When I have time, I love to go fishing. I have been blessed to live in areas where I can conveniently fulfill this desire. Additionally, I've been blessed to be able to fish with brethren, thereby fostering growth in our love for one another. Not only can fishing provide food for the table, it can also relieve the stress of the day. But even more importantly, it can teach spiritual truths. In this short article, I would have us to consider some of these, beginning with what Luke wrote in Luke 5:1-11:
"And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon Him to hear the Word of God, He stood by the lake of Gennesaret, and saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fisherman were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And He entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And He sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. Now when He had left speaking, He said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto Him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless, at Thy word I will let down the net. And when they had done this, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: and so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed Him."
- Washing the Nets: The first time I fished, it was in the ocean. Since then I have fished there on numerous occasions. After each outing, we flushed the engine with fresh water; we washed down the boat with fresh water; then we cleaned everything, from the poles to the lures, with fresh water. If we hadn't done this, before long the equipment would have been unusable.
Until we are washed, we cannot be the useable servants that God desires. "Let us draw near with a true heart," (cf. Luke 8:15) "in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water." (Hebrews 10:22; cf. Acts 8:26-39; Romans 6) It is sin that must be washed away (cf. Acts 22:16). "If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work." (2 Timothy 2:21)
- Toiling All Night: While I often caught my share of fish, there were also plenty of times when I did not. Some people, out of frustration at not catching anything, give up fishing. For others, the enjoyment of just being out there, is enough to keep them coming back. For many, it is simply a way of life. Whichever it is, persistence and patience are important. These men toiled all night; that is persistence and patience.
Christians must also exhibit these traits in their lives. In the face of discouragement, they must persist at "keeping on keeping on." They must be patient, knowing that in the end, it will have been worth the effort. "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 15:58) "For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have showed toward His Name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that everyone of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises." (Hebrews 6:10-12)
- At Thy Word: We learned of some of the best fishing places from others. And others told us some of the best techniques to use. If we had chosen, as some do, not to listen, we would have been less successful. However, some of the advice we received was not good. There are some who want nothing more than to deceive others.
While Peter and those with him may have had some doubt about doing what Jesus told them to do, nevertheless, they obeyed. One can only imagine their astonishment at what happened. Not only were the nets full, they were breaking, and the boats began to sink under the weight of all those fish. At His Word, what had been a fruitless night of toil brought an overflowing abundance.
For those who believe Jesus, God's blessings abound. At His Word, our sins are washed away, and remembered no more (Hebrews 10:15-23). At His Word, we become heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16-18). At His Word we are victors with Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57; Romans 8:31-39; 1 John 5:1-4). At His Word, "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want." (Psalm 23:1)
- Thou Shalt Catch Men: As the nets were filled to breaking, so too are the Kingdom's borders stretched out by "caught" souls. As long as this world stands, there will be room in the Kingdom.
In his comments on John 1:40, James Coffman wrote: "Like the tiny stream that issues from Lake Itasca, Minnesota, to become the mighty Father of Waters, this first hesitant and timid approach to Jesus reveals the intimate and personal beginning of that stream of numberless millions swelling the ranks of His disciples in all ages."
We are saved so that we might lead others to salvation (cf. Matthew 5:13-16; 1 Peter 3:15). "So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are laborers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building." (1 Corinthians 3:7-9)
Sadly, there are some who are fishers of men for Satan (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15; Matthew 12:30). The Gospel of Christ is the ONLY means by which souls can be saved. This Gospel, with which the apostles were entrusted (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:1-14), has not changed, and the means of man's salvation has not changed. "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith as it is written, the just shall live by faith." (Romans 1:16-17)
- Follow Him: Today, God, through the Gospel, calls souls to follow His Son; to follow His teachings (cf. Matthew 7:21-27); to follow His example (cf. 1 Peter 2:21-25); to follow Him to Heaven (cf. John 14:1-6). "And He saith unto them, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." (Matthew 4:19) Shall we follow Him and fish for men?
Brother Ross has shown us the qualities spiritual fishermen need. I'd like to add one more quality-don't quit if you don't catch the limit every time. Fishermen will tell you they don't expect to catch the limit every time they go out. God's fishermen must understand the value in TRYING. Men and women with whom we have opportunity to share the message of life need for us to take the time to talk with them. Fishing for men's souls never has an off season; it's always the right time. We need no license. We need only to be part of God's family and have love for the souls of lost men. God is not concerned with how many we catch, but with whether or not we try. We need to appreciate the value of ONE lost soul that can be led to the cross of Christ, no matter how long we have to fish to catch him. God will help us to develop and never tire of this type of fishing-He is looking for master fishermen. Are you one? (KMG)