My dad loved to fish. He could get up before the sun, head out to the lake or the Gulf of Mexico (when we were on vacation in Englewood, FL), and spend all day fishing, even if he never caught the first fish. I would often accompany him on these outings, but if the fish weren’t biting, I was ready to come in. And, if I had my druthers, I would rather wait until well after the light of day before I ventured out to fish.
I think my youngest son, Andrew, has inherited my father’s love for fishing. And, although he never got the chance to go fishing with Papa like his older brothers did, he nevertheless has a knack for catching fish. This past summer, during our family vacation to Puerto Penasco, Mexico, Andrew and I went fishing on the Sea of Cortez. For about two hours straight, Andrew reeled in fish after fish. I think if I would have let him, he would have stayed out on the water all day. As is it was, two hours was plenty!
While fishing can be fun, it is not often easy. Sometimes the water is choppy. Two days before Andrew and I went out, the whole family ventured out together. Let’s just say that the water was so rough that day (a Sunday morning when perhaps we should have been doing something other than fishing) that we did not even put a line into the water before asking the captain of the boat to take us back to shore.
Even when all conditions seem perfect, the fish just don’t seem to be biting. Other times, just when you feel like giving up, that’s when you hook the big one! Fishing for people is like that. I think that’s why Jesus used the analogy of fishing when he told Simon Peter and his brother, Andrew, and brothers James and John that He was going to turn them into fishers of men:
“Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, He (Jesus) saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, fro they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed Him. And going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed Him.” Mark 1:16-20, ESV
If we are followers of Jesus, then we will be “fishers of men.” And, we will catch people the same way that Jesus did — through the Good News of the Gospel! We call others through that same Gospel and belief in the truth of Jesus — the Only Begotten Son of the Father, who was crucified and buried, but who rose again and ascended into heaven and one day coming back again in power and glory for His bride, the Church!
As we fish for the souls of people, we are called to cast a wide Gospel net so that we can catch as many lost as possible with the message of hope, forgiveness, and salvation found in Jesus Christ and Christ alone. Of course, not everyone will want to be caught. There are many who simply will not respond to the Gospel by turning from sin and self (repentance) and turning to Jesus in faith.
However, we must never stop casting the Gospel net. And, as we do, we must always remember that it is Jesus — the Master Fisherman — who promises His followers that He will make us become fishers of men (and women). Why must He make us become? Because our natural self has no desire to fish for people. Our natural self does not want to be inconvenienced by even having to prepare to go fishing.
For far too many Christians want the fish to jump into the boat or to jump up onto dry land. We don’t want to have to inconvenience ourselves with actually going out to catch the fish where they are. That can be too time-consuming and too messy. We are fearful of getting out into the water because we don’t want to be too close to the lost fish.
That’s when we need to ask Jesus to help us to become the fishers of people who He wants us to be. To give us the strength and the boldness to wade out just a little bit deeper and cast the Gospel net into the sea of lostness. That will take prayer, practice, patience, and persistence. But, as young Andrew will tell you, it’s well worth the effort to catch fish!