I was raised attending church every Sunday, praying before each meal, and kneeling beside my bed each night before going to sleep. As a young child I learned the “right” answers to many spiritual questions and I was even baptized at age 6. At that time, however, my true motivation for baptism had very little to do with my need of a Savior. I knew I needed to be baptized before I could partake in the Lord’s Supper. I couldn’t stand watching my friends eating a “snack” in church, so I learned the right answers and got baptized. Now I was entitled to crackers and juice in church too.
It wasn’t until 6 years later that God brought me face to face with my sin, the consequences of my sin, and my need to be born again as His child. God used my 7 th grade Sunday school teacher, Larry Sitig, to bring me into His Kingdom. Until that day I never realized that Jesus was punished for my sins in my place. One Sunday morning during the fall of 1975, in the quiet of my own heart, I asked Jesus to be the Lord of my life. I confessed my sins to Him, asked for His forgiveness, and pledged my loyalty to Him. Thanks, Larry, for being God’s volunteer and for investing some of your time in the lives of junior high kids.
For months following my salvation I allowed doubts to creep into my mind. Was I really sincere when I put my faith in Christ? Does God really want to forgive me since He knows the true evils of my heart? I must have prayed to trust Christ at least 50 times during that year, just in case I wasn’t sincere enough the day before. I discussed my doubts with another one of my Sunday school teachers and he had me write down on a 3 X 5 card the date and time of my conversion. He told me to pull out that card any time I had doubts. I was now certain that God had saved me! A number of years later I was baptized again, this time with much greater significance.
My high school years were a great time for me. God continued to place great role models in my life that served as mentors and examples to me. One in particular, Tim Savage, had a profound impact on my life. Tim was a student at Dallas Seminary who was working as a volunteer with my church’s youth group. He met individually with me once a week and taught me how to study the Bible. God used Tim to show me that the Bible was much more than a collection of stories, but that it was true, and that it offered real answers to problems in my life. I learned that it was literally a message from God Himself to all mankind.
During these same years I began to see my parents grow spiritually. They would sit down early each morning and read the Bible out loud together. They never forced me to do this with them, but I began to see how important this book was to them. After all, they considered it to be worthy of getting out of bed at 6:00 AM. I often go up and sat in on their reading. Sometimes I sat there just to spend time with my Mom & Dad, and other days it was to hear God’s word. But during those years God planted seeds in my heart and in my life that are still growing today. I am so thankful to have a Mom & Dad who are committed to serving Christ. I hope I can have the same impact on my kids lives that my parents have had on mine.
College was a struggle for me both academically and spiritually. I found it difficult to maintain consistency in my walk with Christ once I was out from under my parent’s supervision. God, however, was patient with me and kept putting people around me who were committed to Him. I became good friends with Greg Snapp, and he was on of the greatest examples of living faith that I have ever seen. Greg inspired me and helped me get my life oriented back toward Jesus Christ.
While at Baylor I met my wife, Jimmye Sue, and we fell in love and got married. It is such a blessing to have a godly wife who is willing to serve the Lord no matter what. She is a rock, and God uses her daily to strengthen me.
Shortly after we were married she took a job as a nurse. I switched jobs a couple of times until Jimmye Sue encouraged me to pursue my long time dream of being a bass pro. I started fishing in as many bass tournaments as I could. That’s what I’d always wanted to do, but I didn’t feel God’s leading until Jimmye Sue began to encourage me. God so often uses those closest to us to reveal His will to us.
I had a perfect plan for how God should direct my career. I’d spend 1 year “paying my dues”, win an event or 2 during my 2 nd year, and win the Bassmasters Classic by the time I was thirty years old! Thirty, however, came and went and I had never even qualified for the Classic. By this time we had 2 children, and both Jimmye Sue and I felt like God desired her to quit her job and stay home with the kids. We wanted to follow God’s will, but we just couldn’t afford for her to quit work.
I was working as a guide between tournaments, but that money was supporting my efforts on the pro tour. We began to pray together with a group of close friends from church that God would clearly mark the path He wanted us to take, and that He would provide a way for us to do His will. We turned our hopes, dreams, and concerns over to Him. For the first time in our married lives we were actually seeking to follow the Lord NO MATTER WHAT. I was even willing to quit fishing if that was what God wanted.
Shortly thereafter I won my first major tournament and God provided us with about 1 years worth of Jimmye Sue’s salary. She quit her job and we trusted that God would continue to provide for us. God’s plan for my career was most certainly much different than my own plan. He took my on a zig zag course. It reminds me of the Israelites as God led them toward the promised land. If you look at a map God did not take them straight from Egypt along the shortest route. Instead He led them in circles in the desert for 40 years. But He did this for their own protection, and to prepare them to become the nation that would be His representatives to the world. God protected me and my family too, and He continues to prepare and equip me to fulfill my ministry. God works according to His perfect timetable, not mine.
God continues to place great Godly people in my life to look up to. Robert Mills and Bryan Baker, thanks for your faithfulness. Grant Kaul, you challenge me to go deeper. Glenn Chappelear, you make sure I am doing the work of the Kingdom. Little Alton, my son, your commitment to Christ inspires me.
My heart longs to have an impact on the lives of fishermen. I want others to know of the importance of God’s Word and of the message it contains. Being a pro fisherman is really fun, but my career is merely the platform God has given me to spread the gospel and to share with others what God is doing in my life. I hope that one day I might be able to mimic the Apostle Paul and say “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith”. You see, the work of Christ is a “good fight” and it is worthy of my life. I want to be much more than just a fisherman, I want to be a “fisher of men”. Vince Lombardy once said that “success is laying exhausted in victory on the field of battle”. May God grant me the perseverance to be a success for Him.