Fisherman's Blues or Bounty?

by Tom Wacaster

It has been quite some time since I donned a fisherman’s attire, along with the necessary equipment to successfully bring home a morsel of fish for supper.   I made a futile attempt at several years ago when my son, and a couple of the grandchildren made our way to a local pond, baited a couple of hooks, and made a pretense at what might otherwise be called “fishing.” But who were we kidding. The minnows were half dead by the time we got them in the water, the grand kids were throwing rocks from the shore, and the worms were being slowly “set free” by little Benjamin (he hated to see us torture those precious little worms, so he became the self-proclaimed liberator of our squirmy, wiggly friends). After about an hour of the hot sun, disinterested grand kids, and the dream of better things to do, we packed it in and headed for home, soothing our conscience that at least we had tried.

That experience was quite a contrast to a trip I once made with some more dedicated and experienced fishermen. I was holding a meeting in Paris, Texas and brother Haskell England, Grover Self, Billy Casey, and myself got up early in the morning and headed to the lake. Now these three men were serious about their fishing: tackle boxes the size of suitcases, at least three fishing poles per man, two boats with outboard motors and smaller trolling engines, and an assortment of bait and lures that would make Baskin Robbins 32 flavors pale in comparison. Likely you can guess the outcome of each of these two fishing expeditions. In the first the only thing we caught was the “fisherman’s blues,” while in the second we enjoyed the fisherman’s bounty and brought home a stringer full of fresh fish for dinner. I learned something from that fishing trip with those men. If you are going to be successful in fishing, you have to equip yourself well, get the hook in the water, and be serious about catching fish. Jesus promised His disciples that if they would follow Him that He would make them to be “fishers of men.” That same promise extends to you and me. The very purpose of our existence is to catch men and bring them to the Lord. Recognizing that it is God Who gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:7), there is still a part that we play in bringing men to Christ.
First, we must be properly equipped. We must first make sure we have the proper equipment, and that we know how to use it. The equipment is the gospel, “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16-17). But just because we have the Bible is no guarantee that we will use it correctly. Thus the admonition to “study” in order that we might “rightly divide” God’s word and thereby “handle it aright” (2 Tim. :15).

Second, we must be serious about the business of winning souls. No halfhearted attempt will get the job done. I cannot stand on the bank and simply “wish” I could win souls. I cannot allow myself to get distracted over the “worms” and the “rocks,” or allow my mind to become preoccupied with the cares of the world that might hinder me from the task at hand. This is serious business; this is my “Father’s Business.”

Finally, with the equipment at my disposal, I must eventually put the hook in the water. The boat, the tackles, the bait, the outboard motor, and the rods and reels are superfluous if the fisherman does not put that hook in the water. So it is with you and me. Until and unless we sow the seed, actually get in the water and “fish for men,” our stringer will remain empty. And we will wring our hands and wonder why in the world we are not converting more to Christ than we are, and, like those hot, weary, empty-handed fishermen who made a half-hearted effort at catching fish, we will go away with the “fisherman’s blues” rather than the “bounty.” Meanwhile our Lord will remind us, “behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white already unto harvest” (John 4:35).

With The Courage Of A King

By Tom Wacaster

When the children of Israel stood on the eastern banks of the Jordan River, they were facing a task that their forefathers had refused to take advantage of forty years before. God told Joshua, “Be strong and of good courage” (Joshua 1:6). God says the same thing to us today. As we face the task of fighting denominationalism, anti-ism, modernism, relativism, pluralism, indifference, and immorality, the battle calls for courage. Too many times we have cried, “We are not able,” and as a result we have become like “grasshoppers” in the sight of the enemy and in our own minds. Courage is not to be confused with daring, which is courage for special occasions. It does not consist of the absence of fear, but the conquering of it. Someone has defined courage as “fighting with the handle after the sword has been broken.” Indeed, “the true hero is the man who rises above the base cowardice of his own nature to do a noble and courageous deed when shaken by dread of its consequences” (Harry Rimmer, The Crucible of Calvary, 95). I can imagine that Joshua had his fears when he was given the responsibility of leading God’s people into the Promised Land, but he overcame those fears with courage and faith in God. Courage is the moral strength to stand for the right at all times, even if you are standing alone.

