Fishing for People

August 25, 2013   Matthew 4:18 – 22   Fishers of Men  

     In this passage Jesus calls some of his disciples and tells them follow me and I will make you fishers of men.   That raises an interesting question.   Can you follow Jesus and not be fishing for people?   What do you think?  Does following Jesus mean that you are trying to reach other people?   Can you be a disciple and not be reaching out to others?   It seems to me that if I am following closely to Jesus I will be in the process of being more like Jesus and  Jesus loved sinners.   Jesus loved people.   Jesus reached out to people.   Jesus poured out his soul unto death.   He told these men follow me and I will make you fishers of men.   It is no longer the fish in the water but people.   God has called us to be working as in business or in school or for some it is being a mother.  But I think if we are following Jesus behind what we do is the thought of bringing others into a closer relationship with God.   We want to point others to God because that is where Jesus heart is.  

    We can be a child of God and not be fishing for people.   We can be back sliding but we are not closely following Jesus.  If I persist in sinning then I am not walking with the Lord.   As we walk closely to the Lord we become more like him and Jesus loves people.   Jesus loves unlovely people.  

     Jesus said I will make you.   I will form you.  I will change you.   Your life will be different.  I am going to conform you into a person who seeks others.   I am going to make you a witness.   Jesus is saying I am going to mold you into something different.  The focus will turn from you to other people.  There will be a change in your life.   Many folks do not like to change.   Somehow we get comfortable with things the way they are.   Philippians tells us that all seek their own and not the things of Jesus Christ.   Jesus took those untrained men and went fishing with them.   He taught them to minister and to preach.   Jesus sent them out 2 by 2.   Jesus empowered them to preach and to cast out demons and to heal.   The disciples wanted to send little children away and Jesus said no don’t do it.   The disciples wanted to send the crowds away and Jesus instead ministered to them.   But Jesus also ministered unto the disciples.   He prayed for them and worked with them.  They were not an easy bunch to work with and neither are you and I.  We can be encouraged because they were not easy to work with.   There is hope for us.   Jesus can complete his work in us.   Jesus is not finished with you yet.   We all need to continue.   As we behold Jesus we are not a failure.   As we follow Jesus we are successful.

     There is a cost to following the Lord.    Make no mistake about it there is a cost.   We see in verse 20 that at once the disciples left their nets and followed Jesus.   They just sort of walked off.   It is like the person who tells the boss I have had enough and he picks up his stuff and walks out.   Mail my last check to me.   They saw something greater in Jesus than what they were living.   That was a big step of faith for them.   Peter at one point said Lord we left all and followed you.   Jesus will call you and me to leave some stuff behind.   Jesus calls us away from this world and tells us to get our eyes on the eternal.   Jesus calls us away from a life of sin.   Jesus calls us away from our self.  Our real life is in heaven with Jesus and God.   Paul uses the illustrations of a soldier, a farmer and an athlete in II Timothy.   Jesus calls us to be followers and to be fishers of men. 

    The movie, The Perfect Storm, well described the dangers of the fishing industry through the eyes of the crew of the fishing boat, the Andrea Gail.   Out of their need to bring home an excellent catch of fish, the captain and crew decide to risk everything and travel as far as the remote but fertile fishing ground called the Flemish Cap.   It is an especially dangerous trek during the unpredictably stormy month of October.   On their way back to Gloucester, Massachusetts, the Andrea Gail encounters the "perfect storm" of 1991 and is never heard from again.   While improvements in shipbuilding, navigational technology, weather-reporting and rescue support have made boating safer, fishing has become, if anything, a more lethal occupation, killing more of its workers per capita than any other job in the United States.  "There are many kinds of work that are dangerous, but one of the interesting things about fishing is that it really hasn’t changed much over time," says The Perfect Storm author Sebastian Junger.   "It’s been mechanized, of course, but the basic reality of going to sea for months at a stretch is the same as it was 100 years ago. You’re way beyond help from anyone else; you’re on your own.   I think that forms a certain kind of character. Not only does everyone know someone who has died at sea but everyone who works in the fishing industry has almost died.   Every single fisherman you talk to has almost gotten nailed at one time or another."

     It takes courage to be a fisherman. And it takes courage to fish for the souls of people.  There is an element of risk and an element of faith.   One thing is for sure the fisherman may feel like he is all alone out on the seas fishing but the Christian is never alone.  Those that fish for men will have their captain there to lead and guide them.  What do you think about fishing for people?   Does that scare you?   Do you see it beyond your reach?   Do you have a desire to fish for people?   I suspect there are a couple of things that are going through your mind today about seeking to lead others to Jesus.  I suspect that some Christians put up walls against it.   I suspect that some Christians are afraid of.   Some would say I do not have the time to do it.   Some would say I do not know how to do it.   Some probably feel like I do not want to change.  Some do not want to be committed to it.  

