I once took a fishing trip to Alaska with three guys from our church who are about as different as three guys can be.
Lonnie has great hair, which he was always messing with, even when we were getting ready to go fishing at 4:30 A.M. Then there is Dwight, who doesn't say a lot. He's very unassuming. Then there is Dennis, who is Mr. Outgoing, Mr. Activity. He never stops.
We were fishing on the Kenai River near Soldotna, where the king salmon run. Dennis was the eternal optimist. He would say, "You know what, guys? I just know we are going to catch a fish right now. This is the spot! I just feel it."
Not only did we not catch fish in those spots, but I don't think Dennis even got a single bite. The next morning at about 7:00, our moment came. Our diligence was rewarded. Dwight got a bite. He reeled that baby in — a 45-pound king salmon. It was really something. The rest of us went home empty-handed.
After doing all that fishing, I started thinking about what Jesus said to two fishermen: "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19 NKJV). There certainly are a lot of parallels between fishing for fish and fishing for men.
The expression, "fishing for men," is an important one for us to understand. Another way to translate it would be, "catching men alive" (women, too, of course). We find this unique phrase only two times in the Bible, first in Matthew 4:19 and then in 2 Timothy 2:26, where it describes those who have been ensnared by Satan. Thus, Scripture provides a striking contrast: either we will catch men and women alive or the devil will.
With that in mind, I want to point out a few qualities that make for a good fisherman that also apply to fishers of men.
A good fisherman needs to be patient. When we were fishing in Alaska, I was told that it could take up to 100 hours to catch one king salmon. You cast out your line. You reel it in. You cast it out. You reel it in. It takes time and lots of it. On some days, you will catch ten fish. On other days, you won't get a single bite.
Sharing our faith can be that way too. Sometimes people respond, while at other times, people don't respond at all. So when we go fishing for men and women, we need to learn to wait and to persevere.
A good fisherman must have good instincts. Some people can just tell that a certain spot is the place to catch fish. They just have that fisherman's instinct. The same is true of sharing our faith. We must be sensitive to the timing and leading of the Holy Spirit.
Opportunities often arise at the spur of the moment. You may have other things you want to do. But a good fisherman will always have his pole and tackle box ready to go. We, too, should always be ready, always looking for an opportunity to be used by the Lord.
A good fisherman must have skill. A good fisherman knows his tools. He knows what to use at the appropriate time. He uses certain kinds of bait for certain kinds of fish. He knows how to cast out his line.
In the same way, fishers of men have the Word of God and the leading of the Spirit for their tools. They learn how to use these tools more effectively with experience. They learn by taking chances and trying again and again.
Good fishermen must know how to work together. When that fish is hooked, you need your buddy standing by with a net.
Have you ever noticed that when Jesus sent His disciples out, He sent them out in twos? That is an effective way to share your faith. As one person shares, the other person can pray. We need to work together and pray for each other.
God wants to use you to be a fisher of men and women. If you will make the effort, if you will load up your tackle box and your pole and go out looking for opportunities, God will use you to not only work alongside other fishers of men, but also to have the privilege of leading someone to Christ.
That is one of the greatest joys you ever will experience — far greater than catching a king salmon.
Out of their long and painful journey has come a really helpful survival guide, so to speak. It’s a book called Suffer Strong: How to Survive Anything by Redefining Everything. It’s not just an inspiring story of triumph through trials but a how-to book for accepting God’s plan and recognizing His providence even when it feels like your world is shattered.