Frustrating Fishless Fishing

Fishing

Matthew 4:19, “Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

“Don’t cook dinner.  I will come back and grill some fresh fish.”  I confidently told my wife, as I kissed her on the cheek before dashing outside.  My friend and I had planned to go fishing that day.  I had prepared my fishing rod, and had purchased some worms for bait.  I had put on the right attire, as it was going to be a hot, sunny Saturday.  I filled the cooler box with sodas and Gatorade bottles.  I got into the truck, and off we drove, towards Sprague Lake in Washington State.  I was both expectant, and unsure how the day would go.

Upon our arrival at the lake, we cast our lines into the lake.  The lake was silent.  There were a handful of fishing boats around the lake.  I sat on the cooler box, holding my fishing rod over the edge of the boat.  My friend faced the other way, as we talked about our families and work.  The fish did not but much.  Once in a while, I would feel a tag on my line, I would reel it in.  Only to find weeds hanging on the hook.  We shifted sides.  My friend drove the boat onto various spots around the lake.  The lake was stingy, unwilling to give up the location of the fish.  An hour into the expedition, I began to get antsy and anxious.

I interrupted heaven with many silent prayers.  I called the fish, as if they could hear me from under the water. For long periods, I kind of got lost in my search for answers.  My mind wandered in the jungles of worry and anxiety.  After half a dozen hours of unfruitful fishing, we had to throw in the towel. I had to lay aside the fictitious fisherman image of myself to come to terms with my shortcomings.  I faced the reality that I would be returning home empty handed.  This sense of defeat was overwhelming, and embarrassing.  However, I found consolation in the thought that many a fisherman had also endured the pain of a fishless day on a lake.  We concluded, it was wiser to accept the failure than to spend 6 more hours seeking a catch. Like a losing dog who walks home with its tail between its legs, we packed up and started the long drive home.

Rutendo had not prepared dinner. She awaited my return home with fresh fish to grill.  I saw to it I returned home with some fish!  I made sure I grilled some fish that evening.  It was fish I did not catch, though.  On our way home, we had stopped at Safeway to purchase some frozen fish.   For some unknown reasons, I did not catch any fish that day.  I have caught many fish before and after that fateful hot July Saturday.  It just was not our day to catch some fish. I was discouraged, but just for a moment.  That has not stopped me from seeking more fish.

Fishers of men

For three years, Jesus demonstrated to the disciples how to fish for people. Jesus showed how to prepare for the fishing, where to fish, and how to fish.  He reminded them to be vigilant, even in the presence of denial and opposition. Witnessing and evangelism scare many Christians.  Christians often feel ill-equipped to witness.  Christians are scared.  They are afraid of rejection.    They are afraid of a fishless day on the lake.  But that should not stop you from fishing.  Keep praying for the lost.  Keep finding ways of engaging the lost.  Be mindful of opportunities to win over the lost through your verbal and relational messages. Keep fishing!

  • Describe a day you struggled to catch fish.
  • Have you ever spent a fruitless day working hard on a project? How was that?
  • How do you feel when God seems silent?
  • Describe a time you spoke to someone about Jesus?
  • Have you ever preached the Gospel to someone? How was it?
  • How do you feel when people shut the door on your message?
  • What stops you from being a fisher of people?
  • What do you need to do to overcome that challenge?
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Overcoming My Biggest Fear

Fear-Is-A-Prison

Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” 

Psalm 56:3, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” 

It was late at night.  A huge contingent gathered at the airport to bid us farewell.   Rutendo and I went around to each table to have a last personal talk with each of the relatives.  My heart was leaping with joy.  I was going overseas!  My heart simultaneously sank at the thought of leaving my family behind.  My heart beat fast fearing the unknown.  What would Australia be like?  School would be over in a year, and then, possibly another four years.  Armed with a Bachelor of Arts in Ministry degree, I would then come back home.  My uncle called everyone to gather around for prayer.  He shared some words of wisdom, and then asked the three dozen or so relatives to bow their heads.  He pronounced a blessing on us.  He prayed for our protection.  He prayed we would not forget who we are, and from where we came.   We exchanged hugs and kisses, tears flowed ceaselessly.

The imposing Qantas Airlines jumbo jet towered on the tarmac.  The airport balcony, our family, and all that was familiar were behind us.  We started climbing up the stairs to a new future.  The ascent was steep, as if to reflect a preview of the culture shock that lay ahead.  When my feet got to the highest step, I turned around to wave back at the family. As I peered into the plane, I saw what looked like a small city.  The plane was huge, filled with countless rows of seats.  We found our seats, and made ourselves comfortable … for a while.