     It is certainly a blessing to be involved in following Jesus.   It is a blessing to be fishing for people.   When I was in high school my greatest desire was to farm.   My dream was to own a 2010 John Deere tractor.   That was my big goal in life.  It was a pretty small deal.   Yea in high school I was thinking about girls.      My goal was to own about a square mile of land in central Michigan and farm it.   My life was wrapped up in me.   You may have heard the saying that the guy who is all wrapped up in himself comes in a pretty small package.   Well friends that was me.  I was wrapped in me.   I could see what I wanted and where I was going.   I was self centered and very immature.   Then a little da Nam came my way and things changed.   Sometimes I get caught up in myself and I get all wrapped up in me.   When I follow Jesus and get my eyes on Jesus and on others I am more stable and more balanced and certainly happier.   In Africa they say you can offer God something.   They are hungry but they bring a hand full of beans to give to God.   And you know what God blesses them for doing that.   You know what their lives are fuller than our lives.   They may be hungry and they may be starving but they have found real joy.  They have found meaning in life.   They join the widow that Jesus mentioned who put in all of her living.   God notices that and blesses that.   You can be full and yet totally empty.   You can be empty and yet be totally full.   How can Christians say that we trust God when many Christians do not even bring anything to offer to God?    James would say show me your faith by what you do. 

    We have to ask ourselves how do we fish for people?   Some of us probably have no idea how to do that.  This passage gives us a starting point.   Jesus told the disciples to follow him.   Jesus told them you follow me.   We have to follow Jesus if we want others to join with us.   The follower of Jesus becomes the leader of others.   To lead others to God you have to be led by God.   That is pretty simple isn’t it?   Please notice that the disciples had no training at this point.   They did not have clue what Jesus was telling them.   These guys were steeped in fishing for fish.  These men left their nets.   These men left their boats.   These men left their families.   God does not call all of us to that but God will ask us to drop some stuff.   Jesus in Luke 9 said if any man will come after me let him deny himself and take up; his cross daily and follow me.   The beginning step is following Jesus day by day. 

      I think most of us understand that we have to follow Jesus.   Well what is the next step?   I think Satan the enemy would want to make this complicated for us.  He wants us to be put on the side line with no idea what to do.   We see the world and our neighbors doing the wrong stuff and Satan would have us just wring our hands.    I think the next step is simple and follows the first step.  I believe the next step is prayer.  Lord use my life.  Pray for the lost.  It is so simple.  Lord you can use me.   God spoke through a donkey once.   I may not be any better but God can speak through me.  Those that pray for the lost are doing things correctly and will find that God will bless them.   Pretty soon you will be talking to someone and the Holy Spirit will say share this with them.  Or you will find yourself getting involved baking some cookies for a neighbor.  Make some unsaved friends.   God is not willing that any should perish.   I made a commitment years ago to be involved with my neighbors.   I help them and talk with them.   I see that as ministry.   I pray for them.  They are on my prayer list.   I don’t do cookies but I have snow plowed for them and cut wood for them and mowed lawn for them etc and I have shared Jesus with them.  I have encouraged them to pray for needs that come up in conversation.  I tell them I will pray for them.  I have been privileged to be there when they have cried.    I hope you are not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus.   Paul said I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus.  The gospel is life and hope.   The gospel is truth and in Jesus is the answer to all of life’s most difficult questions. 

     How do you see people folks?   I think many tend to look at people like they are successful.   They have it all together.  Every single person in the world is broken.  Every single person in this world is hurting and needs God.   They are facing huge problems that they really do not know how to solve.   They are facing needs that they can’t deal with.  We are made for God.  When we begin to see people as Jesus sees people fishing for people takes on a whole new meaning.    It becomes a life style.    

       The church needs to be fishing for people.  Perhaps the biggest issue and need in the church today is to turn back and do what Jesus said to do here.   The first thing is to follow him.   That starts with a relationship with Him.   First we receive Jesus into our lives and become a child of God.  Then we follow him.   We follow him by praying and reading the scripture.   We follow him by being involved with and fellowship with other Christians.   We follow him by worshipping and giving.   We listen and become sensitive to what the Holy Spirit is telling us to do.  And as we go we will be examples of Jesus and will speak to others about our Lord.   Those churches that do not seek others loose a huge part of its meaning and most of them die.   Someone has said there is something wrong when people are leaving the church to find God.  What’s up with that?    I would hope that folks find God in this place.   We have had people find Jesus right here and their lives have been touched in these church services.     This saying has been credited to Sam Shoemaker and Paul Harvey. "Too many Christians are no longer fishers of men but keepers of the aquarium."  

