revdrwalter-t-richardson.jpgDon’t be drunk, or intoxicated, or overpowered, or influenced with wine! But be filled with, intoxicated with, influenced and dominated by the Holy Spirit. –  The Bible (Modern Translation). I immediately thought of John Maxwell’s Power of Influence after my experience earlier this week.

I took my grandson Tyler to his high school early to board a bus for a college tour. When I returned to my house at about 5:30 a.m., my daughter LaKisha, who had dropped Tyler off, was on her cellular phone in the family den. I could not figure out whom she could be talking to at that time of the morning, so I asked. She asked me to “be quiet” because she was on the prayer line of Sweet Home Baptist Church.

I almost started to cry when I realized that someone had influenced her to be involved in prayer that early in the morning. Perhaps, it was her mother who prayed every morning with the kids as they grew up, or maybe it was my passion for prayer, waking up every morning to pray and meditate. Whatever the reason was, I know she had been influenced to pray.

So I think I’m safe in saying that each of us is influenced by someone or  something within us that causes us to act, perform or respond the way we do. Influence is simply defined as the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force or produce effects on the actions, behavior and opinions of others.

We speak with accents influenced by our geographical culture. Jamaicans and other West Indian people speak English, but differently than others who speak English, let’s say, in America. Cubans speak Spanish, but differently than those from Spain, because of influences. The Boston bombers perpetrated a horrific act on dozens of people because of someone’s influence.

That cool walk that Denzel Washington has, that swag, that sway, is the result of some influence from his cultural environment.

Racists are racists because they’ve been influenced by someone or some things. Intelligent people and academic people pursue knowledge and education because of influences in their lives; and those who have been called out by God to serve Him operate under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

The new film about Jackie Robinson, titled 42 — the number he wore during his historic career — tells the triumphant story of how the civil rights icon integrated professional baseball by playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers. But there’s a hole at the center of this wonderful film.

Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey was a “Bible-thumping Methodist” who refused to attend games on Sundays. He sincerely believed it was God’s will that he integrate baseball and saw it as an opportunity to intervene in the moral history of the nation. He was influenced by President Abraham Lincoln.

And Rickey chose Robinson because of the young man’s religious faith and moral character. There were numerous other Negro Leagues players to consider but Rickey knew integrating the racist world of professional sports would take more than athletic ability. The attacks would be ugly and the press would fuel the fire.

If the player chosen was goaded into retaliating, the grand experiment would be a tremendous setback. And Robinson had been influenced to know when and how to be silent at the appropriate times. By his example and influence, others have been blessed to participate in areas and arenas once denied.

Living under the influence involves a commitment to control. It’s the ability to let something better and stronger, like the Holy Spirit, have control over your life. Living under the influence also involves conveniently, consistently and completely complying with the Spirit’s leading, so that the Lord is glorified in your life.

There will be some people visiting Miami Beach this weekend for the annual Urban Beach Weekend celebration who will be under the influence of intoxicants. Some will be arrested because they conveniently, and completely, yielded their bodies and minds to negative influences.

But those who are wise and willing to follow our Lord’s example of surrender to a higher power will be blessed now and in the time to come. Amen!

*Walter T. Richardson is pastor-emeritus of Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church in South Miami-Dade County and chairman of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board. He may be contacted at Website: