If You Aren’t Fishing, Then You Aren’t Following
Mark 1: 14-20
Alex had a terrible day fishing on the lake, sitting in the blazing sun all day without catching a single one. On his way home, he stopped at the fishmonger and ordered four rainbow trout. He told the fishmonger, 'Pick four large ones out and throw them at me, will you?'
'Why do you want me to throw them at you?' Asked the salesman?' So that I am able to tell my wife, in all honesty, that I caught them.' said Alex.
'Okay, but I suggest that you take the salmon.' Why's that? 'Because your wife came in earlier today and said that if you came by, I should tell you to take salmon. That's what she'd like for supper tonight', replied the fishmonger with a grin.
An OLD MINISTER recalled a vacation he took to Israel:
I was walking along the shores of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus called His disciples. I got up before sunrise and went out with my Bible to watch the same sun rise over the same mountains around the same lake where Jesus walked. After the sunrise, I saw a fishing boat chugging out to spread a net to catch fish.
I was reminded again that the story of Jesus isn’t some religious myth. It’s a real story about real people and how Jesus changed their lives.
Mark 1:14-20. 14 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel [a]of the kingdom of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God [b]is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” 16 And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 17 Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 They immediately left their nets and followed Him.
19 When He had gone a little farther from there, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending their nets. 20 And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him.
Jesus didn’t say, “Follow rules.” He said, “Follow me.”
When we follow Jesus we want to do what He does. Jesus didn’t come primarily to heal. If that had been his focus, He would have established a hospital. He didn’t come primarily to teach or else He would have founded a school. He came to seek and to save that which is lost. When we follow Him that will be our passion as well.
Fishing for men means bringing people to Jesus. Do you know why Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James and John to be fishers of men? Because they were already fishermen. They knew how to catch fish. When Jesus called Matthew, the tax collector, He didn’t tell him to fish for men. But Matthew went fishing anyway; he hosted a dinner so all of his tax-collector buddies could meet Jesus.
Jesus wants you to use whatever you already know to bring people into a relationship with Him. For instance, here’s what He might say to you according to your profession:
If you’re a banker or investment advisor He might say, “Follow me and you can tell people about the best eternal investment they’ll ever make.”
If you’re an Educator, He might say, “Follow me and you’ll teach eternal truth.”
If you’re a CPA He might say, “Follow me and I’ll show you how to help people balance their lives.”
If you’re a physician, “Follow me and I’ll show you how to practice spiritual healing.”
If you’re in sales, “Follow me and you can sell the world’s greatest product – eternal life.”
If you’re a builder, “Follow me and you’ll show people how to build stable lives.”
If you’re a dentist, “Follow me and you can fill the void in people’s lives.”
Whatever it is that you do, Jesus wants you to use what you know to bring people into a relationship with Him. So, what would He say to you? “Follow me and ... you fill in the blank.”
Jesus talked about fishing for people to four fishermen, so I want to share with you five fishing tips. But you can apply these to whatever field you work in as well.
1. GOOD FISHERMEN GO WHERE THE FISH ARE LOCATED
I saw a funny picture once about a guy fishing in a large pothole in the middle of the road. It had water it, but he picked the wrong place to fish because there weren’t any fish there. You’ll never catch fish until you’re willing to leave your house and go to where the fish are.
Quite a few years ago, I went fishing with my wife’s family on the French River in Canada. We spent most of a day in a place where the fish must have vacated because none of had even a bite for hours. Then, all of a sudden I felt a tug on my line. The competitive of me kicked in so I bet my brother in law that I would catch the next fish. He quickly accepted because he too felt a tug on his line. We both spent the best part of the next 15 minutes trying to land the “big one” we both felt on our lines. Meanwhile, my father in law just watched us with a BIG GRIN on his face. He then asked us to observe what was taking place. When I wound my line in Jack would like his line out and then Jack would quickly crank his line in while I let my line out. We had somehow hooked our lines together under the boat.
You can’t go fishing unless you go out to where the fish are found. People without Christ aren’t knocking down the doors of our church to get in. We have to go out after them. That’s why the Great Commission of Jesus begins with the word, “GO.”
In Luke 14 Jesus compared the Kingdom of God to a man who threw a party. All the local VIPs were sent invitations. But they all came up with phony excuses why they couldn’t come. Jesus said, “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.’” (Luke 14:23)
God wants His house to be full. We’re not talking about the church house, but the household of faith. There are thousands of people who aren’t yet in the Family of God, and God wants us to go after them and tell them that God loves them.
