June 13, 2016

Fishing for . . .

As a child, my dad took me fishing once. We were on the Bow River in a boat, just the two of us. I caught a fish, but my two brothers, who were envious that I got to go and they didn’t, never believed me. I never went fishing again, at least until I was much older.

We were living in Alaska, where everyone must go fishing. My husband took my dad out for halibut. They forgot how many they caught and I couldn’t imagine that being possible. So my hubby took me the next time. I listened carefully to the captain’s instructions and did exactly what I was told. After a time, my hubby asked how many halibut I’d pulled in and put in the holding tank. I sheepishly admitted that I forgot.

If I could pick which experience describes my efforts as a Christian to be a fisherman, I’d like that AK trip off the coast of Homer to describe my success, but it doesn’t. :-(

And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17)

There are two parts to this: the invitation and the promise. To become a fisher of men, one must first follow Jesus. Chambers says people seldom just follow Him. Instead, we make excuses, offer our talents as if He needs them, or hum and haw with other reasons. We realize God asks for our right to ourselves.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1)

Chambers says that if I give God my right to myself, He will make a holy experiment or a new person out of me, one that is original and also successful. He will become in me a wellspring of original life all the time as He engineers circumstances and makes life an adventure.

When I live in reckless abandon as His follower, there is no crawling off the altar, no pity parties or complaints, no self-seeking. Not only that, He will help me see Him being as original with others as He is with me, so none of this ‘every Christian has to be like me’ stuff either.

Chambers points out that when I am abandoned to Jesus, coming when He says ‘Come,’ He continues to say ‘Come’ through me. That is, my life will be an echo of His invitation — I will be telling others to come to Jesus and He will take them fishing too.

There are consequences for these fishing trips. Sometimes the fish run and hide. Sometimes other fishermen don’t believe that I am capable of catching anything. Sometimes the fishing expedition is a success, but the work of it leaves me totally exhausted (my arms ached for two weeks after pulling in more halibut than I can remember).

Another consequence is that the enemy doesn’t want God’s people to invite others to Jesus. Satan is might be subtle with his efforts, like keeping me busy with other and less important occupations. However, he more often openly attacks with an obvious onslaught to push me off a cliff so that I will stop urging others toward Jesus.

For the fishing part, I trust the Lord and do my best to obey. For the onslaught part, trusting the Lord AND obeying Him is the prerequisite to resisting and overcoming the one who tries to stop me . . .  

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)

It also helps to talk and share with other fishermen. We might embellish our fish stories, but the sharing of our common experience of difficulties in the task helps us to stay firm in faith . . .

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:8–10)

It helps me to know that others struggle, yet God’s promise is also vital. It helps me stay at the task and endure the enemy’s efforts to stop me. I know that ‘this too shall pass’ because Jesus is in charge of my life and will use all of the enemy’s strategies for my good. It is for these reasons that I can say “Come, follow Jesus” to others.

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