FIRST-PERSON: Louder than words
EL CAJON, Calif. (BP) -- John G. Paton was born among sturdy Presbyterians in Braehead, Scotland, the oldest of 11 children.
At age 12 he started learning his father's trade of making stockings. For 14 hours a day, John operated the stocking-making machine in his dad's workroom. But his mind never stopped working, and he studied and read during breaks.
As soon as he could, he enrolled in the university and studied theology and medicine. On Nov. 5, 1858, John and Mary Paton landed on the cannibal-filled island of Tanna in the New Hebrides. As John later recorded the story: "They encircled us in a deadly ring and one kept urging another to strike the first blow. My heart rose up to the Lord Jesus; I saw Him watching all the scene. My peace came back to me like a wave from God. I realized that my life was immortal till my Master's work with me was done."
The turning point came when Paton decided to dig a well to provide fresh water for the people. Then as now, much illness is borne by impure water. Though he didn't know enough language to explain the "Water of Life," he knew he could give them a cup of cold water in Jesus' Name. So he started digging.
Paton dug deeper and deeper until finally, at 30 feet, he tapped into a stream of water. The cannibals were overjoyed to drink fresh water drawn up from the deep well. Opposition to Paton's work ceased, and the wide-eyed islanders gave him their full respect.
It took a while for the people of the New Hebrides to understand and respond to the Gospel, but Paton kept serving in Jesus' name knowing that his actions spoke louder than his words. But his actions also paved the way for his words. In time, the tribal chief accepted Christ as Savior, then a few others made the daring step. On Oct. 24, 1869, nearly 11 years after his arrival, Paton led his first communion service. Twelve converted cannibals partook of the Lord's Supper.
Often it's our actions that attract people to Christ. Many have never attended a church service, read the Bible, looked at a Gospel tract, or listened to a Christian broadcast. But they were attracted to God through the loving actions of Christians.
This pattern reaches back to Gospel days, and our great model is the Lord Jesus.
There's no substitute for the message of the Cross of Jesus Christ. But wherever that message is preached, it will be preceded by, accompanied with, and followed by acts of kindness done in the name of the Savior. No matter who Jesus encountered -- Jew, Gentile, Samaritan, man, woman, child -- His kindness pointed people to the Father. His actions were like letters spelling the word LOVE.
In our own opportunities of ministry and mentoring, we must maintain that same balance. In their book of meditations from the Gospels, David and John Ball make an important point: "Actions speak louder than words; thus we must be mindful of what we do at all times."
Many Christian teachers and coaches are rightly frustrated by laws prohibiting their speaking as freely about Christ as they'd like. Nevertheless, one thing can never be prohibited -- our attitude and conduct. Our mission field starts right here. It starts with a smile in the classroom. It starts with kindness at home. It starts with the patience with which we treat our children. It starts with our disposition as we wait in line for coffee, navigate traffic jams, encounter a need on the streets, or coach a Little League team. Our actions and attitudes may be the only introduction an unsaved person will have to the Gospel.
If your mouth was taped shut and you could only witness by the way you lived, would your life be leading people to Christ? He said they will know we are His children by our love (John 13:35).
Actions speak louder than words, and love crosses any barrier and communicates in any language. Like John Paton, let's dig deep, trusting God to provide from our inmost being living waters for a thirsty world.