I had the privilege this last week of taking a couple of our grandchildren, Luke age 7 and Lacey age 4, fishing while our son and family were here. A couple of years ago, Luke caught his first fish while we were floating on the Kootenai River, and this time Lacey, age 4, caught her first while out in a rubber boat with me on a lake near the church where I pastored. She was so excited that I’m sure you could hear her for a couple miles! It was obviously quite a thrill, but not only for her, for me as well, and for her grandma, her parents and her brother who were watching–and listening!
As I saw her exuberance over catching a fish, I couldn’t help but be reminded of when I first had the opportunity to introduce someone to Jesus Christ. What a thrill that was. Jesus even used fishing as a metaphor for reaching souls through sharing the gospel of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We read in Matthew 4:18-20: “And walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ And they immediately left the nets and followed Him.”
Becoming a good “fisher of men” requires several character traits which can be drawn from Jesus’ analogy.
1) Knowing where to fish. If you are going to catch fish, you obviously must go where the fish are. As the Daily Bread for August 8, 2011 said: “No use fishing where they ain’t!” It was said of Jesus that He was “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Lk. 7:34). If you have only Christian friends, you may be fishing for souls “where they ain’t.” Being with nonbelievers is the first step in “fishing for men.”
2) Patience. The fish don’t always bite the first time you throw out the bait. You need to be patient and keep trying (not necessarily a strong quality in a four year old!) Learn to wait until the fish take the bait. It’s always fun when fishing with youngsters to use a bobber so they can watch to see when the fish are taking the bait. It helps them stay focused on the task. And helps them know when to set the hook and start reeling in. Fishing for men also take patience. They may not “bite” right away when you share the Gospel. You may even need to spend time just loving them and building a relationship before you earn the right to share the truths of Scripture concerning salvation. Just be sensitive (in tune with the Holy Spirit) to know when and what to share (watch your “bobber”!)
3) Courage. Fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were often in danger of storms. They needed courage to work at their occupation. As we fish for men, we will face the danger of rejection and persecution. In some areas of the world you will even face the possibility of losing your life. It takes courage to be a fisher of men. Jesus warned his disciples saying, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (Jn. 15:18,19). “…In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33).
4) An eye for the right moment. A good fishermen knows the best times during the year and the best times of the day to have the greatest chance of catching fish in a particular lake or stream. He knows when the fish are biting best. As fishers of men, we need to be discerning, through the guidance of the indwelling Holy Spirit, as to what is the best time to share Christ with others. We need to be sensitive to their needs and to their “open nerves.” Of course a big part of this is through praying for them, and for boldness to open your mouth at just the right time. Paul asked the Colossian believers to pray for him: “…That God may open for us a door for the word, sot that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ…in order that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak” (Col. 4:3,4).
5) Keep out of sight. If you can see the fish, the fish can see you, and your chances of catching them are slim. We need to make sure that as we fish for men, that “we” stay out of sight; that is, we need to focus unbelievers’ attention on the Lord, not on us. It’s okay to give your own testimony as to how you came to know Christ and what a difference He is making in your life, but be sure to use Scripture and to focus on the person of Christ. I like what John the Baptist who introduced Jesus to the world said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn. 3:30).
6) Love. A consistently successful fisherman must have a passion for fishing. A successful fisher of men must have a love for souls. People probably won’t care much about how versed we are in Scripture if we don’t demonstrate that we care for them. If they sense that they are just part of a “project” then they may not be very interested in what we are offering. We must have a compassion for the lost that shows through in our attitude and actions. Such love must come from the One who loved us and gave Himself for us, Christ Himself. We must be under control of the Holy Spirit and then the fruit of the Spirit which is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control…” (Gal. 5:22,23) will show forth.
7) Draw in the net. Finally, if you are going to catch fish, you have to draw in the net, or reel in the line. As we watched the bobber to see if a fish was hitting the bait, I told Lacey, “You need to pull on the pole now and start reeling.” Chances are if you just watch the bobber but don’t reel in right away, the fish will take the bait and get away. It’s one thing to tell people about Jesus; it is another thing to invite them to trust Him as their Savior. I don’t think Satan detests our telling others about Jesus nearly so much as he hates our giving them an opportunity to pray to receive Christ into their life. I guess that’s why so many of us have trouble taking this last step and actually giving the person the chance to go from “death to life,” from “darkness to light.”
I know from personal experience that there is no greater joy for a believer than to introduce a soul to our Savior. You get “hooked on fishing.” And that is the primary reason God leaves us here after we are saved. We are to be fishers of men the rest of our days. So, follow Jesus and He will make you a fisher of men. Jesus said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down you nets for a catch…and when they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish and their nets began to break” (Lk. 5:4-6).
A fellow fisherman,