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A Fisher of Men
by Pastor Larry H. Baker
In the spring of 2004, I returned to my hometown of Hornell, New York to join some of my high school friends in pursuit of a mature gobbler and to engage in some trout fishing. The fishing experience turned out to be more than I expected. God's grace and His divine intervention sometimes creates the ricochet effect!
In preparation for my trip, I prayed for an opportunity to share the Gospel of Christ with one or more of my high school friends. While growing up, many of them were exposed to the message of the cross. However, I never observed any evidence in their lives that proved they had made a commitment to the Lord and were living for him. Since my high school days were in the early 1960s and over forty years had passed, I felt that time was of the essence.
As a pastor, I have taught my congregation that the Holy Spirit is the one who convicts men and women of sin, and that we are all totally dependent upon the Spirit to draw men to God. Our responsibility is to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, to discern where He is at work and to join Him. In 1 Peter 3:15 (KJV) the Bible explains our responsibility:
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”
When God is a work, witnessing is not a struggle, a contest or a debate. It seems to come supernaturally!.
In the State of New York, the hunting regulations allow you to hunt from sun up until noon, which leaves the rest of the day to take a nap or go trout fishing. One afternoon, a friend of mine—an older gentleman—decided to take me trout fishing in a remote area outside of Andover, New York. Upon arriving at the location, I noticed a spring fed pond, a cabin nearby and a young man doing some landscape work on the property. My friend and I baited our hooks with live minnows that were accessible from a minnow trap at the pond. I then walked to the far end of the pond, cast my line out towards the middle of the pond, sat my pole on a nearby log and made myself comfortable with my Bible in hand.
Fifteen to twenty minutes later, I noticed my line stretching out, indicating that a fish was taking my bait. I reached down, took up the slack, gently set the hook and commenced to battle a large fish. After a five minute battle, I managed to haul in a 9 ½ pound rainbow trout. In my excitement, I lifted the fish up and shouted, “The blessings of God!” My friend and the young man came running, surprise written all over their faces. They obviously hadn’t realized there was such a huge fish in that pond.
My excitement and thanksgiving to the Lord caused the young man to question me about the Lord. I told him who I was then shared with him my relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and the hope that I had in following Christ. I could see that God was already at work in this young man’s life and that he was seeking God for some answers. I asked him if he wanted to make an exchange that day—to forfeit his life (die to self) for the gift of eternal life through the Lord Jesus Christ, who wanted to live His life in and through him. He then prayed and asked Jesus Christ to be his Lord and Savior, to forgive him of all his sins and to give him the power to live for God.
I’m amazed at how God works. I was directing my prayers and witness towards my friend, and God directed me to a young man who was a total stranger. I call this the ricochet effect. As believers, we must realize that we need to prepare ourselves each day for God to work in and through us. He is the One who has the right to interrupt our work schedules, our fishing trips, our plans and our agenda.
As a memento of the event, I had the fish mounted. It now hangs on the wall in my office to remind me of that special day. I thank the Lord for allowing me to catch the largest trout I’ve ever caught. But most of all, I thank Him for the greater joy of calling me to be a “fisher of men.”
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