Fishing is a Skilled Sport   2 comments

Everyone who’s ever been fishing has an elaborate story of their great catch. The culmination of their toils and their preparations and their sacrifices leads to a few prized possesions at the end of the day. Every once in a while, someone catches a prize that ends up being the stuff of legends. Even I, an amateur fisherman at best, have a story of my greatest catch. I was fishing off the coast of Baja California, about 500 miles south of the border. My uncle and I were down there fishing for three days. (In fishing, days consist of the time between 5 AM and noon). On my second night, I believe, late in the morning, something tugged at my line. In my three days there, I caught about 30-50 fish, all whitefish between 10-15 lbs., but one. This one didn’t come easy like the other ones. I was reeling and reeling my line for what seemed like hours, but in reality, I wasn’t far too off. It took me about 45 minutes to reel in my first and only sheephead, weighing in at around 20 lbs. This doesn’t seem like too great of an accomplishment, but catching a sheephead at any weight is an accomplishment. It’s probably equivalent to catching a 40-lb. whitefish. After I caught the sheephead, I broke off one of its teeth and put it in my pocket. (Too bad I lost it before I got back to California.) I treasured that sheephead so much because of how tough it was for me to get it. This is just some of what I went through to get that fish:

– 12-hr ride in the back of a van, the last hour of which was offroading (the return trip was another 12-hrs)
– freezing my butt off at night sleeping in the back of the van
– waking up at 4 AM and warming myself next to the tire fire
– not taking a shower for three days, reeking of fish guts

Yet, I was happy to do it, because, in the end, I caught a sheephead. It wasn’t easy–besides the torturous prepartion, it took skill: I had to use the right kind of bait (I think I used large sardines), lower the line the right way, tempt the fish the right way by slowly reeling in the line to make the sardine look as if it were alive, and I had to reel in the fish as quickly as possible while making sure that there wasn’t so much tension that the fishing line would snap. Besides all of this, I needed luck. Or, so I thought it was luck. But now, I realize it to be the providence of God in helping me better understand a small portion of Christ’s teachings.

Jesus told some of His disciples in Matthew 5: “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fisherman had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat. When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him. (Luke 5:1-11)

Understand how absurd it is for Jesus to tell Simon to “let down your nets for a catch.” The conditions were all wrong. Simon was a fisherman–if this was the right time to be fishing, he would’ve already been out in the water rather than going out there at the command of Jesus. Wrong time of the day, wrong place in the water, wrong temperature… wrong, wrong, wrong. That’s why catching a fish was such a miracle. But Simon didn’t catch a fish–he caught a grip load of fish. Enough to need to call over another boat, almost sinking both boats in the process. This wasn’t Jesus doing a magic trick, entertaining everyone. This was Jesus calling on the hand of God from heaven to bring down a bona-fide pot of gold.
At the end of Christ’s miracle, he says to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” I bet they had some understanding of what Christ meant by this. After all, he was teaching them all day before He called on this miracle. They must have thought that it was going to be a crazy harvest, with thousands upon thousands being saved. Although there were times of mass salvation, there were also dry times. The disciples understood this concept of being “fishers of men” because they understood what it meant to be “fishermen.”

I think that one of our problems today is an oversimplification of evangelism by not really taking to heart the implications of it all. Yes, it is the work of God that saves. However, we have to fully engage our parts as His tools for salvation. Being called a fisherman of God entails faith and trust in the saving work of God’s hand, but it also entails understanding, preparation, and discernment.

There needs to be an understanding of what evangelism entails. We know the gospel, but I must confess that my understanding of salvation theology is remedial. We all understand enough to be saved and, therefore, can share that same salvific message with others. But I think we can all attest to times when we were sharing the gospel and couldn’t answer a question or respond to an objection or can’t quite remember a Scripture verse. Yes, God can work through that, but we have an opportunity to understand our faith much more, not just for head knowledge, but so that the message of God can be further progressed.

The understanding of the gospel goes into preparation, but there is much more entailed in it. We can prepare ourselves by understanding other faiths and their objections. We can prepare ourselves by praying for gospel opportunities to bombard us each and every day. We can prepare ourselves to be “fishers of men” just as people would prepare to be fishers of fish. It will call for a sacrifice (maybe not a showerless weekend), but a sacrifice of time and, even, relationships to a certain extent. Included in the preparation is the actual action of going out to share the gospel. There is a line of thought among some believers that man initiates his relationship with God. But thinking that a man initiates his pursuit of God is as absurd as a fish thinking that he initiated his relationship with the fisherman. The sheephead did not jump into my lap. I prepared myself to catch him, but, most importantly, I dropped my line and dangled my bait in front of him. Likewise, we need to dangle the bait of salvation before the mouths of men so that, by the grace of God, they would realize their need for such food and would eventually lunge into the loving arms of God.

And finally, there is discernment. Simon Peter had discernment. He wasn’t going to be out fishing all night because he knew that he wouldn’t catch anything. That’s why he and the other fishermen were cleaning their nets. Such discernment, however, should always be subordinated to the calling of Christ. When Christ called, even though it would seem illogical to an experienced fisherman, Simon went out and let down his nets. But know that Jesus called fisherman to be “fishers of men.” Fishermen know how to approach the fish. Some fish like the bait propped right out in front of them. Some like them running away from them at a fast pace, like a real fish would. Some just don’t care and will go at anything that’s thrown in front of them. In Paul’s Semon on Mars Hills in Acts 17, Paul (though not a fisherman by trade) starts off with the words of an experienced fisherman: “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.” Part of being a fisherman of God is to understand how to approach people. Everyone isn’t fit for the Four Spiritual Laws. One of the greatest difficulties I have with evangelism is an ability to meet people where they’re at. This is different from the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel that meets people where they’re at and provides a false hope to attain the worldly things they desire. Rather, we are to be like Paul by understanding what they seek and showing them how that leads to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Understanding… preparation… discernment. We all will have hobbies in the future: engineers, doctors, lawyers, linguists, designers, accountants, and employees at cars.com. But we are all professional fisherman. And our Employer keeps us on the clock 24-7 until the time when we meet Him in the air. Yet, so often, we neglect our duties. My bait isn’t good enough, my time’s too precious to fish, I don’t like the stench of it all, I am a bad fisherman. Yet, in understanding the skill involved in being “fishers of men”, I hope we would not neglect the thrill of experiencing God place a fish on our hook so that we could take it for a 45-minute ride that would reel it into the arms of God.

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Posted August 25, 2009 by Mitchell J. Kim in Uncategorized

2 responses to “Fishing is a Skilled Sport

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  1. i like this one. i can attest to all that fishing stuff. i thought you were just talking about fishing at first. encouraging analogy…

    u take pictures with your large fish? unless there be proof… =)

    • Hi Estella,

      I put up a picture for you. Unfortunately, that sad looking fish is the only recording I have… and the only reason I look so sissy in catching it is because the fins are poisonous. So I didn’t wanna bother with it. 🙂

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