Fishing and Following

Fishing and Following

by Keith Lippy

One time when I was a little boy my father took my brother and I fishing. I had an open-faced fishing reel that I wasn’t very good at operating. As I attempted to cast the line into the pond, the line snagged somehow and landed far off to the left of where I was aiming for. I began reeling it in and there seemed to be something attached to it that felt like a dead weight. I thought it must be a stick or something. I finally got it to the pier, and lo and behold, I had not one, but two nice bass on one lure! 

Maybe you already have figured out where I am going with this. In the Bible, the comparison is made between fishing and reaching others with the gospel of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 4: 18-22, we see the story of how Jesus recruited his first followers (fishermen) who were to become fishers of men. 

“While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he (Jesus) saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he (Jesus) called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.”

An old preacher at a church I used to attend used to say, “If you are following Jesus, you are fishing.”
Then he said the opposite is also true: “If you aren’t fishing, then you are not following.” 

Jesus has commanded and called each person who claims to be His followers, to fish for men and women, which is what we now call evangelism. This means to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ’s birth, death, burial, and resurrection (the gospel) to everyone and anyone we can. It means to testify or witness to the change that this good news has made in our lives to people that we come in contact with. He said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” No matter where we find ourselves, at home in Maryland or Pennsylvania or on the other side of the globe, this is the task that our Master has called us to. Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.”

Not only has Jesus commanded us to fish for people, but he has also supplied the bait. Some fishing baits are good, but there are others that have a special attraction and are even better. My favorite fishing bait is called “Power Bait.” It has an oily residue and smell that fish are attracted to. The Apostle Paul told us that the gospel is like “Power Bait.” Here is what I mean. Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” When a person bites on the “Power Bait” of the gospel, they soon realize that what David said in the Psalms is true, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:8)

You see, to take the fishing analogy to the next level, there are several intrinsic traits that are natural to fish that make them want to go after bait that is presented to them. One of these traits is that they are hungry. In general, people are also hungry for something and may not know what it is that they are looking for. People may try to fill the void in their hearts with all sorts of things: worldly success, material wealth, physical pleasure, drug abuse, sexual perversion, even changing their gender. But the reality is that only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ can satisfy their hunger or thirst. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35) 

Another parallel between fishing is the attractiveness of the bait. Fish bait is something that appeals to the fish, just as people are generally enamored with the spiritual, particularly the prospect of eternal life. If we can develop a trusting relationship with another person, many times people are attracted to the bait of the gospel, regardless of our personal frailty. 2 Corinthians 4:7 says it this way, “But we have this treasure (the gospel) in jars of clay (our human bodies), to show that this surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 

The last trait I have found in fish that compels them at times to attack a lure is the fact that sometimes you irritate them by encroaching on their territory. When this happens, many times they will grab the bait to remove it from their territory, then they get hooked and can’t release the lure. I have seen instances where the gospel pricks a person’s conscience and the conversation ends. You think at the time that you have had no success in affecting them with the gospel, that the conversation is over. But as days, weeks, or sometimes years go by, that person never forgets the message of the gospel. The Holy Spirit uses the message you delivered and the person just can’t seem to “spit it out.” And in some instances, they eventually come to faith in Jesus Christ. 

I could probably continue but I think I have taken the fishing analogy far enough! On a serious note, our job, the reason that we as followers of Jesus Christ were put on this planet, is to glorify God by testifying to the fact that Jesus Christ is King, Lord, and Savior. And one day, whether a person likes it or not, or whether they believe it or not, they will bow their knee and confess that Jesus Christ is everything the Bible says He is. The Bible says, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-10)

There is a saying that goes like this, “A bad day fishing is better than a good day working.” We have the privilege and opportunity to go fishing every day. Sometimes we will catch stuff, some days we won’t. But either way we glorify God and fulfill his plan and purpose for our lives by pointing people to the only thing that really matters: where they will spend eternity.

Keith Lippy is a member of Living Hope Church.