“Jesus was crucified on a cruel cross between two hardened criminals. He wasn’t crucified in a nice neighborhood, but at a crossroads of the world so diverse that his crime had to be written in three languages. He died at the kind of place where thieves cursed and soldiers gambled—and that’s where we need to take the Gospel.”
2. GOOD FISHERMEN UNDERSTAND HOW FISH BEHAVE
One of my favorite episodes of the “Andy Griffith Show” was about fishing. Opie was little and Aunt Bee came to visit on a trial basis. She was trying desperately to fit in so Opie would like her. She agreed to go fishing with Andy and Opie. She didn’t know much about fishing because she was holding her bait a few feet above the surface of the water. When Opie pointed it out, Andy was quick to give an answer that saved Aunt Bee any embarrassment. He explained to Opie that Aunt Bee was such a good fisherman that she was fishing for “flying fish.” That satisfied Opie. It was obvious Aunt Bee didn’t understand how fish act.
If we are going to reach people for Christ, we must understand their world. We need to study our culture without buying into it. You don’t have to become a fish to understand how a fish acts. You don’t have to become a lost person to understand them either.
Jesus was a friend of sinners. He spent time eating and fellowship with the worst of the worst. The Jewish leaders criticized Jesus for eating with sinners. He responded that only sick people need a doctor. The Jewish leaders were sick too; they just wouldn’t admit it.
In Luke 16 Jesus told one of His strangest parables. He also said to His disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was[a]wasting his goods. 2 So he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’
3 “Then the steward said within himself, ‘What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.’
5 “So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 And he said, ‘A hundred[b]measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ So he said, ‘A hundred [c]measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.
Notice Jesus divided all the people of the world into two categories. There are “the people of this world” and “people of the light.” The people of this world are those who don’t know Jesus. They have bought into the values and culture of this world—that’s all they have. But we are people of the light, we’ve been shown a different way.
We must never forget Jesus wasn’t really talking about catching fish. He was talking about capturing people who are lost and bringing them into a saving relationship with Him. Jesus Himself said He came to seek and to save those who are lost.
3. GOOD FISHERMEN USE A VARIETY OF STRATEGIES
There are a lot of different ways to catch fish. You can use a net from a boat, a cast net, a trotline, or a rod and reel. When it comes to reaching people for Christ, good fishermen use a variety of methods as well.
The first time I ever caught a fish I was using a bambo pole with a cork and a worm on the hook. No two people are alike so there is no single approach to person evangelism that will work. Different people need different approaches. The same strategy won’t work for everyone.
That’s exactly what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:22, “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” He used one approach when he talked to Jews and another approach when he talked to Gentiles. When he spoke to the wisest philosophers in Athens, Greece, he used an intellectual argument and even quoted one of their own poets.
We still have hundreds of those kindness cards at the Welcome Center, so stop by and grab someone and go out and bless someone in Jesus’ name. That’s one of the easiest ways to fish for people.
4. GOOD FISHERMEN EXPECT TO CATCH FISH
One of the funniest stories about fishing was told by the country comedian, Jerry Clower. He talked about Claude Ledbetter in Mississippi who was catching a boat load of fish when nobody else was bringing any home. A state game warden decided to ride out with Claude to investigate his fishing methods.
After arriving in the middle of the lake, Claude reached under the seat, pulled out a long stick of dynamite, lit it and tossed it into the water. KABOOM! In a few seconds, dead fish floated to the surface all around the boat, and Claude used a dip net to bring them into the boat. The game warden was enraged. He flashed his badge and said, “Bubba, that is illegal, and I’m going to arrest you. You can’t fish with dynamite!”
Old Claude didn’t say a word. He just lit another stick of dynamite and thrust it into the game warden’s hand. While the fuse sizzled Claude said, “Are you gonna’ TALK or are you gonna’ FISH?” I don’t recommend his method, but Bubba was expecting to catch fish!
Good fishermen always EXPECT to catch fish, even if they don’t. There’s a measure of faith involved because you usually can’t see the fish. You suspect they’re there, and you’re hoping that they’ll take the hook.
It takes real faith to share your faith with others as well. You’re not putting faith in yourself, or your skill. You aren’t putting your faith in the person who needs Jesus. You put your faith in Jesus. You have to believe Jesus can and will help the person.
In Matthew 9, two blind men came to Jesus asking for help. Jesus said, “‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith it will be done to you.’” (Matthew 9:28-29) If they hadn’t believed Jesus could heal them, they wouldn’t have experienced sight. But their faith was rewarded with the power of Jesus.
