Did you know that, at first, the name Christian was a derogatory name for the people who believed in the Risen Jesus? Neither did I. Apparently the word Christian means “little anointed one” and was generally used by non-believers to make fun of those who did believe. It's hard to believe that we gladly call ourselves by that same name...do you think that will ever work for words like “nerd” or “geek”? Hmm.
Anyway, for the most part, we consider ourselves Christians, but can you think of yourself as a “fisher of men”? Or did that line only apply to the first four apostles? I mean, Jesus doesn't really want us to go out there and grab people we may or may not know and bring them to church, does He? Does that mean that I should be standing on the street corner preaching? Just in case the words of Matthew 4:19 ARE meant for you and me, how do we go about fishing for people?
Now, I could be wrong, but I don't believe that gathering people is our first concern. The first step in Matthew 4:19 is not to gather people, but to follow Jesus.
According to C.H. Spurgeon, following Jesus has three distinct meaning. The first is to
“be separate unto Christ”, to come away from worldly things. Instead of thinking, “What can I get away with?”; think, “What would Jesus have me do?”
The second meaning of Jesus' statement, “Follow me”, Spurgeon explains as, “Abide with Christ.” When Jesus called His disciples, they spent every day with Him. They ate with Him, slept wherever He did, They became His best friends and biggest helpers. They heard Him speak to the multitudes, but then they got “bonus material” when He explained things just to them. They saw Him perform miracles. And they watched Him die for their sins. Imagine how well we would know Jesus if we spent that kind of time in the Bible and in prayer.
Finally, Spurgeon restates Jesus' “Follow me” as “Obey me”. As Spurgeon puts it, “If we desire to be largely used by God, we must copy our Lord Jesus Christ in everything, and obey Him in every point. Failure in obedience may mean failure in success.”
“Follow me” is the extent of our part of that bargain. The next part is completely Jesus' part, and it's a promise. We don't have to fret and stew about how to become fishers of men. Jesus tells us that if we will follow Him, HE will take care of the rest! Wow! What a great promise! You know, I have spent a lot of time worrying about witnessing and all that that entails...but Jesus says our responsibility is not planning, but following...I can do that! This is how Spurgeon puts it:
“The Lord's directions make Himself our leader and example. It is 'Follow me. Follow me. Preach my gospel. Preach what I preached. Teach what I taught and keep to that.' With that blessed servility which becomes one whose ambition is to be a copyist, and never to be an original, copy Christ even in jots and tittles. Do this, and He will make you fishers of men, but if you do not do this, you shall fish in vain.”
Another author says it this way: “Jesus calls us to a ministry – He assumes the responsibility to teach us everything we need to learn in order to fulfill that calling. As we yield to Him – let go of all our accessories and follow Him – He will equip us – what makes us uniquely us – to fulfill His calling.” Stephen Muncherian, “Fishers of Men”.
Pastor Muncherian has in his statement a phrase that I find extremely comforting; “what makes us uniquely us”. Why do I find that phrase comforting? Some of you have already guessed, maybe because you feel the same way. I especially like that phrase because, for a long time, when I thought of being a fisher of men, I thought of >gasp< preaching or giving individual Bible studies. And I really have never felt very comfortable doing either of those, so for a long time, I felt like I didn't have a gift that would be helpful to God. As Muncherian says, “Peter and Andrew were casting their nets into the sea – that's what they knew how to do and what their abilities were. Jesus teaches them to cast nets for men. We read in the Gospel of Matthew that Andrew becomes the disciple who brings people to Jesus – even as he's brought his brother Peter to Christ. In Acts chapter 2 – Peter becomes the great evangelist – on the day of Pentecost he preaches the Gospel to three thousand people.
“James and John were doing something else – they were mending their nets. That was their skill and ability. The Greek word for 'mending' has the idea of equipping – preparing. Just as James and John were equipping their nets when Jesus called them – Jesus teaches them to men nets as fishers of men. Later they would become teachers – equipping – mending – the saints.
In our kitchen we have a toaster oven and a waffle iron – we plug them into the wall sockets. They draw power from the same source but they do different things.
That's the way it is with God and us.
Whew!!!! What a relief!!!!! The way God uses me to reach people might not be the same way that He uses you. Fishing for men is a group effort and we don't all have to do the same job. The preacher or the evangelist is only part of what is going on. He (or she) may cast the net, reaching a large number of people, but he couldn't do it alone. If there hadn't been for faithful folk who handed/mailed our advertising flyers, made calls, visited and invited friends, family members to come to/watch the meeting. Then there are the jobs during the meeting: ministering to the children, so that the adults can hear the Gospel without worrying or being interrupted. Not to mention the jobs that come after of making friends, teaching and shepherding the newcomers, and helping them to become disciples themselves. That all takes very different skills that may not be the gift of the pastor or evangelist. And I know that I haven't even begun to name all the different jobs that are just as important but less visible than the pastor/evangelist.
Just remember, there are those who “cast the nets” but they can't finish (or even start) the job. You and I need to be willing to be the partners to those who cast the nets. All it takes on our part is to be willing. Be willing to be available—to come and help. Be willing to make new friends. One pastor reminds us,
“The Great Commission is a continuum. And you are part of it, somewhere on that continuum. Some cast the net, some row the boat. All contribute to the catch.”
Are you ready to find your place on the fishers of men continuum? How do we know which job Jesus wants us to do? Does He want us out their preaching if that's not what He has given us the talent to do? I don't think so. I believe that sometimes we pick for ourselves the jobs we want to do that are not the jobs that Jesus has given us. I'm not completely sure why we feel we know better than God about these things, but I have done it myself. We try to force ourselves into the mold WE have made of what we think a fisher of men looks like. We might think it's a Billy Graham type, or a Sandi Patti (singer) type. And those are important parts of ministry, but they're not the ONLY parts. There are also the folks who clean the place, who make sure the air conditioners/ heaters are on in plenty of time to make the area inhabitable. There are the folk who hand out literature and others who give Bible studies and others who invite visitors home for lunch. Some folk are gifted in the areas of praying. Not one of us can do it alone. Which part are you willing to do?
"We are laborers together with God." It is God that gives success to human endeavor. Without his presence with us, our efforts would amount to nothing. We are simply channels through which his blessings flow to our fellow beings. From every one in whose heart Christ is an abiding presence, will go forth a power that will influence others to accept the Saviour as their Redeemer. E.G. White, Article Title: "Follow Me, and I Will Make You Fishers of Men"[SERMONDELIVERED IN THE CHURCH AT HEALDSBURG, CAL., AT THE CLOSEOF THE HEALDSBURG COLLEGE SCHOOL YEAR, MAY 30, 1903.]