Qantas

The flight crew made their routine announcements, while I listened intently.  Soon, the plane was cleared to take off.   Suddenly the plane gathered speed.  In all my life, I had never been in any vehicle that fast before.  As the wheels lifted the big bird of the ground, I saw the city lights disappear under us.  My eyes bulged like floodlight bulbs.  I dug my nails into the seat armrest, closed my eyes and started praying. God heard some of my most fervent prayers on that day.  I confessed all the sins I could remember.  I confessed the sins I thought I might have committed.  I had to be ready, I was sure I was going to meet my Maker that day.   Rutendo was laughing at me.  She told me to relax and enjoy the flight.  I did not want to hear that.

Something loud startled me.  It was the loud beating of my little heart.  It beat so fast that I thought it would breakthrough my rib cage.  It beat so loud that I thought the whole universe was deafened by the high decibels it emitted.  I felt my life suffocate, being choked by the overwhelming fear.  I felt the heavy weight of anxiety sit on my chest like a boulder crushing a young tree. Fear is illogical and anti-faith.  Fear sups life out of the heart. Fear zaps joy while it enslaves you into an inescapable rabbit hole.

It was as if God was nowhere to be seen or heard.  He didn’t rush to my aid. I guess He was busy with His Godly duties. My concerns were already taken care off as part of who He is.  He just is God, holds everything in the palm of His hands, including this jumbo jet. If only that made sense in that moment.

At some point, during the 12 hour flight, I had to respond to nature’s call.  My bladder seemed like it was going to explode, my fear immobilized me.  The bladder won.  I stood up, walked, prayed, walked, and prayed.  I prayed in the bath room, I prayed some more one my way back.  I prayed every time the plane hit rough air, and encountered turbulence. Those were the longest 12 hours of my life!

At the arrival gate were about 18 young people, with a huge banner welcoming Rutendo and me to Australia.  I was happy we finally made.  We greeted our new friends outwardly.  Inwardly, I wanted to kneel and kiss the ground.  We made.  Not only that we made, but we made it SAFELY!  It would be many years of flying before I could get comfortable on a flight.

  • What was your first flight like?
  • What do you like most about flying?
  • What do you least like about flying?
  • What is your biggest fear in life?
  • Why are you so afraid of it?
  • How and when did that fear develop?
  • How do you deal with it?
  • What is God saying about the thing you fear most?
  • If you were not afraid, what would you have accomplished?
  • Has fear crippled you, so much that you watch your vision, dreams, aspirations disappear with no effort from you?

Don’t Worry. Trust God.

keep-calm-and-don-t-worry-85

It was a bright, crispy morning.  My family and I went on our early morning bike ride.  We rode outside of the RV Park, and on to the trails across the highway.  I rode ahead of everyone until my thighs were hurting.  I stopped to catch a breath.  I sat on a bench by the side of the trail. On the southern horizon were beautiful apartment with expensive cars parked outside. On the eastern horizon, across the lagoon, I saw about half a dozen gray navy ships. These are the zenith of America’s military might.  A little north of that, the magnificent curve of the Coronado Bridge loomed above the waters. Behind it, the majestic San Diego skyline decorated the horizon. I was in awe.

flowers

These architectural and military marvels must have cost billions to build.  They must cost millions more to maintain.  In contradiction to these marvels, I saw a couple bunnies hopping around the short grass. Around were blooming wild flowers of various kinds. There were yellow, orange, and purple flowers.  Birds were chirping in the background, while a flock of geese floated in the water. Such beauty.  Such simplicity, in contrast to the man-made beauty around us.  The birds flew around, exhibiting no worries or concerns.  The bunnies hopped with no need to control the future.  The geese did not seem to float in the seas of regret and fear.  God takes care of their daily needs.

I reflected on Matthew 6:25-34.  In it, Jesus warns us against worrying.  It reads, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?   So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.   Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

If you are worried, trust God.  Worry is the opposite of faith.  Worry doubts God.  Worry claims you can control the outcome.  Control is simply academic and theoretical.  Life is full of things and incidents beyond our control. Trust God to take care of your concerns. Worry keeps you busy but has no benefits.  Worry holds you back from living your full potential.  Worry steals time from you.  The time you spend worrying could be spent in some productive endeavor. Worry paralyzes you to the point if ineffectiveness. Do not worry.  God has everything under control.  It’s going to be OK.

dont worry

If God can feed the birds, which have no jobs nor barnyards, He can surely take care of you.  If God can take care of the flowers of the wild, He can easily take care of you.

  • What is eating at your heart?
  • What are you losing sleep over?
  • What is your biggest worry?
  • Believe God has everything under control.
  • Put God first in everything you do.
  • Take one step at a time.  Live one day at a time. Let tomorrow take care of itself.