In order to be an effective witness, you have to have absolute confidence that Jesus can make a difference in the lives of the people you know. If you don’t expect people to accept Christ, chances are they won’t.
5. GOOD FISHERMEN ARE PATIENT IF THEY DON’T CATCH FISH IMMEDIATELY
Good fishermen are patient. If they don’t catch fish after the first twenty or thirty catches, they don’t load up and go home. They may move to another spot, or try different bait, but they’re going to keep on fishing.
Sometimes believers feel guilty because they don’t have a great deal of success landing fish. They hear stories of people who have led hundreds of people to Christ, and they feel intimidated. They say, “I even have a hard time starting a conversation with someone about spiritual matters.”
Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will MAKE you fishers of men.” In other words, it’s a process. The longer you follow Jesus, and the more closely you follow Him, the more He will make you into a fisher of men.
The Bible says, “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm.” (James 5:7-8)
When you’re fishing, patience isn’t just a virtue; it’s a necessity. Not too many fish are going to jump into your boat. A fish is easily spooked and will try to get away. A person without Jesus may often resist and even resent your attempt to share Christ with them. That’s okay. Love them, and keep showing them God’s love. Keep praying for them.
I know most of us here have been fishing, but there are probably a few folks who haven’t. Let me ask: If you have never gone fishing, raise your hand. Now, here’s the next question: how many of you who just raised your hand have ever caught a fish? You say, “That’s a foolish question. If they haven’t ever gone fishing, of course they haven’t caught a fish.” That’s my point. I don’t have to ask how many of you have ever led a person to Christ. Instead a better question is “How many of you have ever initiated a spiritual conversation with someone?” If you don’t ever go fishing, for sure, you’ll never catch fish.
Sometimes you go fishing and you don’t catch a thing but it’s still called going fishing because you went to where the fish were, and you wet your hook. You tried. God won’t ask you how many fish you’ve caught. He’s more interested in how many times you’ve gone fishing. He judges us on our obedience. Our job is to just share the gospel, whether anyone accepts Christ or not. The results are up to God. I saw a sign in front of a church recently that said: “Fishers of men. You catch ‘em; and Jesus will clean them.”
Radio commentator Paul Harvey once said, “Too many Christians are no longer fishers of men, but the keepers of the aquarium.” Based on that comment, I’ve written a short parable I call, “The Fishing Society.” Once there was a group of people called the Fishing Society. They gathered every week to talk about the importance of fishing, but they never fished. They decided to build a big new aquarium, so they pooled their money (no pun intended) and built a sparkling new meeting hall they named “The Aquarium Center.”
Then they hired an expert who had a Doctor of Fishology to teach them from the Fishing Manual. Each week they gathered in their beautiful building and read portions of the Fishing Manual. The meetings ended with the expert dramatically casting a net in the large tank in the center of the Aquarium Center. The members rushed to the edge and were hopeful some fish would be caught. None were ever caught, of course, because there were no fish in the tank.
This led to disagreement among the members of the Fishing Society. Why weren’t there fish in their beautiful aquarium? Some said, specialization was the answer so they built smaller tanks specially designed for fish of all ages and sizes. But, still, there were no fish.
They bought the newest and most modern fishing equipment on the market. They elected numerous committees to operate the Fishing Society more efficiently. One group regulated the water in the Aquarium. Others worked to keep the glass walls polished; others sorted and arranged the expensive fishing gear.
Finally, the Fishing Society decided to send a few brave members to go and live near the lakes and oceans. They called them “fishinaries.” These foreign fishinaries emailed pictures of themselves standing by the water holding their catches of fish.
Over the years, some members of the Fishing Society forgot about fishing altogether. After all, there was plenty to keep them occupied in the aquarium. Some even suggested they change their name from “The Fishing Society” to just “The Society.” After all, they didn’t want to offend the fish.
One day a bearded stranger appeared at their aquarium. This longhaired, sandaled man claimed to be the Master Fisherman. He extended His hands to ask the members to follow him out and He would teach them how to catch fish with Him. They noticed the man had ugly scars in His palms—Probably from fishing. Nobody moved.
As He turned to leave He said, “If you never go fishing, you have no right to call yourself a fisherman. I’m going fishing, and if you aren’t fishing—well, then, you aren’t following me.”
After their initial shock, the members of the Fishing Society resumed their busy activity of maintaining their beautiful hall. They were glad their beautiful hall had not been built in vain. If nothing else, it made them feel good about themselves.
Contributor: David DykesPrint
© Chardon Church of Christ
All right reserved