We each grabbed a wiggling fish with our bare hands. There, ten feet below the surface of the sparkling clear green river, we broke the neck of the fish and swam up to deposit each on the floor of our dugout canoe. After gasping for fresh air, we dove down again to where our cast net was draped over a huge boulder. The fish darted from under the boulder at the sight of us. The big ones were caught in the net by their gills. Another fish, another gasp of air! We repeated the fishing until the net was empty. The village chief and I caught over eighty fish that day. That was a fun fishing trip!
Several weeks later the entire village went fishing in the same river and caught much, much more.
This time the villagers washed a particular kind of tree bark in the water. They beat the bark on the rocks with clubs and rinsed the bark in the river. The clear green water turned milky white as it mixed with the sap. Downstream the smaller fish floated belly up to the surface. Medium size fish swam sluggishly. Women and children scooped them out with hand nets and baskets. Men swam in the water and speared the bigger fish or pulled them to shore with bigger nets. (Many of the fish ended up in sacrifices of food offered to the spirits of the gardens.)
We went where the fish were. In all of my travels I have not yet caught fish on a dry mountain trail. To catch fish you must go where the fish are. It also helps to fish with someone who knows both where the fish live and how to catch the fish.
Not everyone catches fish the same way.
Near the lake of Gennesaret, the fishermen were washing their nets when Jesus used Simon’s boat to speak the word of God to the crowds along the shore.
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.” Luke 5:4-5
The reluctant fishermen filled up their nets, called for another boat and both boats were filled so full that they began to sink.
Another time, seven of the disciples were together.
Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” “We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night.
At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?” “No,” they replied. Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it. John 2:3-6
Would it not have been wonderful to be in the boat when Jesus told His disciples to put the net on the other side? They listened to Him, they believed Him and received the benefits of obedience.
I think one of the points that Jesus was making is that God fills the nets. We might go where the fish are, but God alone fills the nets.
Jesus knows the joy of catching fish and used fishing to illustrate what He had in mind for His disciples. He told them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)
He has invited us in on the catch.
This is where we are in ministry. We are calling for the other boats.
The need is great. That is a great motivator. One tribesman threatened to cut of his finger as a sign of his grief that he has no one to tell him about God. (Finger story.) With 100 people groups asking for missionaries to tell them about God, we need laborers. We need fishers of men. We need people who will declare God’s glory to people who are apparently eager to hear. We also need people to declare His great glory to people who have no idea of His greatness. We need people who will persevere over a long time in the marathon missions work of planting indigenous, self-governing, Bible-believing, reproducing churches among remote people groups. However the need will not sustain a missionary in this work. Nor will the desire to lay up treasure in heaven.
The greater motivator is the awareness of the greatness of God’s glory. He is so wonderfully good in every way that this motivates us to share the wonderful riches of His glory and proclaim His worthiness of our worship everywhere. It is all about Him.
As believers in Christ, we have been given the honor of being His ambassadors, carrying the message of reconciliation in the ministry of bringing people to God. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
A big part of our current ministry is inviting people in on the catch. We are fishing for fishers of men.
Just as Jesus went to the water to find His fishermen, we are going to aviation events, universities, schools and churches to find help.
A missionary kid who was raised in South America once showed me how to catch fish with his bare hands. He waded into the water to his thighs and lightly slapped his leg in the water until the fish came to investigate. If he could see the fish, if he was fast enough, if the fish was unwary, then he could slowly move his hands under the fish and suddenly throw it up out of the water on to the shore.
Here in the West it seems that we are often using rods and reels. We splash a fancy glittering lure and pull it in hoping some fish will see it as attractive and chase it. Some times this is effective. Much of the time it is not. Should we get a better lure?
We do have to go fishing! We need to invite other people to go fishing with us to receive a bigger catch and involve them with the blessings. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God which is shared by messengers who are sent. This is true not only of the faith of salvation but for the faith of those who will be fishers of men. Bringing people to see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God is much more exciting than catching fish! The results are much more long lasting!
While we may be out where the fish are, it is God who guides the fish to where we can bring them in. Some are just waiting to be brought in.
It is all about God’s glory, not the glory of the fishermen. Maybe that’s why He told us this:
“… The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest. Luke 10:2
Will you take a moment to pray for us? We need the wisdom, the means and the open doors to go where the laborers are and bring them into the glorious harvest. Will you take a moment right now to pray with us for laborers? Will you ask God to fill our nets? Thank you!