This past weekend I finally got to take a much needed break. It was the first time I had two days off in a row in more than a year. It was nice to kick up my feet, relax and just get away. This year I stayed near the Illinois River with my family and got some quality time with my new nephew and some quality time with my kids. We even got to spend some time on the Riverbank. Sadly, only two fish were brought in all weekend. My oldest caught her first fish. It was a whopper. It was between a 4-5 pound carp that was clearly full of eggs. The following night, I was able to take a few worms for a swim and caught a white bass with a lure just as I was reeling it in for the final time. (It was getting late, dark and walking along the river without lights and no flashlight was not my idea of fun since water moccasins are found in the area).
Of course, anytime I spend fishing I am reminded of our Saviors words to Peter, Andrew, James and John. “I will make you fishers of men.” To the sophisticated, educated, political and religious world of their day choosing some fishermen to do the work of God might have seemed odd and unusual. Why not choose that can really make a difference? Why not choose that that can get in and out of the big wig circles? Why not choose a member of Herod’s house? Why not choose those that had the ear of a high priest? Why not choose members of the Sanhedrin? Why not choose the wealthy? The powerful? Why fishermen?
While I do not know the mind of God or what specifically Jesus saw in these men, but what I do know is fishermen. Both my grandfathers’ were expert fishermen. My father is as well. I spent many of early mornings and late nights on a pond, in a pond or around a pond. I spent many days walking the Middlefork in Illinois trying to find the best spot to cast my line. While I am no expert, I watched the experts and I can see why Christ may have chosen four fishermen to serve as Apostles.
Fishermen have great patience. If you are fishing for catfish you are going to need it. While I am not saying that they don’t buy often, it is not like fishing for bass. You cast your line in the water and you wait. You wait. And when you can’t stand it anymore, you wait a little longer. The more itchy you get, the more you end up reeling in your bait. And the more time your hook is out of the water, the less time you are actually spending fishing. To teach others you are going to be patient. Yes, it is neat to see nearly 3,000 souls obeying the gospel call after one sermon. However, most of us are likely to see just one turn to God after teaching him/her a lesson. And it will likely take multiple lessons, sometimes multiple years tearing down false concepts about who God is, what he wants, what his people are really like and so on. Without patience, a fisher of men will give up before the “bait” is accepted.
Fishermen do a lot of preparatory work. Before I even left for Illinois I had to make certain that my reels were oiled, working and ready to go. I had to make certain that my rods weren’t broken (I have two older ones on their last leg). When we got to the house, my Dad and I spent time the first morning preparing some more. We put leaders, spinners, hooks, etc on each of the lines. We even did some research on the best fishing areas where we were staying. Jesus called those that understood that preparatory work was going to be needed. Jesus actually spent three years preparing these men to be fishers of men before sending them out to teach and preach. “Winging it” or “shooting from the hip” is hardly a successful way to teach someone the good news of Jesus Christ.
Fisherman don’t give up. It is fascinating to me to see that even in Peter and Andrew. They had spent all night fishing and caught nothing when Jesus had called them to be fishers of men. Upon Jesus’ word they threw their nets back in one more time. Of course, this time, they had quite the hall. They caught so much fish that they had to call upon their friends (James and John) to help them bring it in. Even myself, this last time out had a rather pesky crawdad. He kept (I suppose it was my fault for continually casting in the same spot). While I did exchange my bait for a lure, I went right back to that spot and tried again. I refused to quit. I knew there was a fish there. (And I eventually caught it). Jesus is looking for fishermen that don’t quit at the first sign of trouble. He wants people that won’t give up on others. He wants people that sees one worth “catching” even if there is something else there hindering it.
Grinnell church of Christ
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Lessons Learned From the Riverbank
Volume 7 Issue 22