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Lessons from the Farm – Fishing

by Bob Yarbrough

When we go for a long time without rain as we have done this fall and winter, it puts a strain on farmers and ranchers. Feed is scarce, grass is exceedingly dry, and the potential for fire increases. Not too many good things can be said about a drought. However, one thing happens that makes me smile. It is good for fishing with my grandkids. Since our two ponds are what we call “run-off” ponds (they fill on the basis of run-off water from rains), they have measurably decreased in size; but the same number of fish remain in less water. That makes the fishing better. More fish in less water equals more frequent catches – even for the kids, and that is why I smile. Watching a child catch a fish is an enjoyable sight to me. I have taught my grandkids the art of bank fishing with a cork and bait. They can bait the hook, set the hook, reel in the fish, hold it properly while removing the hook, then gently release it into the water again as we never keep the fish. We just tell it to go get bigger and we will catch you again.

One Sunday not long ago some of the family came over after church to have lunch and spend the afternoon doing what kids like to do – ride the four-wheeler, play basketball, and …..go fishing! Each kid had his own pole and all we had was worms for bait, so off we went, assured that the fish were biting, and that we were going to have a great day hauling them in. Immediately, Kayla, our oldest, pulled in a two pound bass, so we thought it was going to be a great day for all of us; but then things went south. No more bites, not even a nibble. My son and I quit fishing and started shooting at turtleheads popping up in the water with my trusty 22 caliber rifle. Too many turtles in a pond are not good for a pond, nor for the fish in it. But Joseph, age seven and the youngest, would not be denied; he was determined to catch some fish. He knew that if he would just be patient, things would get better; and sure enough they did. He has more patience than all of the grandkids combined. He put a smaller size hook on his pole and began pulling in fish as quickly as he could release the ones he had just caught. He probably caught about twenty little fish that day. Most of them were small blue-gill perch, but that was OK with Joseph. The thrill was in getting bites and then pulling them in. We all just sat back and enjoyed his success. It was a great day catching fish; and incidentally, we got a few turtles too.

In one of those moments while I was trying to be patient, I thought about the story in the Bible when the disciples, frustrated because of recent events, went fishing and they did not catch a single fish all night. When Jesus told them to put their nets on the right side of the boat, they caught so many, 153 large fish, they could not even haul the net inside the boat. Later He cooked a fish breakfast for them (Jn. 21:1-14). Of course the lesson for them (and us) in that incident was to trust and obey Him. You see, Jesus knew how to catch fish. Early in his ministry, Jesus called 12 men to follow Him, 7 of which were fishermen. One wonders why so many fishermen? Was it because these men were courageous as they faced the hazards and storms on the Sea of Galilee? Jesus needed brave men to follow Him. Fishermen were dedicated (or single-minded) toward the task of fishing. In other words, they were not easily distracted. As professionals, they were not quitters. They worked together and knew how to take orders. Jesus knew he could take these qualities and hone them into service for Him. Yet after three years of instruction and internship, they still failed Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and after the Crucifixion. There still remained the need, on this occasion, for Jesus to reinforce the importance of “fishing” to His disciples, by teaching them to trust and obey Him for their fishing results.

The kind of fishing that Jesus was talking about was much different than landing a bass, a perch, or catfish When He initially gathered His 12 disciples with an invitation to follow Him, He said to Peter, one of the fishermen, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men” (Luke. 5:10). Peter did just that. He caught the first men in Jerusalem (Acts 2), in Judea and Samaria (Acts 8), and in the Gentile world (Acts 10) just as the outline of the Book of Acts described (Acts 1:8). Fishing for men has been the impetus and the campaign of Christianity from that invitation forward. After the Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus Christ the fishing has been phenomenal. The Book of Acts records the spread of Christianity by men who were described as turning the world upside down for Christ. From those days until now countless millions have given their lives to Jesus Christ, for as the scripture says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Jesus performed this fishing miracle in John 21 for a very visual instructional purpose. We have already mentioned the idea of trust and obedience. In addition it served as an illustration of how the Lord helps his people fish for lost souls. All of our efforts are totally useless apart from His direction and blessing. During this present age, we are unaware of how many fish are caught or how many we have helped catch. Sometimes it seems that the nets are breaking, and at other times they seem dry. But the Lord not only knows where the fish are located, he ushers them into the net. Our job is to cast the net where He tells us. It will remain until the end of the age, when we see the Lord, how many “good fish” there are. Not one good fish will be lost (Matt. 13:47-49). However, a most unusual contrast occurs when we fish for men. While a fisherman catches live fish, they die when he gets them into the boat. On the other hand, a Christian witness seeks to catch “dead fish” (dead in their sins: Eph. 2:1), but when they’re caught, they are made alive in Christ (Rom. 6:11). I think we now have a better understanding of why Jesus had so many fishermen in that first company of disciples. We are fishers of men and there are dead “fish” all around us. If we trust Him and obey His instructions, we will catch “fish” who will come alive by believing in Jesus Christ.

I certainly enjoyed watching my grandson catch fish. He was very good at it. Who knows, since Joseph has the patience and the dedication to stay with a task, and since he has a knack for catching fish, perhaps the Lord might be preparing him to “catch men and women” for Christ in some organized or formal way. I certainly hope so, because Jesus needs more good fishermen! But not only Joseph, I want all my grandkids to be magnets that “catch” people for Christ. I want their lives to be living examples for Jesus Christ. I pray that it be said of each of them what the Apostle Paul said to the Philippian Christians, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put into practice”(Phil. 4:9). As he mirrored Christ, Paul wanted people to imitate him (1 Cor. 4:16). He knew how to be a fisherman too.

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If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Romans 14:8