A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” Proverbs 17:17
His name was Bill, and he was an investor. When Judy and I landed in Warrensburg, Missouri, via God and the Air Force, we began attending First Baptist Church. For us, being Jesus followers was an all-in deal, so soon we were singing in the choir, attending church, and going to Sunday School small group. Our Bible Study teachers were Bill and Edith Hensley, and they were a class act. The time we spent in that class was rich in every way imaginable. We built friendships and did life together. It seemed that whether you were in the Air Force like I was or a professor at the local university, or a lawyer, it just didn’t matter. We were pilgrims journeying with each other and with Jesus, and it was good.
Bill was a lawyer by trade and a disciple-maker by faith. He believed in Jesus, believed the Bible, and believed in people—including me. I’m not sure how it happened, but he kinda adopted me and began teaching me about fishing, hunting, and growing in my faith. He loved to fish. He would often call the house and say, “What time is it?” Now it might be time to wash the car or time to mow the grass, but I knew what the answer was. “It’s time to go fishing,” I would reply, and in about 30 minutes I would be in his pickup truck heading to some pond to see if we could reel in a bass or two in.
That was the case one particularly late summer evening. We had the boat out in a small pond. Things had been slow, and the sun was just about to call it a day. Bill suggested that I make a cast or two more toward the shore. He pointed out a log that just broke the surface about three feet from land. I gave the rod a swing and, amazingly, that ole hula-popper landed right up next to that log. A hula-popper is a soft lure that sounds just like a wounded frog when you pull up on the rod. I pulled up on the rod and heard the familiar gurgling sound. Nothing happened.
I gave it another tug, and two things happened. First, there was a small splashing sound, and second, the lure stopped dead in the water. At first I thought I had snagged the log, but I then realized I had hooked a pretty good-sized bass. Now, since it was late summer, the water was a bit cool, so there wasn’t this epic battle—you know, man against whale. Instead, it was like reeling in a big piece of wood. Of course there was a tug here and there, but whatever was on the other end of the rod wasn’t up for much of a fight.
Before long the fish was beside the boat and Bill got the net and brought him on board. It turned out to be a pretty big fish. It was a 6.5 pound largemouth bass. I couldn’t believe it. Bill couldn’t believe it, and I am pretty sure the bass couldn’t believe it. Well, we snapped a couple of pictures and headed for shore with the bass safely in the fish well. I asked Bill if I should have him mounted, but he said no because I was sure to catch a bigger one someday in the future. Well, I didn’t, and honestly I believe he knew (because I didn’t know) my Air Force salary couldn’t handle the cost.
Bill and I enjoyed many more fishing trips before I finally moved out of the area and over into Southern Illinois. I slowly lost touch with Bill and Edith, and now they are both in heaven. I am sure they heard “well done” when they got there. I can only imagine how many lives they touched. I do know that night I learned a good lesson, and my relationship with Bill taught me another.
The first lesson came thanks to that old bass. I wonder how many nights he had lain up by that log. You don’t get to be a 6.5 pound bass in a few nights or by making bad decisions. So many a night there he lay, and each of those nights he was wise enough to say no when a fisherman came by with a tempting bait. For some reason that night was different. It wasn’t that I was an expert, and it wasn’t that the bait seemed that real. More than likely he just let his guard down and took the bait. That night he learned a valuable lesson, although it cost him his life. As Greg Laurie puts it, it’s “better to shun the bait than to struggle on the hook.” Now that is good advice. In these days that take way too much energy just to do life, don’t get lax and make a really bad decision. Resist the bait.
The other lesson was from Bill…the man who invested his time, his wisdom, and even some of his resources in a young Air Force sergeant. Bill was simply a good man who loved Jesus. He was busy, but he wasn’t too busy to pour his life into mine. The Bible says, “A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” Bill was that to me, and I know that I am a better person for knowing him. So, again, in days like these when it seems the top priority is survival, don’t get so self-absorbed that you can’t invest in the folks in your world. There are plenty of people like me who need someone a little wiser to speak into their lives. Why not be that voice? That voice may be whispering, “Don’t take the bait,” or it might be encouraging someone to trust in the One who is worthy…to trust and rest in the God who made it all. I think Bill was one of the ones who spoke into my life and helped me believe that I could trust God because “He’s got this.” Thanks, Bill.