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Lessons From Fishing

“So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.  When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”  But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”  For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” 11 So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.”    -  Luke 5

This passage tells of a time when the Lord Jesus climbed into Simon Peter’s boat and asked him to put it out a little from the land, so He could sit down and teach the Word to the multitudes.  As an avid fisherman, and an owner of more boats than I can recall, I can’t help but put myself in Simon Peter’s shoes for a moment and take in the magnitude of what Jesus was about to teach us, and from quite a unique pulpit!  Every pulpit is a “fishing boat,” a place to give out the Word of God and attempt to catch fish. Jesus told His disciples that He would make them fishers of men. This does not mean that you and I will catch fish every time we give out the Word—the disciples didn’t—but it does mean that the one on board must not forget what must be our primary focus, which is to fish for the souls of men. After Jesus had finished speaking to the people, He transitioned to “fishing for fish” and told Simon Peter, “Launch out into the deep and let your nets down for a catch.”  In a sense, Jesus was telling them (and showing them) what the fishing could be like, if we do it HIS way instead of OUR way.  This resulted in catching such a great number of fish that the net was breaking, and had a profound impact on Simon Peter, who fell down at Jesus’ knees and exclaimed “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!  Jesus reassured Simon Peter, telling him to not be afraid, and that from now on, they will catch men!

The phrase “Fishers of Men” was also recorded in Mark and Matthew, and was spoken by Jesus when He was calling two of His disciples, Simon Peter and Andrew, to follow Him. “As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him” (Mark 1:16–18; see also Matthew 4:19).  We are instructed to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18–20). Just as we need equipment to be fishermen, we need equipment to be fishers of men. Putting on the full armor of God is one way to be ready at all times, with everything we need (Ephesians 6:10–18). Especially important are the “Shield of Faith” with which we ward off the efforts of Satan, who doesn’t want to see men saved by the gospel of Christ (v. 16) and the “Sword of the Spirit”, which is the Word of God (v. 17). Without these two pieces of spiritual equipment, we will find fishing for men’s souls impossible.

Not only must we have the armor of God as our equipment, but we must also know the fish we are trying to catch. Knowing the lost condition of the people around us will help us to understand that, no matter how good we are at fishing, we will never “catch” the fish on our own. No reasoned argument will convert the soul of a darkened mind, because “the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). But God can and frequently does penetrate the darkness with his Gospel, and He uses us to do it. He knows which “fish” are His; therefore, we are to seek His wisdom and His guidance on all our fishing expeditions. Prayer is essential.

We must offer the only effective net—the gospel of Jesus Christ. To those who are perishing, the message of the cross is foolishness, but to us, it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). The gospel message has the power to change lives and deliver evil men from hell. There is power in no other message, and no other “net” can catch the "fish" of God. “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16). This was Jesus’ message to Peter and Andrew—follow Me, learn of Me, know and understand My mission and My message. Only then will you be able to be fishers of men.

There are many lessons for us here. Fishing is an art: You must go where the fish are; you must use the right kind of bait; you must be patient; but the most important lesson He is teaching us is that we must fish according to His instructions. If we are ever going to win men for Him, we must fish according to His instructions. 

 Every fisherman worth his salt checks the weather prior to departure, especially if the trip involves a boat that will be any significant distance from land.  Environmental conditions are extremely important to the success of a trip and involve many things such as water temperature, tidal flow, wind speed/direction, and water clarity.  As a parallel, we must take advantage “when the conditions are right” for a good catch of the souls of men for the Kingdom of God.  One must be prepared, at any time to “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and encourage with every form of patient instruction” 2 Timothy  4:2.  Having the discernment of knowing and being able to see ripe opportunities for a rich harvest are part of the “toolbox” for us as Christians, as well as knowing when are the best times to approach someone to discuss spiritual matters.  Jesus expects us to take advantage of every opportunity that comes about to preach the word, as the Lord so aptly demonstrated on the shores of the Lake of Gennesaret.

All of us seasoned fisherman undoubtedly have more lures than we can use, some of which have never even been out of the packaging.  I know for myself, I have multiple tackle boxes for freshwater, saltwater, offshore, inshore, and surf fishing.  It is safe to say I have more “fishing tools” than I can ever use.  I would encourage you to not have multiple boxes of “spiritual lures” that never come out of their containers to see the light of day, much less get attached to the end of the line and tossed into the water.  Like my Grandpa always said, you’re guaranteed to never catch any fish if your line isn’t in the water.  Don’t let your spiritual line stay dry; get in the lake or the bay and get to fishing for the souls of men at any opportunity that arises!                                       

  - Erik Peterson