I’m not an active fisher now, but when I was in high school, we would go fishing quite a bit. The idea of baiting a hook completely grossed me out initially, but once I realized that I had to do it to catch fish, I mustered up the guts and baited away. Although the act of fishing itself was enjoyable and relaxing for us, my sister and I would get so upset when we didn’t catch anything. But we always found ourselves saying “yes” when my dad asked us to go. Maybe that’s because we held out hope that eventually our efforts would prove rewarding.
The Command to Launch
In Luke 5, we see the story of some men at Lake Gennesaret toiling all night trying to get a good catch, but they just weren’t successful. Then Jesus comes along and tells these same men who had caught nothing to “launch out into the deep.” Hesitant to do so but confident enough in the words of the Master, they did what He said. And when they did, they brought in a massive number of fish. So much so, they had to fill another ship which caused both ships to start to sink.
This not only underscores the power of Jesus, but it also shows us the power in obedience to Him. These fishermen had given up. They, like some of us, had gotten discouraged. But just as they deemed their efforts futile, Jesus steps in, similar to what we see with Lazarus, and resurrects a seemingly dead situation. The results that are rendered at the prompting of the Master are astonishing, but what sticks out most about this story is what Jesus says to Simon: “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men” (Luke 5:10).
Are We Still Fishing?
The influx of people who are eager to become a part of the kingdom of God should be substantial. I mean, we have an immaculate Savior who not only gave up His throne to be with us, but He gave up His life for us to eventually be with Him. Because of this, we should be drawing so many people into our ministries that we don’t always resort to building bigger buildings, but we help to fill other ministries that are standing on the truth of God’s word. Jesus knew He had equipped His disciples with the tools needed to win souls. That’s why He could issue such a confident call to action to “catch men.”
Identifying the Problem
So, what’s the problem now? Why does it seem that so many are succumbing to what the world has to offer? Why aren’t we witnessing more people come to Christ? (And by come to Christ, I don’t mean joining a church, but becoming a part of the Church— the called-out body of believers).
In seeking to address these questions, we could land on a myriad of answers. And truth is, not any one answer is the answer. However, the least we can do is acknowledge that these questions do need to be addressed and our hearts open as we address them.
I would like to pose this as one of the potential answers: what if it’s not the what that has gone wrong but the who? Jesus has done His part to fulfill the what of the matter, and He is the who that we should base all that we do on. So, if He’s not the who, then who is?
Maybe it’s us. Maybe we are the who that has gone wrong. Do we do this wrong? Have we considered that while we spend so much time trying to get people into our buildings, we don’t shift our focus long enough to get souls into heaven? Perhaps we fail to show people Christ. Or maybe we mention His name, but we fail to display who He really is. Is it money we’re after? Fans we seek? Maybe we want people to hear us, to see us. Maybe we want people to fill our audiences but not lay at the feet of Jesus. Or is it that in our assiduous quest to remind others of what they are doing wrong, we don’t consider the inequity in failing to send them to the one who can help them get it right?
Offering a Solution
So, how do we fix this? How do we change this seemingly errant narrative?
We start by changing us. Those of us who say we are tasked to be fishermen for Christ have an obligation to allow the one who has caught us teach us how to catch others. Using Luke’s account of this miraculous event, may I offer a few solutions?
- Obedience Above All.
Luke illustrates how we can launch out into the deep and secure an overflowing net of fish. We see this realized through an act of obedience. Simon’s willingness to trust the words of the Master proved to be all that was needed to bring about the results they had been looking for all night long. In our obedience to Christ, not only are we carrying out His will, but we are also learning His ways, His responses, and His teachings. So, when faced with the opportunity to introduce someone to Him, it’s as if He’s introducing them to Himself.
- Hold Out Hope.
You may feel like you have toiled and belabored tiresomely to get others to see the goodness in loving God, but don’t lose hope. Just when Simon and the other men thought their labor was in vain, Jesus shows up to remind them that if He is in the midst, things will work out. Some fish may seem like a lost cause to you, but they are not to God. And if the Lord holds out hope for His creation, we, in imitating Him, can do the same.
- Don’t Stop Working.
We’ve prayed fervent, effectual prayers, sang spiritually enlightening songs, preached messages that have pricked the heart, and witnessed souls reach for Jesus. But even after we’ve gotten the results we seek and those we have labored for in close proximity to us have embraced Jesus, we must understand that our work isn’t finished. There are still souls to be won, and there is still work to be carried out. Our measure of fruitfulness can sometimes cause us to work to meet spiritual metrics that haven’t been established by God. By understanding the flaw in thinking this way, we will endeavor to always see all of those who are lost as potential souls for the kingdom and not numbers for our own agenda.
As we strive to achieve these things, it’s imperative to know that they must be evinced with love. The love we have for Christ should be the love we extend to those who need Him. Some will be easy to love to the Father, but others, not so much. But even if it does take a lot, remember that Jesus gave a lot. If people don’t want to receive Him, they’ll have to answer for that, but that doesn’t mean we stop fishing.