I Will Make You Fishers of Men
In Matthew 4:19, we read Jesus’ words to fishermen by the Sea of Galilee, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” That invitation extends to us as well, because in the Great Commission, Christ charged His followers to go into all the world and “preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Jesus wants us to take part in the divine activity of God on this earth by carrying His truth to those who do not know Him. We all need to “go fishing”!
Years ago, when I was working on a presentation regarding evangelizing for a meeting of ministers, my wife Debbie drew a sketch of a fisherman, a fish, a tackle box, a bear, a hook, and a pond to depict our responsibility to be actively engaged in the task of reaching souls for Christ.
The fisherman represents us. The man in the sketch is the only person fishing, at least by that pond, but “fishing” is what we are called to do. Our responsibility is to share the Gospel, whether there are others around us who are serving God or not.
Shadrach Ajayi, the youngest son of Sam and Shade Ajayi in our Portland congregation, was an illustration of being a fisher of men. Shadrach lived for just seventy-three days and then passed away, but during his short life on this earth, his parents let it be known that Shadrach was a missionary. And indeed he was. Everyone who entered that hospital room heard a prayer on behalf of Shadrach. When a new nurse or doctor came on duty, Brother Sam always would ask everyone present to join in prayer, even though prayer had just been made with someone else who had walked in the room a few minutes earlier. Gospel literature was handed out in Shadrach’s name. Even when Shadrach passed away and the people from the funeral home were transporting his tiny body out on a gurney, Brother Sam stopped them and said, “Before you go, let’s have a prayer,” and everyone present prayed once again.
The Shadrach of the Book of Daniel also was a missionary away from home. He was a Hebrew—a missionary in the country of the Chaldeans. Shadrach Ajayi was an American from Henry Street in Portland, Oregon, and a missionary away from home at the Oregon Health & Science University hospital. Interestingly, both Shadrachs found themselves being missionaries in circumstances that were quite the opposite of what they would have planned. Shadrach of the Bible had been carried away from his home as a captive, but he became a missionary to the Chaldeans. Shadrach of Henry Street had been taken to the OHSU because of physical challenges, but once there he became a missionary to all who entered his hospital room.
That illustrates what it is to be a fisher of men. We want to be among those who fulfill the Great Commission, even when our plans go in a different way than we anticipated.
The fish represents a human soul. That individual may be a nurse, a doctor, the mortician, a classmate, a grocery store clerk, or a fellow employee, because wherever we go we cross paths with individuals. Every one of those people has a soul and thus is a potential candidate for the message we share.
We do not want to postpone our outreach efforts until sometime in the future. Jesus told His disciples, “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:35).
The concept of harvest time is familiar to all of us. Even those who have never lived in a farming environment at some point probably have had a little patch of backyard garden, or some pots with tomatoes or herbs growing out on the deck. We tend our plants carefully and look ahead with anticipation to the time when our green beans will be ready to pick or sun-ripened tomatoes can be plucked from the vines.
As the disciples of Jesus looked upon wheat fields which were not yet ripened, they commented that harvest was still four months away. While we have to wait until harvest time to gather what our plants produce, Jesus said, with respect to souls of men, “Don’t look out and say that there are yet four months until harvest. Go now! The fields are white and ready to harvest!”
We want to lift up our eyes and take notice of our opportunities. We want to be aware of those who need the Gospel. The time is now!
There are souls to be saved in our world today. A generation that is “ripe” to hear the sound doctrine of the Latter Rain Gospel exists all around us. We want to lift up our eyes and take notice of our opportunities. We want to be aware of those who need the Gospel. The time is now! Even if it is not apparent that the harvest is ready, in our field of labor the time of harvest is now, not four months from now.
