By Rev. Kyle Norman
“Come, follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” (Matthew 4:19)
When I was 9, my family and I visited my uncle during our summer vacation. My uncle lived in a small town in northern British Columbia, the kind that boasted opportunities for hunting and fishing. During our stay, my uncle took us fishing along the Skeena River. I brimmed with excitement over my first-ever fishing trip.
We arrived at my uncle’s favorite spot along the bank of the river. No one else was around; the river was open just for us. We unloaded our gear while my uncle began setting things up. The first thing he did was tie a bell at the top of our fishing rods. He then cast the lines deep into the river and stuck the rods into the sand. With the fishing rods securely in place, and the lines dancing in the river, he sat back in a fold-out chair, cracked a beer, and began flipping through a magazine.
For my uncle, this was fishing. Fishing was a passive activity wherein he enjoyed the comfort and quiet of the shorefront. Fishing was a time for him to be alone, drink his beer, and read his magazines, all the while waiting for some wayward salmon to stumble upon his line.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus invites Peter and Andrew to engage in a new type of fishing. “Follow me,” Jesus says, “I will make you fish for people.” Peter and Andrew were fishermen by trade, so they recognized what Jesus was saying. The image was clear for them. Just as they cast their nets into the water, gathering the fish into their boat, Jesus now asked them to gather people into the community of discipleship. For the fishermen of the day, fishing wasn’t a passive activity. There was no lounging under the sun with a beer in hand. Fishing was arduous and demanding. It took effort and diligence. It also involved a team of people. Peter fished with Andrew. James and John fished with their father.
I sometimes wonder if we make Christ’s call to fish for people more passive than we realize. Do we ever approach the call to fish for people in the way of my uncle? We sit back in the comfort of our churches, awaiting any unsuspecting visitor who might stumble across our line. Perhaps this is the reason why the number of active Christians in North America continually declines. Have we failed to recognize the very activity Jesus asks us to engage in?
A Prayer about Growing Fruit
By Jessica Van Roekel, Crosswalk.com
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23, ESV)
Snow-covered fields, leafless trees, and skies laden with steel gray clouds describe the view out my window. It’s wintertime, and frost covers everything. It penetrates the ground, and farmers discuss how deep the frost line goes and how it impacts next spring’s fieldwork. The wind drives snowflakes like tiny needles piercing the sky. The cold reaches deep into my bones, and I struggle to stay warm. If I were a bear, I would sleep away winter. But I am not a bear. I am a human, designed to live and bring glory to God through every season.
The power of winter in the physical world allows the ground to rest so that in the growing season, it can do what God designed it to do—produce life. We also produce life. We can speak life with our words and bring life with our actions. But there’s a season for rest too.
Too often, we view the beginning of a new year with an eye to growth and transformation. While this is a noble pursuit, we also ebb and flow with the seasons. Sometimes, we have seasons where it doesn’t seem like any growth or change happens. Our lives look barren. The landscape in our hearts reveals desolation. We can try harder and work smarter, but the emptiness remains.
The emptiness can frighten us if that’s the only thing we focus on. We give up on our transformational journey too soon because we don’t see the results we want to see as quickly as we hoped. But just as winter reveals a tree’s branches, our personal winters reveal our structure too. This can make us feel vulnerable, which is why we sometimes shy away from spiritual winters. There is a time to bear fruit and there is a time to harvest fruit. There is also a time of rest so that more fruit can grow.
The Fruits of the Spirit are the characteristics of a God-centered, spiritually focused lifestyle. The Holy Spirit produces and develops this fruit in Christians who surrender to the direction and influence of God. Through the Spirit’s power, we can enjoy the benefits of our personal relationship with him. Sometimes surrender means we enter a winter season where our hearts experience a preparation for the fruit God will grow in us.
These character qualities—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—take time to develop. They grow as we practice them over and over. Love looks like a willingness to make personal sacrifices for the cause of Christ and the benefit of others. What can you do today to show that kind of love?
Joy is the inner sense of gladness not based on feelings but based on the love and grace given to those who belong to Christ. Peace is the inner calm and contentment of a right relationship with God and knowing that God has everything under control. Patience is the ability to wait without becoming angry or upset. Kindness involves active consideration for others. Goodness is a trait that causes someone to do what is right and beneficial for others. Faithfulness is unwavering loyalty and devotion to following through on one’s commitments. Gentleness acts mercifully and appropriately. Self-control is the discipline of mastering one’s desires and emotions.
We will have seasons where we feel as though we’re missing this fruit in our lives. Instead of gentleness, we respond with harshness. Rather than self-control, we choose to self-indulge. Peace disappears in the face of worries. It can feel like our previous growth faded like autumn colors giving way to the monochromatic colors of winter.
In these moments, we can pause. We can rest and trust that God hasn’t given up on us. He still has fruit to grow in us. When we choose to rest and trust, God works in the soil of our hearts to prepare us for the next harvest of fruit.
Exodus 2:5-9 5Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. 6She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said. 7Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” 8“Yes, go,” she answered. And the girl went and got the baby’s mother. 9Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.”
God kept His promise and made Israel a great nation during their 400-year stay in Egypt. In fact, they became so great that the Pharaoh ordered all newborn baby boys thrown into the Nile to keep them from becoming too powerful. There was a spiritual war taking place. The time had come for the LORD to raise up a deliverer, and Satan knew it. He planted fear in Pharaoh’s mind so that he would kill the male babies being born. He used the same tactic when Jesus, the Great Deliverer, was born. But the Divine hand of God works even through the evil of men to save lives, just as we saw in the account of Joseph.
The mother of Moses put him in a basket, and Providence guided the basket to the place where the Princess of Egypt had come to bathe. Baby Moses cried, and her heart melted. God will use the most powerful of nations to give His deliverer an education in all the world’s wisdom. He would have to make a choice between the world and his God.
Who was hired to nurse and care for him but Moses’ own mother. I love the way God so utterly turns Satan’s tactics around to bless the children of God. It may seem like the enemy has brought defeat into your life. Remember that the enemy fights the most vehemently when he senses deliverance is at hand.
Encouragement: Hold on, and trust in the wonderful ability of God to turn your circumstances into a mighty victory.
From: Today Devotionnals
SCRIPTURE READING — 1 JOHN 4:7-19
This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.
A fun memory on my Facebook page includes videos of my grandsons watering the roses in our backyard. The boys have intent looks on their faces as they hold the hose carefully and walk along the line of rosebushes. They water the roses well and enjoy doing this, but then something changes as they realize that what they have in their hand is useful for more than just watering roses. That is usually when you hear a loud noise on the video because my husband is getting watered instead. And there is laughter and delight all around.
Reflecting on those moments, I realize there is space in the garden for nurturing and giving. The gift of life is all around. When we discover God’s love for us and the gift of the Spirit he has given us, we can stop to reflect and be grateful. In that moment we know God loves us. It is the moment we surrender to his leadership and call. It is the moment we discover we have more in our hands and hearts than we have imagined.
Today is a day to turn what we know into action. Today is a day to join God where he is and to share his love and grace with others. Today is a day to bring delight and joy to God and others as we make use of the gifts and resources we have been given.
Father, thank you for giving us your Spirit. Thank you for nourishing us and calling us to live each day in your presence and love. Help us to use the gifts you have given, sharing with others as we answer your call. Amen.