Fishing for fish is a choice, but fishing for others who don’t know Jesus is a command.
I grew up in a Christian home and heard about God countless times, but when I was 21 years old, sitting in a citywide evangelistic outreach, my faith and His forgiveness collided. That night became a defining moment, a cross and fork in the road that gave me – at the time a suicidal man – a purpose in life.
Since that day, some of my greatest thrills have been when He unexpectedly took the monotony of everyday life and turned it into something sacred. As an avid outdoorsmen, these spiritual life lessons often happen in the throes of His creation. Here are four specific things God has taught me through time in the outdoors with Him:
1. Make sure your boat motor is working or you’ll be tossed in the wind.
I once took my son on a highly anticipated fishing trip. The night before, I was cleaning my trolling motor propeller and forgot to put the pin back in. When we got in the boat the next morning and pushed away from the dock, I turned on the motor and off went the propeller. We tried fishing without it but in its absence, we were at the mercy of the wind and were tossed around like a trailer in a tornado. Therefore, the trip ended before it began.
A believer’s propeller and guide is his or her faith. Without it, he or she is at the mercy of outside forces that destroy the ability to navigate a life’s course. James 1:6explains it clearly, ”He that doubts, [without faith] is like a wave of the sea tossed to and fro.”
2. If you want to become better, hang out with a pro.
I thought I was pretty good at catching fish. After all, I used to participate in fish tournaments and even won a few. But my inflated opinion of my abilities blew up faster than a tire on spike strips when I spent the day fishing with Hall of Fame Angler Jimmy Houston. He made me look like a greenhorn. He caught fish outnumbered mine five to one
Similarly, if you want to learn how to walk with Christ, as well as “fish” for non-believers, get around others whose walk with God is deeper than yours, and who have been living out their faith longer. Proverbs 27:17 gives us the secret: “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
3. Let go of the one that got away.
I was on a hot fishing spot where I knew I might have a chance to catch a 10-pound largemouth – a trophy-size I had never been able to catch. It was a beautiful spring day when I cast a Texas-rigged plastic worm into the water. After jigging it twice on the bottom, the leviathan hit my worm and I set the hook hard, all the while yelling for my wife to get the camera [never have your camera out before landing a fish]. In my excitement to get him in, I horsed him until I broke the line. For hours I beat myself up, retelling the story to all my buddies and even my wife who watched it all happen. Days later, I kept replaying the stupid, careless decisions in my mind.
God says we cannot move forward while looking behind. Yes, we’ve sinned, but if we have confessed and repented, He has forgiven our failures; we must forgive ourselves, too. Luke 9:62 defines our response to the past, saying, “No man who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom.”
4. Watch out for predators.
I was on a fly fishing trip at Katmai National Park in Alaska with my wife and two of our kids. Not only does this park hold one of the largest concentrations of grizzly bears in the world, it also is home to some of largest in the world; some bears, because of their salmon-rich diet, weigh over 1.000 pounds. Standing in the river with my back to my wife I heard her voice quiver, “Oh my gosh, a bear… Jay, a bear is coming.” I turned and looked to see a massive bear less than 30 yards away walking toward us along the bank. I knew he saw us. We had no defense but some fly rods. In all my life I have never felt so helpless. My prayer life changed that day, as I knew that without God’s intervention, we were hopeless.
While you may never face a bear, you will face another dangerous killer the Bible calls the devil. You must be on guard and alert while depending on God to be your shield and defender. 1 Peter 5:8 is a great compass. “Be sober, vigilant because your adversary walks about like a roaring lion [or bear] seeking whom he may devour.”
When I first received Christ I prayed for all kinds of different signs. But now I ask him to open my heart and mind everyday so I can see what He is trying to teach me through the common things around me.
I still believe in miracles, and who knows, maybe someday I will walk on the water like Peter or maybe even catch a fish with a coin in its mouth like the disciples did. If not, that’s just fine with me because Jesus is trying to show Himself to me everyday, in numerous different ways. All I have to do is just get in the boat and obey His command found in Mark 1:17, “Come after me and I will make you a fisher of men.”
Written by Evangelist Jay Lowder, founder of Jay Lowder Harvest Ministries, an organization dedicated to reaching diverse groups of people with the message of Jesus Christ.