     Contributed By: Rick Pendleton   Once a group existed who called themselves fishermen. And lo, there were many fish in the waters all around. In fact the whole area was surrounded by streams and lakes filled with fish. And the fish were hungry.  Week after week, month after month, and year after year these who called themselves fishermen met in meetings and talked about their call to fish, the abundance of fish, and how they might go about fishing. Year after year they carefully defined what fishing means, defended fishing as an occupation, and declared that fishing is always to be a primary task of fishermen.   Continually they searched for new and better methods of fishing and for new and better definitions of fishing. Further they said, "The fishing industry exists by fishing as fire exists by burning." They loved slogans such as "Fishing is the task of every fisherman", and "A fisherman’s outpost for every fisherman’s club". They sponsored meetings called "Fishermen’s campaigns" and "The Month for Fishermen to Fish". They sponsored costly nationwide and worldwide congresses to discuss fishing and to promote fishing and hear about all the ways of fishing such as the new fishing equipment, fish calls, and whether any new bait was discovered.  

      These fishermen built large, beautiful buildings call "Fishing Headquarters". The plea was that everyone should be a fisherman and every fisherman should fish. One thing they didn't do, however: they didn't fish.    In addition to meeting regularly, they organized a board to send out fishermen to other places where there were many fish. All the fishermen seemed to agree that what was needed was a board which could challenge fishermen to be faithful in fishing. The board was formed by those who had the great vision and courage to speak about fishing, to define fishing, and to promote the idea of fishing in far-away streams and lakes where many other fish of different colors lived.   Also the board hired staffs and appointed committees and held many meetings to define fishing, to defend fishing, and to decide what new streams should be thought about. But the staff and committee members did not fish.   Large, elaborate, and expensive training centers were built who’s original and primary purpose was to teach fishermen how to fish. Over the years courses were offered on the needs of fish, the nature of fish, where to find fish, the psychological reactions of fish, and how to approach and feed fish. Those who taught had doctorates in fishery. But the teachers did not fish. They only taught fishing. Year after year, after tedious training, many were graduated and were given fishing licenses. They were sent to do full-time fishing, some to distant waters which were filled with fish.  Some spent much study and travel to learn the history of fishing and to see faraway places where the founding fathers did great fishing in the centuries past. They lauded the faithful fishermen of years before who handed down the idea of fishing.  

       Further, the fishermen built large printing houses to publish fishing guides. Presses were kept busy day and night to produce materials solely devoted to fishing methods, equipment, and programs to arrange and to encourage meetings to talk about fishing. A speakers’ bureau was also provided to schedule special speakers on the subject of fishing.   Many who felt the call to be fishermen responded. They were commissioned and sent to fish. But like the fishermen back home they never fished. Like the fishermen back home they engaged in all kinds of other occupations. They built power plants to pump water for fish and tractors to plow new waterways. They made all kinds of equipment to travel here and there to look at fish hatcheries. Some also said they wanted to be part of the fishing party, but they felt called to furnish fishing equipment. Others felt their job was to relate to the fish in a good way so the fish would know the difference between good and bad fishermen. Others felt that simply letting the fish know they were nice, land-loving neighbors and how loving and kind they were was enough.  

     After one stirring meeting on "The Necessity for Fishing", one young fellow left the meeting and went fishing. The next day he reported he had caught two outstanding fish. He was honored for his excellent catch and scheduled to visit all the big meetings possible to tell how he did it. So he quit his fishing in order to have time to tell about the experience to other fishermen. He was also placed on the Fishermen’s General Board as a person having considerable experience.  Now it’s true that many of the fishermen sacrificed and put up with all kinds of difficulties. Some lived near the water and bore the smell of dead fish every day. They received the ridicule of some who made fun of their fishermen’s clubs and the fact that they claimed to be fishermen yet never fished. They wondered about those who felt it was of little use to attend the weekly meetings to talk about fishing. After all, were they not following the Master who said, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men?"  Imagine how hurt some were when one day a person suggested that those who didn't catch fish were really not fishermen, no matter how much they claimed to be. Yet it did sound correct. Is a person a fisherman if year after year he never catches a fish? Is one following if he isn't fishing?

     Dieter Zander, the pastor of the first GenX church in America spoke at a conference about reaching people in the age of relativism. He cited a Barna study that asked people to use single words to describe Jesus. They responded, "Wise, accepting, compassionate, gracious, humble." That is pretty cool isn’t it?   Then he asked them to use single words to describe Christians, they said, "critical, exclusive, self righteous, narrow and repressive."  Brothers and sisters if we are following Jesus we will be like him.   I don’t think people are going to be saying if we are following Jesus, that we do not love others and that we are hard and critical.  Jesus it seems to me was very loving to the out casts of society.   He loved sinners.   One pastor suggested to his church that they go out and make friends with homosexuals.  One family left his church.   I think Jesus would be found spending time with them today.  God loves them.   God does not like the sin but he loves people.  

    Zanders said.    I’m seeing a change in what seekers are looking for. Not something they can relate to.  They are looking for a transcendent God.  They don’t want to be entertained they want to be transformed."     Jesus said follow me and your life will change.   Follow me and you will be changed.  Follow me and you will be involved in other people.   Follow Jesus and your life will count today and forever.   It is not all about you – it is about Jesus and the kingdom.