Friday, August 13, 2010

Fishers of Men

Two weeks ago I was on vacation at my parent's home in upstate New York and I spent quite a few hours on the lake in a rowboat fishing for bass. Saddlebag Lake is secluded, deep, quiet and cold. The water is clear. Trees come down to the shoreline on every side and submerged trees at the edges of the lake make reefs for the bass. The weather was beautiful. I fished most mornings and a few evenings. Over the week I caught 36 fish that were big enough to be "keepers."

As I fished, I couldn't help thinking about Jesus calling some Galilean fishermen to become His disciples.
(Matthew 4:18–20) And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.
19 Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
20 They immediately left their nets and followed Him.
I'm not exactly sure how my experience parallels theirs. They were professionals. Fishing was their livelihood. They didn't do it for the sport, but for the money. They didn't use rods and reels and artificial bait. In fact, I doubt that they often used bait at all. They used nets. I, on the other hand, fish for fun. I want to catch fish and I enjoy a big fish fry, but if I didn't catch any fish I wouldn't starve. I fish with a rod and reel and artificial lures. Even when I am not getting any bites, I have the entertainment of trying to figure out what type of lure will better suit the situation I am facing (shadow or sunlight, calm or windy, deep water or shallow, etc.)

Jesus still wants people to become "fishers of men." But what does that mean? He isn't offering a new form of entertainment. So what are the lessons here? What meanings can we take away today?

1. Jesus wants us to leave all and follow Him. Jesus was calling the disciples away from their homes, families, possessions and professions. His promise to make them fishers of men was really the offer of a new occupation - one in which they would deal with people rather than fish.

This doesn't require that every disciple enter vocational ministry, but that every believer put following Jesus ahead of everything else. Disciples are "fishers of men." This is now our primary identity and it comes before our vocation, our family, our possessions and our entertainment.

2. Jesus wants us to value people like fishermen value fish. Fishermen dream of catching fish. Fishermen think about catching fish. Fishermen invest in catching fish. Fishermen read about catching fish. Fishermen spend time trying to catch fish. Fishermen work hard at catching fish.

You get the idea. So, how much do I dream about reaching people for Jesus Christ? How much do I think about it, invest in it and read about it? How much time do I devote to reaching people for Christ? How hard do I work at it?

3. Jesus wants us to go fishing for men. To catch fish you must actually engage in fishing. To reach people for Jesus Christ requires action to communicate the gospel to people.
(Romans 10:14) How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?
Just because this says "preacher" doesn't mean it is the pastor's job and everyone else is off the hook (pardon the pun.) "Preacher" here is any person who proclaims the message. Unless you talk to people about Jesus you will never reach them with the gospel.

4. Jesus wants us to reach into the world like a fisherman reaches into the water. Fish do not travel onto the land and into the fisherman's house on their own. The fisherman must go to the water. Fish do not (usually) jump into the boats. Fishermen must somehow reach into the world of the fish with a net or with a line.

So it is with us. We must go to the place where the people who need Jesus are. We must reach into their world with the gospel of salvation. We don't need to become fish, but we must become students of the fish. Where will they be? When will they be there? How should I approach them?

5. Jesus wants us to demonstrate the same kind of patience required of fishermen. I caught 36 "keepers" on vacation because I spent 12 hours on the lake fishing. Those 36 fish account for about 36 minutes of that 12 hours. Add in time for the small fish I threw back and the fish that I failed to get to the boat and we might be up to an hour of excitement. The other other eleven hours were all quiet - casting, retrieving, changing lures, rowing, drifting, clearing snags, etc.

That is just like evangelism. It requires patience. You patiently and diligently look for people to talk to. You try to talk to the people you find. Some don't want to talk to you. Others talk, but do not come to belief. Only a few - here and there - now and then - respond with faith. But to be effective evangelists we must continue to work at it with patience.
(Galatians 6:9) And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

Happy fishing!

1 comment:

Bobbi said...

Wonderful post! Thank you for the encouragement...reaching into the world with patience can be challenging.