Failing to Fish

Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” – Matthew 4:19

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What is the key to obedience to Jesus Christ? How can a person know that he or she is doing everything the Lord desires? When the Son of God began to train His closest followers, when He took them down the path to obedience in spreading the “good news of the Kingdom,” how did He do it?

Well, first of all, Jesus never told His disciples to fish. He commanded them to follow, because He knew that if they followed Him, then they would soon be “fishing.” Jesus knew that the key to obedience was not “doing,” but “remaining.” If a disciple remains in fellowship with Him, then he will be able to do everything the Lord requires. In fact, if there is a problem with obedience it will usually be traced to a problem with our fellowship.

Stay close to the Savior. Guard your time with Him. Disobedience cannot survive in proximity to Christ. To be close to Jesus is to be plunged into His desires and will. Follow Him and HE WILL MAKE YOU a fisher of men.

We fail to fish simply because we too often fail to follow.

There is a fellowship more quiet even than solitude, and which, rightly understood, is solitude made perfect. – Robert Louis Stevenson

Unlocking the Practice of Prayer

When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! – Matthew 6:7-8

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Of all the spiritual disciplines, for me prayer is the most difficult to maintain. I have tried just about everything: prayer lists, prayer-walking, prayer-guides … you get the picture. Is there some secret to a vibrant prayer life? Is there a key to the victory for which I so desperately search?

I can only think of one … being still. You know, calm and silent. Something I rarely am! To hear another person, one needs to stop thinking of himself. To receive from another person, one needs to stop moving away. To listen to another person, one needs to stop talking. Perhaps the moment I am willing to stop thinking of myself, be still, and shut up is the moment that a meaningful conversation with God will most likely begin.

Makes sense, right?

I throw myself down in my chamber, and I call in, and invite God, and his angels thither, and when they are there, I neglect God and his angels, for the noise of a fly, for the rattling of a coach, for the whining of a door. – John Donne

The Missiological Problem with Money

But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.” – Matthew 8:20

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One problem that many American short-term mission volunteers face when traveling and serving overseas concerns money. Often those who live in third-world countries observe our clothes and possessions and assume that we are wealthy. Of course, by comparison, we are! It is possible for the price of one round-trip airfare from the U.S. to exceed a typical year’s wages in some of the countries we visit. The sad truth is that many who live in these places often equate our prosperity with Christianity … hence, the issue.

Remember this, Jesus was not rich according to earthly standards. In fact, he had “no place to lay his head.” The peoples of this world have many needs. It would be criminal to not meet those needs when the situation is critical and we have the ability to do so; however, we must not let our riches hide God’s provision for their greatest need, which is eternal life. When we “lead” our efforts with money, this is exactly the danger we face.

Yes, it would be criminal to ignore a dire need, but it would be just as criminal for a person to be well-fed and in good health yet lost forever in a Christless eternity. The greatest need is the Gospel.

Poverty, frost, famine, rain, disease, are the beadles and guardsmen that hold us to common sense. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Departing Discouragement

John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” – Matthew 11:2-3

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In some ways, I am comforted by the fact that John the Baptist (for at least one moment in his life) was discouraged and harbored doubt. This bold prophet of God, after sitting for some time in Herod’s jail, once asked Jesus (the One of whom he had once said, “This is the Lamb of God.”), “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”

John, Jesus’s close relative who baptized the Messiah, heard the audible affirmation of the Father, and saw the visible anointing of the Holy Spirit, doubted his own experience. Oh, the power of discouragement! If John the Baptist was able to feel such despair, then why not me!

While discouragement may be ordinary fare for the Christ-follower, there is no reason to dwell in it. Just follow John’s example for a hasty exit. Call on Jesus. One word from the King of kings and discouragement departs. He is and will always be the all-encouraging Lord

The Christian’s chief occupational hazards are depression and discouragement. – John R. Stott

Lose It

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” – Matthew 16:24-25

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Where do you look to find the life that you truly desire? Do you really like the life you have? If not, why not?

Jesus said that in order to find life, first you have to lose it. So … maybe the question should be, “Have you lost your life yet?” And if you HAVE lost your life, for whom or what did you lose it?

Have you lost your life to your work, career, or ministry? Have you lost your life to an earthly relationship? Maybe you have lost your life to bitterness, anger, or grief. The truth is that each person will eventually lose his or her life to something or someone, but only one Person has ever or will ever give His own life in return.

You WILL find life, if you lose it to Jesus.

In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years. – Abraham Lincoln

In Need of a Heavenly Perspective

And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. – Matthew 19:29

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One day, Peter (considering his own personal sacrifice as a disciple of Jesus), told (or rather reminded) the Lord about everything he had given up to be His follower. From a redeemed perspective, this may seem a little ridiculous, but could it be that sometimes we are just as guilty as Peter in overstating our own “investment?” Isn’t it possible that we may perceive our own sacrifices from an “earthly” rather than “heavenly” perspective?

From heaven, which is to say eternity, all our sacrifices seem small. Our sufferings are truly for a moment, but our rewards are forever. On earth, our sufferings and sacrifices can overwhelm us and cause us to wonder if they are truly necessary. We, like Peter (as he walked to Jesus on the stormy sea and began to focus on the wind and waves), may lose focus and begin to sink in despair.

I do not know what the Savior will ask you to sacrifice in His service, but I am convinced that God will give you the grace to do it … whatever it is.

He who gives what he would as readily throw away, gives without generosity; for the essence of generosity is in self-sacrifice. – Henry Taylor

Get Ready

However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. – Matthew 24:36

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Have you ever known someone who seemed to know everything? We often call them “know-it-alls.” Jokingly, a traveling evangelist used to quip, “I may be wrong, but I’m never in doubt!” Of course, Christ-followers should actually be very sure of some things.

We should be sure of the truth and veracity of God’s Word. In addition, we must be sure that God loves us. Finally, we should be convinced of Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross, His subsequent resurrection, and His ultimate return. No one can state the exact moment of Jesus return, but the Lord made it clear to His disciples that this should not be their concern. Our attention should not be on WHEN Christ Jesus is returning, but rather on whether we will be READY when He does. Will we be found faithful at His appearing?

The attentive disciple will be neither surprised nor ashamed at the return of the King. Get ready.

I die the king’s faithful servant, but God’s first. – Thomas More