Following and Fishing
Following comes before fishing. We are not ready for the Master's work until we are the Master's disciples.
Loving precedes serving. We ought not to forget this. On earth one may serve a master one dislikes—but it is not so in Christ's kingdom. "Do you love Me?" must be answered affirmatively before the commission can be given, "Feed my sheep, feed my lambs."
People sometimes talk about a "passion for souls," but there must be passion for Christ before there can be a passion for souls. Zinzendorf's motto is better, "I have only one passion—and that is Christ!" All service must spring from this.
This is a vitally important truth to be realized by those who are doing any work for the Master. Sometimes our zeal seems to have flagged. We have not the old ardor. This may be from weariness—not weariness of the service, but weariness in the service. The strongest of us get tired. Even Jesus grew weary and slept in the wild storm. Nature needs rest that the emptied life fountains may be refilled. But in the waning of our earnestness and enthusiasm, we need to be very honest with ourselves; perhaps we are losing our love for Christ. Perhaps we are not working well, because we are not loving well. To work better, we must seek to love Jesus more.
Only in following Jesus, can we be made fishers of men. The Master never makes fishers of any who do not follow after him. What then is following Jesus?
It is LOVING. Christ orbs himself into such beauty and splendor before the eyes, that all other beauty and all other splendors fade out, as stars fade from the sky in the brightness of the sun's rising.
Then love begets FAITH. We are ready to commit ourselves forever to him who stands before us in such glory and calls us to follow him.
Faith leads to CONSECRATION. Other objects of possession, hitherto prized and clung to with fondness, appear insignificant in comparison with the richer and more glorious things that Christ offers.
If your hands are full of pebbles and you are offered gold and silver, you will instantly drop the worthless things, to take the better. So it is that earthly vanities are given up by us, when we perceive the real value of the riches of God's grace.
People sometimes talk dolefully of the sacrifices the Christian has to make to follow Christ. Is it sacrifice when one loses tinsel—to get gold; or sin's pleasures—to get the deep joy of the Lord?
Following implies also union with Christ, and personal attachment to Him. We enter his family. We live with him ever after. We get our life directly from him and take our lessons from his lips. Where he goes—we go; where he leads—we follow.
People forget sometimes, that at the center and heart of all Christian life, must be Christ himself. We are Christian not because we accept a creed, or because we unite with a church—but because we are united to Christ and follow him.
After the following comes the fishing, yet the Master has a word of encouragement which we should not overlook, "Follow me," he says, "and I will make you fishers of men." Christian people often speak of their inability to do Christ's work. Truly of ourselves, we are not able to catch souls. But Christ nowhere says that we are able; indeed, he most emphatically teaches that we are not able until he has taught us and trained us. He kept his first disciples a long time in preparation, before he finally sent them out with their great commission. So we are to follow Christ, thus putting ourselves into his hands, and by his grace he will make us fishers of men.
Young men go through a long college and theological seminary course, in training for the ministry. This is well. We ought to give to Christ our very best—our best gifts developed and trained to the highest efficiency. The glorious work of the Christian ministry demands the best. But there is another course of preparation for the ministry, that is yet more important than the literary and theological. College and seminary cannot make us "fishers of men." They may do their part, under divine direction and influence, in preparing us for skillful work, but there is a spiritual training which is intended to crown and complete the preparation. We must be under Christ's personal tuition, must be trained in his school. "I will make you fishers of men." We must catch his spirit. We must have his compassion for souls. We must have his patience, his gentleness, his thoughtfulness, his love.
We can only get this preparation by long and continued fellowship with him, and by intimate communion with him—until his sweet, transforming life flows into us and makes us like himself.
There is a Persian fable which tells of a gardener finding a piece of fragrant clay. "Whence came your perfume?" asked the gardener. "One laid me on a rose," answered the clay. Lying on the sweet flower's bosom, the flower's fragrance passed into the clay, permeating it and perfuming it.
Thus it is that when we rest much on Christ's bosom, the perfume of his love and grace will pass from him into our lives and thus impart to us his Spirit.
Our Master has a great many ways of training his disciples for usefulness in his service. He trains them by his Word, filling them with it and teaching them how to use it. He trains them by his cleansing and purifying influence of his Spirit. He trains them by work itself.
The carpenter trains his apprentice by putting the tools at once into his hands and letting him experiment with them until he can use them skillfully. The young teacher learns to teach, by teaching. The young minister acquires the "art of preaching" by preaching. Our Master puts his disciples at once to the work and trains them by experience.
Sometimes, too, he trains by sorrow or disappointment; the best workers have gotten much of their sympathy, patience, gentleness and humility in the school of affliction.
So those who truly follow Christ, he will make fishers of men. That is the lowly mission of the Christian.
In the great dark sea of life, there are thousands of perishing souls! It is our responsibility, if we have been rescued ourselves, to seek to lift others who are still in the black floods, that they may share the heavenly blessedness. There no other work to which the Christian should devote himself so earnestly, so assiduously—as the one of catching men, winning souls, saving the lost. This is work for eternity; other work is but for time. We should seek to do it well.