Calvary Road Baptist Church

“INFLUENCING FROM BEHIND”

 

 

Of course, you recognize that we live in an age of anarchy, an age of general rebellion and lawlessness, and age in which individualism is in the ascendancy and autonomy is considered a fundamental human right. Ours is a day in which a general sense of entitlement exists in the west that has all but crippled our institutions and weakened them in the face of an assault from the Middle East, where a vast population rejects the notion of complete autonomy, and any notion of a fundamental right to do what one chooses at the expense of everyone else. Think about it. Where else in human history and where else in the world, but here and now in the United States of America, will an entire school be prevented by a judge from celebrating Christmas because it creates feelings of alienation in one student whose father happens to be an atheist? Does not that notion of the rights relegated to individuals trumping the rights of an entire culture sound insane to you? How things have been turned on their heads from days gone by. It is the atomization of a culture, and a reflection of lawlessness and selfishness running rampant through our society.

Used to be a day when Baptists were persecuted for not conforming to the practices of the Roman Catholic Church in some countries, and for not conforming to the practices of Protestantism in other countries. Did Baptists seek autonomy from any God-ordained authority structures so we could do what we wanted? Not at all. We sought clarification of the various roles of divinely instituted authority structures so our submission to authority would be clarified and the appropriate authority structures be properly identified. We maintained that subjection to government was entirely proper with respect to civil matters, while submission to the authority of our churches was the proper place for submission to authority with respect to spiritual and religious concerns.

However, the spirit of our age is a spirit of both rebellion and stubbornness. Eve was a rebel against her head, Adam, and Adam followed her lead by rebelling against God, and sin was thereby introduced to the human sphere. Down to this day you can observe the earmarks of such rebellion in a child’s desire to stay as far away from his father as possible, an employee’s desire to stay as far away as his supervisor as possible, a student’s desire to be far removed from his teacher, a player’s desire to keep his distance from his coach, and a wife’s desire to stay at a distance from her husband (unless, of course, the wife is the functional head of the house, in which case she rebels by leading rather than rebel by merely refusing to follow). This spirit of rebellion and the stubborn refusal to repent has continued down through human history, manifesting itself in a variety of ways at different times and in different cultures, as well as with different individuals. However, the prophet Samuel summed up the spirit of this fallen age since Adam’s sin in First Samuel 15.23, when he strongly rebuked King Saul: “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.”

Thus, we see that whether it be a refusal to completely obey God’s directive or engaging in witchcraft, whether it be a stubborn resistance to the urgings to repent of sins or a devotion to iniquity and the worship of false gods, it is all the same spirit to God; it is just manifested in different ways by different people. At the beginning of the 19th century, this spirit of rebellion was expressed in the French Revolution as a season of bloody anarchy that cost hundreds of thousands of lives, and then spread to other countries throughout the 1800s and 1900s where millions lost their lives. That was political rebellion.

Here in the United States another phenomenon was rising up in a spirit of rebellion. It was the women’s movement, growing in strength by cleverly adopting three causes to achieve more subtle ends than were obvious to most. Women were in the vanguard among the abolitionists, among the prohibitionists, and among the women’s suffrage cause. That is to say, women for the most part took the lead in the battle to end slavery, in the battle to outlaw the sale of liquor and put an end to drunkenness, and to secure for women the right to vote in elections. I would not argue against any of these causes, except to express my opinion that these causes were the means by which an entirely different objective was attained, overturning divinely instituted authority structures, such as the husband’s authority in the home, the pastor’s authority in the church, and the employer’s authority in the workplace.

You see, there are always unintended consequences that accompany any action that you take, whether good or bad. Therefore, as an unintended consequence of our own Revolutionary War, in which patriots fought against the authority of the English crown, what resulted first was a general rebellion against the authority pastors wielded in their congregations here in the United States. Later on, a consequence of women being in the vanguard in those movements was for women to claim moral superiority over their husbands in all things cultural and domestic, and to then exert themselves in the home and undermine the scriptural authority of their husbands.[1]

Here is the problem with this cultural surge, whereby all we little boats are being ripped from our moorings by the rising tide of general and widespread rebellion: We are being torn loose from situations in life that would ordinarily prompt us to pray, and that would motivate us to seek wisdom from on high and in scripture. Thus, we are deprived of wonderful opportunities to grow as Christians because of not having anyone to rule over us. Instead, the only option people consider when tough situations arise these days is to rebel against the authority figure. Never submit. Never appeal. Never pray. Never support. Always rebel, either passively by removing yourself from that leader in some way, or actively by openly challenging his authority verbally or by refusing to follow his direction. As we learned this morning, such actions bring consequences.

