I am convinced that deep down in our hearts we all want to be used by God; we want to see people come to Jesus and get saved; or using Jesus’ words, we want to be “Fishers of Men.” But before we can catch anyone else, there are a few principles that we must catch ourselves. Which? Dive in!
About a few weeks ago, without any previous warnings, my 5 years old daughter asked me if we can go fishing. “Go fishing?!” I said “I don’t know how to fish, and I don’t even have a fishing rod.” My daughter didn’t seem to see it as a major problem. She had a very easy and logical solution to it: “Buy one!” Not being easily convinced, nor being very enthusiastic about the whole idea, I managed to somehow change the topic of our conversation, hoping that this will help me stay in my comfort zone of playing with a ball, or sharing a ball of ice-cream… or anything else related to balls.
I certainly didn’t have any plans on going to buy a fishing rod. To my total surprise, it didn’t take long before I found myself right next to quite a selection of fishing rods, when all I was trying to do was to save some money by buying food in one of those huge grocery stores. I thought it was interesting, as I never saw any fishing rods there before. Wondering if God was trying to tell me something, I took a closer look at the rods, starting to consider “obeying God” by buying a fishing rod…
When I started to read the different tags on each rod, I began to realize that fishing is more complicated than I thought. Apparently, there are all kinds of rods, a variety of hooks and many types of floats and baits. Mercy! You really need to know what kind of fish you want to catch before you can even determine which fishing equipment to buy! Feeling kind of overwhelmed by all the new information and possibilities, I felt even more unqualified to go fishing than ever before.
Now let’s rewind 2000 years or so. Here we are in Israel, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Simon (Peter) and his brother Andrew are casting a net into the sea. Jesus sees them and is about to change their whole lives with one sentence: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mat. 4:19) Two verses down the road Jesus is calling two other Jewish fishermen, James and his brother John, for the same mission, to become fishers of men.
It is fascinating to me that Jesus chose four fishermen as His four first disciples. Think about it – Jesus called fishermen to follow Him and become fishers of men. Is that a coincidence? Surely not! Is there something in fishing that we need to ‘catch’ for us to become successful fishers of men? You bet there is! As an evangelist to the physical descendants of these four Jewish fishermen, I always try to follow basic fishing principles.
Before sailing forward with any fishing techniques (which I will not have the space to cover them all here), let’s put our anchor down and start with the most important principle of all – Following Jesus! Without doing that, we will do better to just stay on the shore. It is not for us to lead the boat; we are only called to follow His leading.
Here’s a very recent example: Israel Media Ministries is now heading toward a major new evangelistic outreach. Since I choose not to have any employees but rather outsource per project to eliminate any unnecessary expense for the ministry, I needed God’s guidance on who to hire for each and every element of the campaign (website designer, programmer, animator, editor, etc.) Sometimes, when I am not quite sure, I will “test the waters” with a few different people. I have learned that this is a great way to gain clarity of direction and to find the peace that I am waiting for in order to move forward. Yes, if we want to be used by God, we must follow Jesus. Then, and only then, He will make us fishers of men. Otherwise, we will feel overwhelmed and unqualified just like I felt next to all those fishing rods, or even worst – we will feel like we can do it ourselves. Yet, catch nothing! (Luke 5:5, John 21:5)
Far less important than Following Jesus, but nevertheless a very crucial principle is what I call “Know Your Fish.” While we certainly should never ever change or compromise the message of the Gospel, we need to know who is it that we are trying to catch. That should help us determine where to go fishing and what equipment we should use. I love the way Paul explains it: “To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law… I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the Gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” (1 Cor. 9:19-23)
As a fisherman would select his bait based on the fish that he is after, when sharing the Gospel we should choose our words based on the person we are sharing with. When it comes to Jewish evangelism there are certain baits that not only will not catch anyone but will even scare people farther away. On the other hand, there are baits that will attract Jewish people and make them feel right at home in the arms of their very own Jewish Messiah.
Lastly, we all know there is one more very basic fishing principle – “Go to the Fish!” Very rarely will the fish come to us! Just as much as Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James and John, our Savior is calling you and I today to follow Him and become fishers of men. Will you join me? Come, jump into the boat and let’s go fishing!