Working without words…

Posted on January 14th, 2014 by CaptainJim

In the same way, let your light shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5: 16

Working Without Words
Part One of a Two-Part Series: Jim Hanley’s Faith Story
by K.J. Houtman

Immediately the contrast was apparent. It was day one of the 1983 Bassmaster tournament on Lake Lanier outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Jim Hanley was in his third season, and in those days, professional anglers were randomly paired. Jim met his partner, Charlie Reed. After Jim won the coin toss determining whose boat they’d use to fish, the clues began to unfold.

“This man was very different,” thought Jim Hanley of his new fishing partner. “I could see that we shared being passionate fishermen, but that was where the similarity ended.”
Between the two men stood the distance of a dozen feet in the boat, and a spiritual distance that might span eternity.

Jim was stunned as the differences in Charlie became evident. This pro-angler wasn’t swearing. Wasn’t telling dirty stories or over-the-line jokes like Jim expected in his rough and rugged world.

More than 30 years ago, Jim Hanley was living on the edge. A very sharp edge. His life, filled with booze, drugs and bad decisions, was a complete train wreck. His marriage was on the rocks, everything was falling apart. He knew he was a mess, and it all took a toll, churning deep inside.

As they fished through the day, calm Charlie did his work in the boat. Catching fish, and losing fish, too. All of it drew Jim’s attention, how he handled frustration and disappointment. Everything was … different. Charlie wasn’t like Jim and his friends, partying until all hours of the morning only to wake up the next day feeling old, bodies punished, memories vague.

Each angler weighed in, shook hands, said their “good-byes” and “nice-to-meet-yous.” A couple of days later, Jim left Georgia with his first professional finish in the money. The pay-off could have been at the top of Hanley’s mind. But it wasn’t. Jim kept thinking about Charlie Reed, the kind of man he was. A quiet witness, Charlie Reed was a man of God.

“There was a difference in everything Charlie did that day in the boat,” Jim told the story 30 years later from his home near Buffalo, New York. Hanley guides on Lake Erie and the Niagara River these days. “Every little thing drew my attention — silently. I could see from his demeanor, from his language, from his conversation — something was very different about this man. Not only did I want to know what it was — I wanted it.”

No drastic change would occur that day for Hanley, though. Or the next.

Yet something very important took seed in Jim.

Charlie Reed didn’t witness with words while fishing that tournament. He just let his life in Christ speak through him, allowing God to do the work. If there was conviction in the boat that day, it was the work of the Holy Spirit, and not of man.

God still had more work to do in Jim. For while a seed was planted, the 13th chapter of Matthew tells us not all seeds will bear fruit. Some are choked out, some uprooted by a thieving hand. Only some, nurtured in good soil and well-tended, will bear fruit. That was what Jim Hanley needed.

As I think back on the first steps of Jim Hanley’s story, I wonder if Charlie Reed knew his actions were a catalyst. Did he know a huge spiritual transformation was beginning for Jim? Did Charlie know God was using his life as a witness and testimony of faith?

Question is, will God use me, and my everyday life of work and play to bear a silent testimony to my faith in a loving God? A life in Christ? Will my words and actions be worthy? Or will I be heartily sorry by the end of the evening that I failed at every turn to bring light into darkness. Does the Spirit shine through me?

If others take note today of my attitude, my decisions, my choices, will it be a testament to God in my life?

Lord, be with me as I embark on my day. Help me keep my eyes on You, and my words and actions in line — as if, indeed, someone is watching. Amen.