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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

"Fishers of Men"

"They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.  But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. So Jesus said to them, 'Children, you do not have any fish, do you?'  They answered Him, 'No.'" (John 21:3-5).

Anyone who's ever been fishing knows the frustration that the disciples expressed in the daily text. I used to enjoy fishing when I was younger but I need to be catching to enjoy the experience and I never caught many fish!

Photo of Donegal CreekDonegal Creek, a beautiful spring-fed trout stream, is near our home. We had a beautiful warm day yesterday so late afternoon Brooksyne and I went wading barefoot in the creek, along with our dog.  I am so glad my fifty year old wife will still do that with me and really enjoy it!  Here's a photo of Ester, along with two of her friends, on a foot bridge crossing the creek.

Have you ever worked hard in some form of Christian service and not "caught" anything?  Of course the answer for each of us is "yes".  We've all been involved in some form of ministry for Christ that, at least for a season, seems to be going nowhere.  We're not catching anything.  We don't see receptivity or growth.  That's so discouraging.  But we need to stay faithful and listen to the voice of our Master and learn from a fishing trip the disciples had.

In one of those remarkable post-resurrection stories Peter and his buddies went fishing all night and caught nothing.  I believe the NASV captures the essence of how Christ asked them early the next morning, "Children, you do not have any fish, do you?" Of course the resurrected Lord knew they hadn't caught anything!

Jesus had some specific fishing advice. "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some."  Peter didn't hesitate and they had a great catch of 153 large fish. It's always been interesting to me that they counted them and it was included in the Scripture account.  (That's one of those apparently useless details I've memorized!)

We need to trust and obey. There will be discouraging times and mysterious delays in our walk with the Lord. I am sure there was for the disciples and other early followers of our Lord. Notable leaders throughout church history had these experiences as well. Charles Spurgeon looked back upon dark hours in his own life and said: "I bear willing witness that I owe more to the fire, and the hammer, and the file, than to anything else in my Lord's workshop. I sometimes question whether I have ever learned anything except through the rod. When my schoolroom is darkened, I see most."

But Jesus had said to Peter and his brother Andrew when they first met, "Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19).  Peter indeed became a great fisher of men and in some ways we are all his spiritual descendents. We are all called to be fishers of men. Stay faithful out there.  The catch is coming!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen C. Weber

Brooksyne's prayer: Jesus, it is during times of discouragement or bewilderment that I find myself most attentive to godly instruction.  It seems my heart is more yielded and my mind is more absorbing of the truths You want to convey when I am no longer trying to take charge.  Help me to always remember that You are the Potter and I am the clay.  I welcome the hand of the Potter to break me and reshape me into the most useful and enduring vessel that will bring glory to the Master Potter.

PS: Several years earlier during His earthly ministry Jesus had been teaching from Peter's boat and when He had finished speaking, he said to Peter, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch" (v.4).  Peter and his friends had worked all night with no success.  They were likely now weary from the long night and the morning of teaching.  They didn't want to go out again and Peter forthrightly expresses his feelings, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything."  But he added, "But because you say so, I will let down the nets."  

Do you recall what happened next?  "When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break!  So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink." (This account is found in Luke 5).

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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