"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." – Galatians 6:9
When I was a boy in Colorado , I loved to go fishing . Often very early before school time, I went to fish at Sloan’s Lake a few blocks from where I lived. I couldn’t afford a fishing rod or fancy equipment, but I had a linen line with a big lead weight at the end. I attached a number of hooks to the line, and with doughballs as bait, sometimes I caught a couple of carp. I would bring them home and my mother would make gefilte fish.
I liked to go to the lake and I knew almost everyone who fished there. It wasn’t a popular resort area because there were only carp and catfish. If I ever caught a catfish on my line, I had to throw it back in the lake because it wasn’t kosher. (Fish must have scales and fins in order to be kosher.) Still, as much as anything else, I liked going to the lake because I liked early morning, and I liked the other people who went there to fish.
One morning a man drove up in a shiny car. All dressed up in a fancy fishing outfit with a real canvas fishing vest, he started putting together a lightweight bamboo fishing rod. Then he attached a green automatic reel and took out some trout flies. At first I thought I was going to see an expert fly fisherman so I kind of ambled over to watch . I couldn’t figure out why he was fishing that way since there certainly were never any trout in that lake. Then again, it occurred to me that maybe the Colorado Department of Fish and Game had stocked some trout in Sloan’s Lake . At least the people I met in the mornings sometimes talked about the possibility of putting some hatchery fish into old Sloan’s Lake .
But even a boy like me could see that for a fisherman the man was awfully clumsy. Twice he hooked those colorful trout flies into the back of his jacket, and had to cut them off. I wanted to talk to him the way I talked to the other people at the lake, but he gave me one glance that indicated that conversation would not be welcome.
Since my own line was set, I went past him to another man who was out at the lake every day. To tell the truth, I don’t know if he ever put any bait on his lines. He mostly seemed to be there because he liked the lake and he liked talking to the fishing people. He lived right at the edge of the lake and was retired, so he was always there. I asked him, "Did they stock the lake with trout?" He looked at me and said, ügNope; not so far as I know unless they stocked the lake when everyone else was asleep." Then I glanced again at the man doing the flycasting. I thought to myself, "Well, he could just be practicing, trying to learn how to use his equipment."
As I passed him again, I heard him muttering furiously, using some words my parents didn’t like me to use: "No blank blank good fishing rod; no-good tapered line; blankety-blank-blank reel; they must have sold me some no-good trout flies in the sporting goods store!" Etc., etc., etc. For someone who didn’t invite conversation, he was doing a lot of talking!
Then he watched me as I pulled in my line and there were two huge carp. "Better than usual," I thought to myself. When he saw those two huge fish I caught on my 15 ¢ fishing outfit, it just seemed to make him angrier. I took the fish off, baited the line again with some smelly doughballs, and threw it back in! Within a few minutes, I saw the line go taut and I knew I had another big one!
When the flycasting man saw that, he brought in his own line, broke his fishing rod in half, whirled it and threw it way into the lake. Then he began walking toward me. He frightened me because he seemed so angry . "They sold me a lot of no-good fishing equipment at that sporting goods store!" he blustered.
He went on and on telling me how he had been cheated. He stared openmouthed as I pulled in my fourth carp. As a boy I was rather shy, but I decided to be helpful, so I said, "You didn’t catch any fish because you were using the wrong bait. That was good for trout and for bass, but there aren’t any of those fish in this lake."
He glowered at me and shouted, "Don’t you tell me how to fish! I was fishing long before you were born!" With that he got into his shiny new car, slammed the door and drove off.
Why am I telling you this story? Well, it’s an illustration ä? an illustration about life, ministry and the preaching of the Gospel. That man wanted to believe he was right more than he wanted to catch fish! He was at the lake at the right time, and his equipment was more than adequate. I would have even given him some of my bait. Fisherpeople did that at Sloan’s Lake . His failure was that he never took the time to learn about the fish in that particular lake.
Some people are like that, and I guess pride and human nature won’t let people take suggestions or instructions from a child.
I have seen ever so many Christians ä? yes, even Christian organizations − come out with some rather grand ideas as to how they’re going to do the work of evangelism and fish for men. Usually their ideas are exciting and sometimes expensive, like some new kind of method, some kind of radio program or a new kind of visual device or a new kind of meeting format or something new. It’s always something new. When they’re talking about reaching Jews for the Gospel, I’m tempted to offer some suggestions. But then I remember that man at the lake and I think, "If they really wanted to know, they’d probably ask me."
There is a harvest of souls to be gained and there is a lake full of "fish" to be brought in for God. Fishing for souls is the only kind of fishing that is just as good for "the fish" as it is for the fisherman. Many fail to catch fish or to reap a harvest because they impatiently refuse to consider the place where they are trying to do God’s work. If it’s fishing for souls you’re doing, you’ve got to know what kind of fish are in the lake .