The tackle box
The tackle box represents our tools—what God has given us to work with as we seek to win souls. We may not feel we have much in the way of capabilities or resources. However, what we have is enough! Think of God’s words to Moses when he expressed reluctance to go before Pharaoh and say, “Let my people go.” The Lord asked Moses, “What is in your hand?” When he replied that he had a rod, the message was, “Use it.” Like Moses, we are to use what God has given us, rather than to lament what we feel we lack.
Scripture tells us that Paul’s bodily presence was “weak” and his speech “contemptable.” However, the Apostle was bold in delivering God’s message. We, too, are called to utilize what God has equipped us with. We have the Word of the Lord. We have the sound doctrine of this Gospel. We can be bold and courageous as we proclaim it, because it is a message the world needs.
Prayer is another tool that we have in our tackle box, and how effective prayer is! When Peter and John passed by the impotent man at the Beautiful Gate, they were going to a prayer meeting, When God revealed to Cornelius that Peter would be coming, he was in prayer! We could go on and on with examples from Scripture. In our day as well, more can be done through prayer than we can imagine.
The enemy may appear as a roaring lion, a subtle serpent, an angel of light, or even a hungry bear, but he will show up. However, we can be courageous and expect that God will be with us as we do our best to fulfill the Great Commission.
Did you notice the bear in the sketch? The bear is after the fish and the fisherman, and not necessarily in that order! We are told in the Bible that our adversary goes about as a “roaring lion, . . . seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Most of us probably do not have lions roaming about in our vicinity, but we can expect to face adversity as we fish for souls. The enemy may appear as a roaring lion, a subtle serpent, an angel of light, or even a hungry bear, but he will show up. However, we can be courageous and expect that God will be with us as we do our best to fulfill the Great Commission.
A fisherman does not go fishing because it is easy. A fisherman gets up early, braves the elements, and incurs a great deal of expense for one reason: so he can catch fish. A true fisherman goes fishing because he enjoys fishing. How much more should we be willing to endure a bit of discomfort and adversity to win the souls of men?
The hook represents what we have to offer—the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not disguise the hook. He was not vague about the demands of the Gospel nor did He strive to make it look appealing. In fact, He said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:24-25). The Gospel has demands! We make no attempt to conceal the requirements of discipleship.
The hook implies pain. It is painful to come to God because we must acknowledge that we are sinners. We live in a religious world where sin frequently is glossed over and excused, and as a result, no deliverance is found. We do not try to hide the fact that coming to God may be a painful process. It requires confession and taking responsibility for one’s misdeeds and rebellion against God. But when an individual truly repents, his contrition and purpose to turn away from all sin provides a foundation for a solid Christian walk thereafter.
Sticking with the Gospel after one is saved is also painful in a sense, because it demands self-denial and taking up a cross daily. Again, we make no attempt to disguise that necessity. However, when a person experiences the results of making a full surrender to God and allowing Him to take control of their lives, they find wholehearted discipleship brings great blessing.
The pond represents where we find ourselves today. The question is whether or not we see the pond we are standing beside. It has been said, “Vision is the ability to see opportunities within one’s current circumstances.” Those words are attributed to a variety of sources, but whatever the origin, they apply to our opportunities for reaching out with the Gospel.
Rather than focusing on the challenges that surround us, we want to zero in on the opportunities that exist in our present circumstances.
Circumstances are rarely ideal. I think of Shadrach Ajayi’s parents, who were able to see their son’s terminal illness as a potential opportunity to reach souls. We could point to examples in the Word of God—think of the little maiden who served Naaman’s wife, or the three Hebrew children who were captives in Babylon. In both cases the individuals were in less than optimum situations, but they saw their “pond” and took advantage of the opportunity to be a missionary. Rather than focusing on the challenges that surround us, we want to zero in on the opportunities that exist in our present circumstances, even though those circumstances may be less than ideal.
So, notice the pond where you are. It may not be a big pond but it has a fish in it. Start fishing! The Lord has called you to be a fisher of men. There are fish that need to be caught and we want to obey the Lord’s Great Commission and do our best to evangelize the world.