May I suggest something for you to consider? Please consider that it is doubtful you will ever be able to lead from the front if you cannot influence from behind. To state it another way, you will not likely make a good leader until you have mastered the art of being a good follower. Here is the matter from yet another angle; it is doubtful you will be capable of effectively influencing from the front until you have first learned how to influence from the back.

I will not so much address the how-to’s of leading from the back this evening, of influencing from a subordinate position, as I will seek to show you that influencing from the back is something that can be done, influencing from the back is something that needs to be done, and that someone who does not influence from the back is passing up golden opportunities to serve God in a variety of ways.

Consider three general topics that may prove fruitful to your own study of God’s Word in this regard:

 

First, CONSIDER THE OPPORTUNITIES FOR SERVING FROM BEHIND

 

In this age of rebellion against divinely instituted authority, it is generally thought that anyone who occupies a position that is subordinate to someone else is an inferior, is worthless, and that position of being subordinate to another’s authority is somehow demeaning. Is this true?

Consider, if you will, the position the Lord Jesus Christ took when He condescended to take upon Himself the nature of a man. Did He become, at that time, inferior? Was He somehow less divine when He walked the earth as a man than He was before, or than He has been since? Paul declared that the head of Christ is God, in First Corinthians 11.3. He also stated in Philippians 2.7-8 that Jesus made Himself of no reputation and took upon Himself the form of a servant. Yet Colossians 2.9 clearly asserts that “in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” Thus, Jesus is not somehow less than His heavenly Father by occupying a position of submission to Him.

Consider, also, other positions in which service and influence from a subordinate position are both substantial and irrefutable. The professional military services from the times of the Romans to our present day have been very well served, and strongly influenced, as much by followers as by leaders. Consider the chief petty officers in the navy, the gunnery sergeants in the Marine Corps, and the noncommissioned officers in the Army. For centuries, noncommissioned officers not only influenced officers who outranked them, but played a significant if not formal role in training junior officers to be more effective senior officers.

Thus, it is a great pity that the social and spiritual climate of our day results in those who occupy subordinate positions failing to realize how profoundly effective they could be in influencing those who occupy positions over them, while they are in their present subordinate positions. In the Bible, they are termed servants, but in our culture, they are subordinate employees. Please do not suggest that workers cannot exercise wisdom to influence their bosses. Then there are both children and wives. It is so sad to see members of a man’s family chaffing as he seeks to serve God, in part, by exercising authority God gives to him as a husband and father. Because of the prevailing spirit of rebellion that exists in our day, wives and children rarely see the great opportunities they have to minister to their husbands and fathers, by not only complying with his wishes, but also wisely making recommendations and submitting appeals that will enable him to be so much more effective as a husband and father. It is so sad. However, it is not always the fault of the wife or the children. It is very frequently the fault of the head of the house, who robs both his wife and his children of the opportunity to influence him from behind by refusing, or by being too weak, to exert strong leadership in his home. You see, women and children do not see any need to learn from behind if there is no one out front as a leader. Thus, these wimpy men who try to opt for a divided and shared headship in their marriages and in their homes end up doing great generational harm to those they claim to love, by removing from wifey and the children their perceived need to learn wisdom in connection with influencing from behind by failing to provide the kind of strong leadership those in the family need to learn to adapt to.

 

Next, CONSIDER SOME NOTABLE FAILURES RECORDED IN GOD’S WORD

 

Consider three well-known Biblical figures who were prominent in their failure to influence as followers:

First, there was Sarah, the wife of Abraham. To be sure, Abraham was particularly ineffective as a leader in his home. He twice lied about Sarah’s identity to protect himself from harm.[2] He also yielded to Sarah’s wicked plan to sire a child by the slave, Hagar.[3] Thus, Abraham was a man of inconsistent character and sometimes weak moral fiber. At times, he simply buckled under the pressure to resist temptation and do the right thing. However, we know that Sarah was strong enough to influence her husband to do wrong, such as with Hagar. Why could she not influence him to do right? After all, he was a man of faith, a man of God, and God’s friend. Though Sarah was a wonderful woman in many ways, she did not use her position as Abraham’s wife, together with the influence she unquestionably had with him, as effectively as she might have. The result? I am persuaded that her son Isaac’s obvious weakness of character, as exhibited by his lackadaisical leadership of his own wife Rebekah, was partly a result of Sarah’s unused opportunities to influence her husband from behind. I wonder how many weak young husbands are married to women that are more powerful because their own mothers did not properly influence their dads from behind, but stupidly sat wringing their hands and wondering what to do to make things better at home? Excuse me; there is no pastor’s counsel to seek?

