mainline English vernacular as has V.I.P. (very important person). Being "important" seems to be the cultural goal of many who seek to climb from rung to rung up the ladder of perceived success and recognition. This insatiable desire for importance is virtually universal. We have seen it in business circles. It manifests itself in athletics. It is grossly revealing in politics. And in ecclesiastical circles it too often raises its ugly head. Yes, to be seen as "important" in the eyes of others is the driving force behind many of our lives and, unfortunately, is at the root of much of the destruction and demise of too many relationships.

And thus we come to the heart of this brief article. It is time to redefine the acronym-VIP-in another, and a much more impactful, manner. In the first place, my own premise is that VIP should never have been defined as a Very Important Person. I have a better and more beneficial definition. I am convinced that VIP should be redefined as a Very Influential Person. The pursuit of importance often reveals a deep-seated inner need to be accepted and recognized by others. Being important in the eyes of others is self absorbing. The need for just a little more applause, just another pat on the back, never ends. Becoming a person of influence, a very influential person, leaves a much broader and more lasting legacy. The world soon forgets those who are "important." But, it has a long memory when it comes to those who are truly "influential."

Our English word "influence" comes from a compound of two Latin words which are translated "In" and "Flow." The word picture describes a mighty and vibrant, crystal clear, river which runs deep and wide. Its rapid current powerfully flows and circumvents any and all obstacles in its way. It is fed by numerous smaller creeks, streams and tributaries which arrive at this river and virtually empty themselves into it, being "caught up in its flow." Influence means that you live your life in such a deep and vibrant manner that those who come into contact with you become "caught up in your flow."

In writing to the ancient Corinthians...and to us...the Apostle Paul points to the fact that each of us has been assigned and appointed a specific sphere of influence. He says we should "boast only with regard to the area of influence God has assigned to us" and desires that "our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged" (2 Corinthians 10:13,15 ESV). Think about that for a moment. God has "assigned" a specific area of influence to YOU! This is not some nebulous, mysterious kind of undefined influence. This is a specific area of influence that no one has like you have. There is someone that you can influence like no one else in this world can influence. No matter who you are...where you live...who you know...what you do...the God of the Universe has ASSIGNED a sphere of influence just to you. It may well be you have never thought of this but it can be life changing. What are you doing about the fact that God has assigned to you an area where He desires that someone, somewhere, gets caught up in your flow?

The journey to becoming a true VIP involves three factors that are as interrelated and entwined in each other as a rose bush in a cyclone fence. You can become a Very Influential Person. People who are influencers are recognized by three common characteristics. Becoming a true VIP will take V-Vision (influencers know where they are going). I-Integrity (they know who they are). And, finally, P-Purpose (they know why they are here).

I am a golfer; I have been since my boyhood days at the old nine hole Sycamore Golf Course on Cobb Creek in Fort Worth. I enjoy the challenges it brings and especially the opportunities it affords to spend four uninterrupted hours with friends or family together. It is a game that you borrow...some days you have it and others you have to give it back! I still get excited when I arrive at the par threes. Oh, the part fives and the longer par fours give you the chance to show off your prowess with powerful long drives, but it is the par threes I love the best. This is because it only takes one really good shot out of three to make par. Think about it. You can hit a great tee shot onto the green a few feet from the hole. You can miss a short "birdie" putt and still make an easy par. Or, you can top the ball just a few yards in front of the tee, then hit a brilliant second shot near the hole and walk off with a short tap in putt for an easy par. You can even hit a poor slice or hook off the tee which lands no where near the green, then hit a second shot that barely makes it onto the green, and finish by sinking a long, winding thirty foot putt for par. The next time you stand on the tee at a par three remember this fact: It only takes one really good shot to make par.

Unfortunately, it doesn't work this way in the game of influence. All three shots have to be on the money. You can have vision to see what few can see, but if you do not have integrity you will not see many people "caught up in your flow" along the way. You can be a person of impeccable integrity, but if you have little idea of where you are headed in life much less a driving purpose moving and motivating you there will not be many left in the wake you make through life. You might even be highly driven by a powerful inner purpose, but if you live with a lack of integrity you will not be an influencer to the degree you could have been. Unlike, the par threes in golf, being a true VIP, a very influential person, requires all three shots to be on the mark-vision, integrity and purpose.

You are reading these words because of the lasting influence of the Lord Jesus Christ in whose flow I was personally caught up in as a seventeen year old young man. I have been carried away in it ever since. No one has ever lived who left the kind of loving legacy and incredible influence as Jesus. He is the ultimate VIP. He is a person of VISION. He calls us to go into the whole world and preach His gospel of good news accompanied by His gift of eternal life to every single living person in every single generation. Now, that is a vision! And for two millennia men and women have been adopting this vision as their own. He is a person of INTEGRITY. He preached the world's greatest sermons and taught the world's most profound life lessons.

And, unlike all the rest of the preachers and teachers, He practiced every single syllable that came out of HIs mouth. And, PURPOSE? He was moved and motivated, driven and directed, by a single compelling purpose-not to do His own will but the will of the Father who sent Him. That purpose would eventually lead Him to a Roman cross outside the city walls of Jerusalem where He would bear the sins of the world, dying our death so we could live His life and taking our own sin so we could take HIs own righteousness. Earlier at a well in Samaria he had said, "My food (that which sustains me) is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work" (John 4:34 ESV). And then, the night before His crucifixion, beneath the gnarled olive trees of Gethsemane's garden, we hear him pray, "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will but as You will" (Matthew 26:39 ESV).

Yes, God has "assigned" an area of influence just to you! You can become a VIP; a very influential person. The world soon has its own way of forgetting those who perceive themselves to be important. But, it has a long memory when it comes to those who are men and women of influence. There are a lot of people just waiting...to get caught up in your flow as you navigate the river of life that God has assigned to you with vision, integrity and purpose.

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