And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me [as My disciples, accepting Me as your Master and Teacher and walking the same path of life that I walk], and I will make you fishers of men.”
Simon and Andrew were professional fishermen in a family business. Like most people running a small business, they had to hone their skills and use every ounce of their ability to make a living. By all accounts, they were good at their jobs and could have continued in their profession for many years. But Jesus came along and rocked their world. He showed them that there was something more valuable than catching and profiting from fish-people.
Christ’s invitation to the brothers tapped into their previous passions and skills. Now, though, they’d be using those to fulfill God’s purposes. God would use their discipline and teamwork in their new role of “catching men.” They had learned to read the water for signs of fish, but they would now learn to read the Spirit’s leading as they pursued people with the good news of Christ.
What are the skills and passions in your life that God wants to use to build His Kingdom? You may be an entrepreneur who can dream big visions of God’s work, or you may be a nurse whose tender care and thoroughness can be wonderful tools in God’s hands. All of us have passions and skills God can use to build His Kingdom: plumbers and attorneys, salespeople and administrators, drivers and doctors.
Each of us is a repository of experiences, talents, and desires that God wants to use in the lives of people we touch each day. Will we let Him?
Those who learn, prosper.
Jesus had a lot to say about bringing people into the kingdom of God. He talked about how those who don’t know God need someone to bring them in. He taught that we were to use the gifts and opportunities given to us by God to make that possible. He was clear that increase wasn’t something that happened automatically or some miraculous move by God. It came as the people of God engaged themselves in the work of God. One day He said to the disciples that the harvest was ripened and plentiful but was lacking laborers. He didn’t instruct them to pray for a harvest but to pray for laborers. Somehow we as the people of God misheard and we set ourselves to pray for a harvest. Almost every church desires growth. Most Christians want sinners to be saved. We gather in our groups and we pray for the lost to find Christ. To be sure we should pray for those who don’t know Christ that the Holy Spirit will soften their hearts, but the real need is laborers in the harvest- someone who will go out into the highways and hedges with a compelling invitation. These laborers Jesus was talking about was more than the disciples/apostles, more than pastors or preachers, and more than evangelism teams. These laborers are every Christian. That’s to whom the Great Commission was given. Jesus was clear that while the harvest was ready and plentiful, it would never be gathered in the barn without laborers gathering it. In His invitation to the fishermen, Jesus invited them to use their skills to “catch men” instead of fish. They knew that some fish could be caught in nets, dozens at a time, but others with a line and hook, one by one. So Jesus took their skills and changed their purpose. Every fisherman knew that sitting on the shore or in some gathering place and telling fish stories wasn’t going to bring the catch in. Only when the loaded their nets, rowed out to where the fish were and threw the nets over and pulled them in over and over until they had the catch of the day could they head back to shore. They knew that after that day’s catch had been processed it wasn’t vacation. They set about repairing the nets, preparing the bait and readying the boat for another fishing expedition. Some churches had a great catch some years ago and pulled the boat up in dry dock and hung up their nets failing to realize that keeping the cycle going was strategic. Every farmer knows that as soon as the last harvest is gathered, the ground has to be prepared, the seed sown, the weeds pulled if there is going to be another harvest.
We as the church need to receive the revelation of the parable of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke when He talked about lost sheep, lost coins, and lost sons. He tells us that the woman who lost the coin searched and swept the house, lit candles so that dark corners had light. She searched the house top to bottom until as last she found the lost coin. She was so happy that she called her neighbors to share the good news. Sometimes we will have to seek out lost people who have blended so well into their surroundings that only a diligent search will turn them up. For many of us this may be family or friends that we overlook because of familiarity. So we need to light the candle, sweep the floor, and search the house until we find the lost coin. I believe the coin represents those who may be in the house but are still lost.
The lost sheep had strayed. When the flock was put up for the night, the shepherd only counted ninety nine. Having ninety nine out of a hundred was good numbers but not good enough for that shepherd. Someone asked me one time how big would a congregation need to be for me to be satisfied. I’m sure my reply was startling for I said never big enough as long as there was one more lost person who needed Christ. That’s the attitude of the shepherd. Sure 99 was a great number but 1 lost sheep mattered enough that he left them and went to search for it. The sheep couldn’t find its way home on its own. It needed someone to find it and lead it home. Those lost in the darkness of sin don’t know how to come home and never will unless we leave the security of the sheepfold and seek them out.
Finally Jesus tells the parable of the lost son. He had been in the father’s house but the pull of the world was powerful and he left home. Coming to his senses, he decided to return home. He expected only to be received as a servant- probably the least- since he had left rudely. I’m sure his welcome was more than he could imagine. I’ve heard that a large mission field has opened up with all those who dropped out of church-some 40%. What will they find the day they come home? Celebration as a lost child coming home or just a job offer as a servant or resentment like the elder brother?
Lost things need passionate seekers. Lost sinners need caring Christians who leave the comfort of the church and light the darkness, turn the house upside down, leave the 99 and go out into the wilderness of thorns and thickets-sticky, often painful places seeking the trapped and lost sheep, and every time a lost child comes home, throw a welcome home party.
Pray, Jesus said for laborers of the harvest. Will you be the answer to that prayer?
Dr. John Thompson