In Matthew 12:1-14 Jesus demonstrated precisely this kind of courage - courage that is willing to stand for the right, even if you are standing alone. For more than two years Jesus had travelled throughout Galilee and Judaea calling men unto Him. The more He preached the more the Jewish elite grew to hate Him. Every word that proceeded out of His mouth and every miracle He performed was scrutinized by the critical eye of these hypocritical Pharisees sought opportunity to trap Jesus.

History gives us fine examples of courage. When Napoleon had lost the battle of Marengo, he came to his drummer boy and said, “Beat a retreat.” The boy replied, “Sir, I can beat a charge. My master taught me to beat a charge, but not a retreat. I do not know how to beat a retreat.” Napoleon was so impressed that he said, “Beat a charge.” The boy beat a charge that rallied a defeated army to renew the battle with such courage and determination that Marengo is numbered among the outstanding victories of Napoleon.

Brethren, Christ has taught us how to beat a “charge,” but He never taught us how to beat a retreat. Time and space would fail us were we to attempt a lengthy list of notable characters in history who demonstrated great courage.

When Jesus met with His disciples in the parts of Caesarea Philippi, He asked them, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” “Some say John the Baptist; some Elijah; and others Jeremiah, or one of the prophets” came the reply. Peter’s confession that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” set the tone for what would follow. “Peter….upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” It is that promise that has sustained untold thousands, yea millions of Christians over the ages to maintain courage in the face of insurmountable odds. From the persecution that Nero unleased against the church until this day, the devil has never slackened in his attempt to destroy the church as he goes forth to “make war with the rest of her seed, that keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 12:17). God’s people did not give in to threats, physical punishment, or verbal abuse. They stood their ground with great courage.

How easy it would be to follow in the steps of the ten spies who cowered before the giants that occupied the land of Canaan. Capitulation is the path of ease, and compromise an easy way to avoid persecution. But these are not an option for the faithful child of God. The New Testament is filled with admonitions to the contrary, not the least of which is Paul’s call for standing our ground in the face of the enemy as recorded in Ephesians 6:10 thru 20. That enemy is described with words that might otherwise frighten and intimidate. “For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). I am convinced that not all has been revealed as to the might of these principalities and powers herein described by the apostle. We are fighting with an enemy that we cannot see with the human eye; an enemy that cannot be defeated with human instruments of war. This enemy consists of mighty hosts of wickedness. Elsewhere Paul tells us this enemy will appear as ministers of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:15). Their leader, Satan, will “fashion himself into an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). We are to be watchful for our “adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). No wonder God calls upon us to take up the whole armor of God, and then having done that to “stand”!  Such calls for courage!

Too few demonstrate such courage today. The absence of courage in the face of wickedness is manifest in a culture of self-indulgence, and the absence of leadership from the local level to the national level. Had someone told me forty years ago that by the turn of the century our country would be on the very verge of complete implosion, I would likely have mocked the prognosticator. Had you told me forty years ago that the Lord’s church would likewise experience an apostasy the likes of which we are witnessing today, I would have denied it. How desperately we need men who will lead!  Written more than 35 years ago, the words of Babcock still ring true:

God give us men. The time demands strong minds, great hearts, true faith and willing hands: Men whom the lust of office does not kill; men whom the spoils of office cannot buy; men who possess opinions and a will; men who have honor; men who will not lie; tall men, sun-drowned, who live above the fog in public duty and in private thinking! For while the rabble with their thumb-worn creeds, their large professions and their little deeds mingle in selfish pride; lo, Freedom weeps!  Wrong rules the land and waiting Justice sleeps! (original source lost).

The message in our century is the same as in the days of Joshua, Moses, Noah, or any number of great heroes of the past. When Napoleon’s army was defeated at Waterloo it is reported that the old guard, the loyal and faithful soldiers to the Emperor, were called upon to retreat and surrender. They replied, “We know how to die, but not to surrender.” The faithful saints over the centuries, when buffeted by Satan, and threatened by the enemies of the cross, cried out with one voice: “We know how to die, but not to surrender!” What courage!