“Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was 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.”——Matthew 4:18-20
Over the past while I have been giving more thought about Jesus telling Peter and Andrew to follow Him and that He would make them “fishers of men”. Most will quickly read past this, as I have often done, and just chalk it up to Jesus telling them that they would not only be disciples but evangelists as well. But on the subject of being “fishers of men”, it seems there is much more there than meets the eye.
Sharing our faith is a command for all believers. I used to think that it was meant for those “gifted” in evangelism and those evangelism teams that were in the church. But as I grew in my faith and understanding of the Bible, I began to see that sharing my faith, as unqualified as I may feel, wasn’t optional or even left to only those God has gifted more in this area.
When we begin to fully understand what Jesus has done for us on the cross, it motivates us to share this hope with others. The fear of how people may respond or feeling ill-equipped seem to fade as we realize the great importance of telling people about Jesus. This doesn’t mean that all the sudden we are great at sharing our faith, but it helps us to realize that, as with everything, evangelism takes practice as well.
So when Jesus told Peter and Andrew that He would make them “fishers of men”, I’m sure there were a lot more questions than answers. They knew how to catch actual fish by profession, but now they were to take this concept to catching men; whatever that was going to mean.
Fishing is interesting. To go fishing is something that we often think of as older guys going out with their dogs and spending time in God’s creation. But fishing is much more than that. Ask any fisherman.
Fishing takes preparation. You need to prepare your fishing rod, tackle box, lures, and many other things. Without getting these things organized, fishing is nearly impossible.
In order to begin fishing, you also need to scout a location; “where the fish are”. Sometimes this is where you may have caught before or possibly where others said they have had success. There are times when you also find you need to move to try and find a better spot.
Fishing also doesn’t always mean catching. There are times when you may seem to be doing everything right and the fish just aren’t biting. So you change lures, bait, locations, or try anything else you can possibly think of to try to get a catch. Sometimes you go home without any fish, but are still grateful for the opportunity. There is something about fishing that keeps fishermen going back time and time again.
I say all of this because it has had me thinking a lot more about Jesus’ words telling the disciples that He would make them “fishers of men”. Fishing isn’t easy. Neither is evangelism. But it is necessary.
Before we can share our faith, we must begin preparing. We must find ourselves praying for opportunities and for our friends, families, neighbors, and co-workers that don’t know the Lord. It is critical that we are praying for people because we know that it is God that draws people to Himself. (John 6:44)
In our preparation, we also don’t think we need to have a ironed out presentation or a “stump speech”, but rather simply tell people about what God has done in our lives and why it is critical they put their faith in Jesus as well. The message stays the same, but how we share with each person may be different based upon our relationship and conversation. This doesn’t need to scare us, but helps us to know that there is no formula for evangelism.
As we share our faith, it doesn’t ever really seem to go as we have pictured or planned for in our minds. This is also good and keeps us relying on the Lord. We must remember that we aren’t the ones doing the work in people’s salvation, but that we are only the messengers. God is the one who is the Author and Perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12:2). Therefore, we just have to be faithful in pointing people to Jesus.
And just as with fishing, sometimes people will put their faith in Jesus, other times they won’t.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the times when you go home empty-handed. In evangelism, this can be equally or even more discouraging than not catching physical fish. We put a lot of blame on ourselves for things we could have done differently, spoken more clearly and articulately, or shared about Jesus more thoroughly. But the more we share our faith the better we will get. This doesn’t always equate to being more successful, but gaining more confidence to be able to convey faith and salvation in a better way.
It is also helpful to know that our success can’t be solely defined by the numbers of people that may or may not put their faith in Jesus. Our hope is that we will find people who do put their faith in the Lord, but it is good to know there might be times, or even seasons, that we may not see this result. This doesn’t mean that we aren’t sharing our faith well, but just means that we gotta keep on sharing. Sometimes it may mean reflecting on how each of us can improve in sharing our faith or the things we may have missed. But one thing we must keep in perspective is that our obedience in sharing our faith is what matters and that the results must be left to the Lord.
Something else to realize is that we also don’t know the impact our sharing of Jesus may have down the road. We may not see a person that we have shared Jesus with put their faith in Him at that moment, but could have a major impact as they reflect back later. That is why it is important to continue to remember to try to make the most of every opportunity; for we don’t know how God may use that to lead them to faith. (Colossians 4:5)
Being “fishers of men” can be intimidating. Sharing our faith can be something that we can neglect because we don’t feel we are able to do well or just simply want others to do it for us. But sharing our faith is important for us all to learn and grow in doing. Both in seeming failures and successes, we must find ourselves taking the steps to be telling people about Jesus. We have the greatest of hope to share with all the world, it is more of a question of if we will obey God’s command to truly be “fishers of men”.