“Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” It’s reported that Saint Francis of Assisi said those words when asked by others how a person should express his faith. And while most who know me wouldn’t expect me to pull out a supposedly eight-hundred-year-old quote from a Catholic friar, when I heard the words, I thought immediately of Dad. He is the living example of those words.
Clearly my father always had faith in himself, but the faith he would tell you was more important to his success was his faith in God. It wasn’t a discussion he had with reporters; it has always been his — and our family’s — take on faith to keep this portion of our lives rather private. Within our house, believing in our Creator was a central part of our life and success, and I’m sure no one who has spent time with Dad would question his faith. The lesson that both my parents taught us as their children mirrors exactly the way I’ve shared the discussion regarding faith with my children.
As I was writing this, the importance of faith and how it was taught led to a great discussion with both of my parents. “Believing in Christ was just a way of life,” Mom said.
Then Dad summed it up. “I thought it was important to teach you about God the same way I taught you golf,” he said rather matter-of-factly. “Go through and make sure you understand the importance and the fundamentals, then let each of you come to decisions based on what you saw, not what you might think was being forced. If the decision becomes truly yours, the impact will be far greater. My father and mother taught faith to me, basically, the same way.”
Mom and Dad passed that faith on to us, one of the greatest gifts they ever gave us. And as a Christ-follower today, I know the way Mom and Dad set the example worked for me.
As often as she could, Mom made sure she and the five kids attended our Methodist church and Sunday school and learned about God and Jesus. She said she made it a point for us to sit in the front row so none of us would be tempted to nod off or misbehave.
We didn’t attend church every Sunday because as a family we traveled to Dad’s golf tournaments many weekends. Dad got to go to church far less frequently than we did. He worked on Sunday. (At least he hoped every week to be working on Sunday!) But Dad made the point that a church attendance roster was no way to define our relationship with God. Of the five children I probably traveled more with Dad than the others. I first caddied for Dad when I was fourteen years old and was on his golf bag many weekends as a teenager and beyond, missing many Sundays at home.
PGA Tour players compete in twenty to thirty tournaments annually — Dad played in 586 PGA Tour events during his forty-three-year career. He traveled nationally and internationally, making pew appearances nearly impossible. On the tour, several players have, for many years, made it a point to gather for a group Bible study on Sunday mornings. Dad didn’t attend those gatherings, choosing to make his private time of worship his own. He read and prayed. But he did it alone.
Dad thought of the golf course as his place to witness.
When he was out there, the crowds were watching. In his mind it wouldn’t have mattered what he did on Sunday mornings if on Sunday afternoons he cursed and acted in ways that would have dishonored his Lord. Similarly, it wouldn’t matter how many times you pointed toward Heaven after a great putt if you disrespected your wife and family through your actions or words. Many people can put on a good show in public. But your core, who you truly are, is defined by what happens when nobody is watching.
I have tried to instill my parents’ commitment to faith in my kids through many of the same ways. I believed the way they watched a Christian life lived would help set an example, and I am proud of the direction each of them has chosen.
One of the most important teachings in the Bible is the admonition that each of us must love our neighbor.
I know there’s a chapter ahead in this book on my parents’ work for charitable organizations, but as I think about how my father and mother lived their faith, I think about many of the little ways they showed love to neighbors.
Dad would often encourage us, as children, to find little ways to help people. The greatest lesson in what he was teaching, though, was the importance of showing empathy for others, of not being judgmental of circumstances we might not understand.
You never know what other people are going through in their lives. Even a small interaction when passing someone on a sidewalk can entirely change a person’s day. Being respectful, appreciative, kind, caring, and listening to and learning from your friends, family, and strangers is very important. As big as our world is, it truly is small.
And in those moments, you may be opening a heart.
Excerpted with permission from Best Seat in the House by Jack Nicklaus II and Don Yaeger, copyright Jack Nicklaus II and Don Yaeger.
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The affect we have on people around us is important. Our witness is greater than we think it is and we’re observed more than we are aware. Let’s preach the gospel of Jesus in our daily lives! ~ Devotionals Daily