About a decade we were all praying the Prayer Of Jabez.  We asked God to enlarge our borders, increase our territory, and expand our influence.  We still pray this.  So what happens if God actually does it?

I have much compassion for Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.  One year ago he was a redshirt freshman just trying to earn a starting job.  Today, he is a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback and one of the most famous people in America.  That is quite a change in visibility and popularity for a 20-year-old young man.

I cringe when I think of the maturity level and emotional capacity I possessed at age 20.  If there were to be a sea of people following me with cameras and cell phones to Economics class on a daily basis, let’s just say I would be the lead story on SportsCenter basically every evening.  I would have been an embarrassment to myself, my family, the school, and my Lord.  I don’t condone Manziel’s partying but I have compassion for him.

While Manziel provides a quite visible and extreme example of celebrity, all leaders with growing platforms are susceptible to the dangers of their growing influence.  The notoriety, the demands of your time, trust issues, people tugging at you, and increased opportunity cause changes not only in your lifestyle and psyche but those you love as well.

On the same day Wright Thompson of ESPN wrote his amazing article The Trouble With Johnny, I read the following in my devotional time:

“The report went around concerning Him (Jesus) all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities.  So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.” – Luke 5:15-16

Did you notice the progression of these verses:

  • Jesus healed a man of leprosy in the previous verses.
  • The reports of Him spread.
  • Great multitudes began to appear.
  • Great multitudes wanted a piece of Him.
  • Then Jesus often withdrew and prayed.

Using Jesus as an example, as the intensity of a leader’s platform grows, the leader must have equal intensity for times of retreat, solitude, and spending time in prayer with God.

Once again, I cannot imagine what it is like to be Johnny Manziel and don’t even pretend to understand his level of celebrity.  But if I could give him one piece of advice (not like everyone in world already is), I would say the following:

“Johnny, I can’t imagine the challenges you are facing with your popularity.  But I know Jesus understands.  He has been there.  And I have it under good authority He would say something like this to you:

‘Johnny, first I want you to know that I love you more than you can imagine.  When my popularity began to soar, there were just times I needed to retreat to a place of solitude and pray all night.  Johnny, when the crowds get crazy and you think there is nowhere to hide, you’re wrong.  You can go into the woods, go to your parent’s house, or just go somewhere quiet and call me.  I don’t want anything from you except just to hang out. But get away from the crowd.  Get some solitude.  Get some space and margin to reflect and just talk to me.  I’d listen and I’d fill you with what you need to handle the popularity.  Without me, the demands of celebrity will absolutely consume you.  I would hate for that to happen.  I’ve got a better plan that you would love.'”

That is good advice for not only Johnny Manziel but all leaders with growing influence.  Jesus modeled that solitude and times of prayer are the only things that will sustain our increasing leadership responsibilities.  Apart from Jesus and time with Him, our growing influence can consume us.

Can you relate?  How are you managing your increasing level of influence?


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