Which brings us to Rebekah, the wife of Isaac. Rebekah never met Sarah, so far as we know, becoming Isaac’s wife after Sarah died. However, she was just as ineffective in the face of great opportunities to inspire her husband to greatness as her mother-in-law had been. The prime examples of Rebekah’s misuse of her God-given opportunities as Isaac’s wife are found in Genesis chapter 25. When Isaac wrongly favored their son Esau, Rebekah followed in kind and wrongly favored their son Jacob, leading to a conspiracy to deceive her husband by enlisting the support of the son she favored to deprive the son she did not favor. My friends, this is just wrong from start to finish. To be sure, Isaac should not have favored Esau for the reasons he did. However, by favoring Jacob instead of supporting her husband, she robbed Jacob of the motive to seek the good graces of his father. In other words, she made things worse instead of better by favoring the son she felt sorry for. Why could she not have sought to influence her husband to be more equitable in the treatment of his sons? There is no evidence in God’s Word that Isaac was a harsh man, or resistant to loving requests. If anything, he seems to have been a very reasonable man, if the scriptural record of his dealings with others is any guide. Had her loyalty been to her husband instead of her son (how wicked is the woman who chooses a child over a her spiritual husband), things in Isaac’s life, things in Esau’s life, things in her own life, and things in Jacob’s life, might have been so much different than they turned out. Not once is there an example of her working to bolster her husband’s position in his home, or does she do anything other than connive to undermine his purposes. Would to God she had been a woman of character, training her children to follow her example of influencing the head of the house from a subordinate position as a trusted advisor and ally.

Then, there was Jacob, the son of Isaac and Rebekah. What a sneaky and conniving fellow his mother raised him to be. His father showed a decided favoritism to his brother, so he formed a questionable alliance with his mother against his father. Let me remind you that, though I was a real momma’s boy, there was never in my mind any alliance with my mother against my father, or for the purpose of thwarting his will. What Jacob did with the help of his mother was despicable. When he should have worked long and hard, and wisely sought the favor and good graces of his father, he was busy with his mommy. Granted, some fathers are so worthless and profane that self-preservation dictates the benefit of children staying away from them. However, his father Isaac was a man of God. Jacob should not have treated his father the way he did, deceiving him the way he did by pretending to be Esau.[4] Think about it. Had Jacob sought to honor his father instead of trick him, had he been loyal to his good father instead of siding with his scheming mother, he might not have had to be away from his father all those years when he was serving his uncle Laban. To be sure, we find ourselves in difficult situations in which we are sorely tempted to complain or misuse the position we have under someone else’s authority. Just keep this in mind when you find yourself ruled over by a father, by a boss, or by anyone in authority, who seems to have you in some sort of squeeze: There are always two ways to respond to the situation, the wrong way and the right way, the way that seems to serve self or the way that gives honor to God.

 

Finally, CONSIDER SOME GREAT SUCCESS STORIES IN THIS REGARD

 

First, there is Joseph the son of Jacob, Genesis chapters 30-50. It is likely that Joseph’s situation was much worse than most people imagine. To be sure, he was his father’s favored son. However, he was under a great deal of pressure from his adult brothers to conform to their way of relating to their father. Then, of course, he was sold into slavery, where his opportunities to influence from behind really began. Thankfully, Joseph exhibited wisdom, not only in his father’s house, but also in Potiphar’s house in Egypt, while in the Egyptian prison, and then as a servant to Egypt’s Pharaoh. He is a wonderful example of how someone in a subordinate position can be very influential to those in authority over him.

Next, there is Abigail, First Samuel 25. You remember her. She was the wife of that fool named Nabal, illustrating that some people are so stupid that no one under their authority can exhibit much wisdom to help them succeed. However, Abigail did demonstrate wisdom to influence David from behind, to his great benefit as well as her own.

Third, there is Bathsheba.[5] Yes, she is the woman David committed adultery with. Yes, she did fail to cry out in the city if David was taking her by force, according to the Law of Moses. Yes, she did conspire to deceive her husband, Uriah. Yes, God did use her to greatly humble King David through the sins the two of them committed. None of that is to be either excused by me or ignored. However, I do not know what it is like to be confronted by an oriental despot with the power of life and death over a woman. I do not know whether she was a willing accomplice in that tragedy, or she was a woman in fear of her life. I do know this. Later on in her life, when her husband was on his death bed and her son’s life was in danger from a half brother who aspired to the throne, she moved with great wisdom to aid the prophet Nathan to not only ensure her husband’s wishes for an heir to the throne would be granted, but that he would be influenced from behind in a dignified and honorable fashion.

Fourth, what about the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31.10-31? That her price is far above rubies shows that such a woman is rare. That “the heart of her husband doth safely trust in her,” that “she will do him good and not evil all the days of her life,” that “her husband is known in the gates” because of her, and that “her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her,” shows that women can influence from behind to great and beneficial effect. To be sure, some husbands will always brag on wives who are not virtuous, who do not influence from behind but are shrews who try to influence from beside him or lead from in front of him. However, those are the empty words of simpering wimps, who know nothing of manliness or the strength of character to lead a real woman. The point to be made, however, is there are women who can influence a husband from behind.

Finally, consider the prophet Daniel. Few positions are as difficult as the one Daniel found himself in. Captured by the Babylonians and transported from his home to a faraway country, Daniel was one of his people’s elite young men.[6] Though we are not specifically told in God’s Word, a careful reading of God’s Word and some thoughtful contemplation of the implications surrounding Daniel’s assignment to the care of eunuchs, suggests that not only was he in the difficult position of being a captive of a foreign and hostile power, but that unspeakable things had been done to him along the way. Nevertheless, Daniel’s entire life is a series of examples of influencing powerful men from behind, as he appealed to the prince of the eunuchs as a young man, Daniel 1.8, and as he influenced from behind again and again and again, first King Nebuchadnezzar, and concluding in his old age by influencing Darius, the Persian king, in Daniel chapter 6. Thus, even when the child of God occupies a subordinate position in a most difficult situation, he can oftentimes secure God’s abundant grace to wisely influence those in authority over him.

 

Though we will stop for time’s sake after only five examples of influencing from behind, surely these examples show that people in far more difficult situations than you or I have ever been in have influenced those with authority over them to great success. In most cases, those I have mentioned were under the rule of men who had little or no sympathy with them at first, and were men of notable cruelty and disregard for the welfare of others. However, when there is by God’s grace both humility and wisdom, wondrous things can be done.

I will close with a few comments for your consideration and reflection: First, I suggest that if you wield authority over others that you actually exercise your authority. After all, those under your authority derive no benefit of humility and seeking God’s wisdom if you are a weak and ineffective leader. Second, recognize that being placed in a position under someone’s authority, be it a husband, a father, a mother, or a boss, is not a bad thing, but gives you a wonderful opportunity to humble yourself and seek God’s wisdom to cope with your situation, as well as learning how to influence from behind. Third, understand that even if you have not had good examples set before you of those who influence to great effect from behind, examples like Joseph, Abigail, Daniel, and others in the Bible show that God is very gracious to enable and enwisen His people to be a great blessing when we desire to serve and support those who occupy positions over us.

Are you facing a challenge? Please make up your mind that you are not going to be content to be some nitwit female or doofuss kid who spends all your time either cringing or complaining about your husband or dad, or about your boss. My goodness! Get a grip on your situation.

Dare to be a Daniel. Choose not to be a victim of circumstances, or content yourself to feel trapped in a difficult situation. Seek counsel. Pray for wisdom. Determine to be a blessing no matter what. Surely, you are not going to insist that your difficulties are worse than Joseph’s, or worse than Daniel’s, or more dangerous than Abigail’s.

“Pastor, I don’t know how to be influential from behind. I don’t know the first thing about it.” Sadly, that is the case in the lives of many children, whose mothers not only were not themselves taught how to influence a husband from behind, but were not interested enough in finding out how to do it to ask for help from anyone. So then, what is the solution? Simple. Come and talk to your pastor and I will make some suggestions for you to consider implementing, so that you can influence from behind, so you will have an impact without undermining anyone, and so you will learn how to be a leader in your own right.

Remember, Proverbs 15.33 reveals that, “before honour is humility.” Thus, it should be no surprise to the child of God that he has been placed in a position of humility, sometimes a position of humiliating difficulty, so that he will be challenged to seek God’s face in prayer, asking for wisdom and insight into God’s Word, so he might be useful to those in authority over him, as those good examples we saw this evening.



[1] Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), pages 3-26.

[2] Genesis 12.10-12; Genesis 20.2-9

[3] Genesis 16.1-6

[4] Genesis 27

[5] Second Samuel 11; First Kings 1

[6] Daniel 1.3-7



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org