I am no fisherman. I readily admit that.
However, while writing this post, I am sitting in a rented RV parked in Bull Shoals State Park in Arkansas. It's beautiful here and apparently, this park and the White River that runs around it are popular destinations for vacationers, fishermen and women and retired people who tour the country in their RVs.
It's a beautiful place.
My wife has been desiring to come back here for a weekend just like this for years. As a girl, her family would come here regularly and this place holds many fond memories for her. So, for the first time in a long time, we were able to join her parents and other family members for the annual camping trip at Bull Shoals.
Though I am not a fisherman, my father-in-law is and we have spent some time this weekend on the river. It's been fun fishing with my wife and children and in-laws. We have even caught our share of rainbow trout.
Jesus said to Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, the professional fishermen, when He called them to follow Him. . .
Jesus used their profession as a way of introducing them to a higher calling.
Jesus called men from many different professions, but you don't hear him telling Matthew, "Follow me and I will make you tax collectors of men." So there must be an intentionality about this fish analogy.
After a full couple of days of fishing, with at least one more ahead of me, here are some simple observations about fishing for fish and how it relates to fishing for men. I'm sure none of this is original, but it's what's coming to mind right now.
- I DON'T HAVE THE GIFT OF FISHING. Being a non-fisherman is not a good excuse for not fishing. I could have stayed in the RV while everyone else fished, but then I would have missed out on the fun and the stories of the day. I've heard many believers say "I don't have the gift of evangelism." Interesting how that one line can keep many believers from ever sharing the Gospel.
- I'M NOT SURE WHAT TO DO NEXT. It's good to go fishing with someone who has done it before. The value of a mentor is clear here. My father-in-law is a great fisherman, but he's a better teacher. He is patient and allows for mistakes, but if you listen well, you can learn to fish. A new believer can fish for men immediately, but it is good to have a mentor as well. God always seems to provide an older, wiser believer to walk along side us on our journey.
- THE RETURN ON INVESTMENT SEEMS SMALL. I cast the line many, many times and only had two bites (well, two that stayed on the hook.) Since the daily limit is five, it appears that very few fishermen catch a fish every time they cast the line. Perspective shows us the value of every casting of the line. I had no idea which casting would result in a fish. However, if I had not cast the line I am certain I would have caught nothing. It's amazing how valueable those two fish seem right now. When sharing the Gospel, all too often we become discouraged. Many stop. The truth is if you stop sharing, you will lead no one to Christ.
- JUST ONE CATCH ENERGIZES YOU TO KEEP FISHING. It's amazing how catching one fish can energize you to try to catch more. I caught one early this morning. Before catching that trout, I had convinced myself that if I didn't catch any, it would be OK. Then, I had convinced myself that if I could just catch one, that would be enough. Once I caught one. . .well, I wanted another.
- THERE IS GREAT JOY IN SEEING OTHERS CATCH AS WELL. Unless you're in a competition (and many times, especially with family and siblings, it is a competetion) there is joy when others catch fish. My wife, Tracy caught four today. My daughter, Ashley caught three. My son, Daniel caught two. Each time, we celebrated. I also noticed something else. Whenever another boat would come by or another fishermen would arrive on the bank, the question "How many have you caught?" would come up. There are apparently enough fish in this river for every fisherman and then some. Therefore, we weren't jealous when others were successful catching fish and we even celebrated when others found success.
- THERE IS MUCH WORKING AGAINST US. There are forces that work against the fisherman easily catching a fish. The flow of the river, the tangling of hooks on the bottom, the continual distractions from other boats on the river, and the fish seemingly not wanting to be caught all work against us. Consequently, fishing, though worth it, is not easy.
- RESULTS VARY. Some days you will catch the limit. Other days, you won't have a nibble. It will seem that nothing has changed, but apparently things have. There is value in using what works as bait, but there are times the bait needs to be upgraded, the timing must be different and the seasons must be observed. In other words, what works one day in catching fish may not work the next.
- THE LAW STILL MATTERS. As we were on our boat bringing in the trout a couple of nice guys boated up to us. They were congenial and easy to talk with. However, they each had badges on and were visiting with us on official business. The Fish & Wildlife Game Wardens (or Water Police as my wife called them) came to check our licenses and to see if we were over our limit. Everything was good. They went along their way. We live under grace, but the law was not thrown out. In fact, Christ said he came to fulfill, not abolish the law. So. . .we learned today there was a right (legal) way to fish and a wrong (illegal) way to fish.
- IT'S BETTER WHEN WE WORK TOGETHER. I caught my first fish while on the shore alone this morning. The rest of the family had taken the boat to the other side of the river. However, being the non-fisherman, I had no tools but my rod and reel. That was enough to hook the fish, but he (the fish) had swallowed the hook and my fat fingers couldn't fit in his mouth deep enough to get the hook out. I needed some pliers or trout scissors to remove this hook. I worked on him for about fifteen minutes to no avail. My father-in-law and nephews with tools were on the other side of the river, so I just sat there wondering how I could fix this. I tried using the stringer to no avail. Finally, I asked the dear lady fishing downstream from me if she had any trout scissors I could borrow. She did and of course, we began to talk. I met a new friend, removed the hook from my fish and was able to continue fishing.
- OTHERS MAY NOT UNDERSTAND HOW BIG OF A DEAL YOUR FISH IS. Not everyone may be as excited about your catch as you are. Don't worry about other's perceptions. That fish is a big deal. Believe me, that fish realizes how big a deal it was that he was hooked. The Bible states that angels rejoice in heaven each time a soul is saved. Sometimes Christians dumb down salvations to just numbers. Remember, each number is a person. Each person is a soul. Each soul is a big deal.
It's been a good day. Everyone is tired right now and very thankful the RV has air conditioning. It's only 106 degrees outside.
Oh, and the picture of my fish. . .well, in real life, it was larger than it appears here. You believe that, don't you?