The Steelers are just days away from playing their season opener against the Browns. Based on their recent success against Cleveland, some are suggesting there’s no reason to play the game — just give Pittsburgh the victory and move on to week two.  In fact, people are ready to give the Steelers a lot of victories this year, believing they’ll win a record seventh Super Bowl. 


There are some good reasons for optimism: Many consider Big Ben to be a top five quarterback, Antonio Brown to be the top wide receiver in the league, and Le’Veon Bell to be the best running back. However, with the season about to open, Bell has yet to show up and he is not under contract.  

Virtually everyone agrees he’s holding out for more money, though that’s not the part of the story that interests me. What captured my attention were Coach Mike Tomlin’s remarks about what is being lost as Bell holds out. It wasn’t that he wouldn’t know the plays, or that he would lack the physical conditioning for playing 60 minutes at game speed. In fact, the concern he expressed didn’t have anything to do with Le’Veon at all — it was about the rest of the team. Specifically, the younger players.  


Tomlin spoke of the undeniable benefit of role models. He said the team was going to miss the positive contribution that could be made during training camp and the preseason when it comes to demonstrating attitude, work ethic and being a team player. Even though many might say Bell’s decision “is just business,” those contributions are absent.  


Mike Tomlin isn’t the only one who knows something about role models and the influence one person can have on another. My guess is that you have a few people you can point to who have shaped your life through their influence. It might have been a coach, parent, youth pastor, boss or someone else. And whether you acknowledge it or not, there are people’s lives you are shaping. Whether you are doing so with intentionality or by default, others’ lives are different because of yours.  


This is something we should take very seriously. The scriptures agree. The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Timothy, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). Our lives are examples and we need to be cognizant of what sort of example we are setting. We can’t object and say we never asked for or aspired to be an example of anything. We already are and apparently it’s pretty far ranging from speech, to conduct, to love, to faith, to purity.  


When we read in Proverbs 13:20 that, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm,” we tend to take it as a call to follow wise people, not fools. And that would be a reasonable conclusion. But who is to say we’re just to see ourselves as the follower in that verse? We also are the leader of others. In the realm of our own lives, we also are leading others wisely or foolishly. You can’t be neutral and you can’t just sit on the sidelines. Even while Le’Veon is sitting out, he’s still an example to those who are on the field.  


These realities beg two simple questions: “Who are you influencing?” and “How are you influencing?” 


Are people’s lives being enriched by what they see and hear from you? Are your kids, neighbors and work associates aspiring to something greater because of your example? Or are you influencing them in a direction they will eventually need to overcome? 


I pray that my life would set a good example in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity. That’s my prayer for you, too.