I made sure the fish were fed appropriately, kept the pump running properly, and cleaned the algae and scum out of the aquarium (a dreaded and tedious task). Although watching the fish was a tranquil distraction when I needed to zone out of the normal chaos, I soon began to have compassion for these poor little fish weaving in and out of plastic seaweed, back and forth from wall to wall in this glorified glass fishbowl...They were created to swim free, to reproduce, and to live out some other purpose in a lake...a river...or an ocean. I could envision them seeking exciting Nemo-like adventures in seas far beyond the confines of this small household aquarium.
I know, I know! It sounds a little pathetic but maybe as a mother of five young children in a rather uneventful small town, I was feeling a little like I was stuck in a fishbowl myself. Maybe I dreamed of "swimming" in oceans far more vast than this small redneck town. Life wasn't meant to be lived in a fishbowl....
This week we were asked if we would like to be known as fishers of men or keepers of the aquarium, and my thoughts went back to this sad little aquarium of fish as I considered God's purpose for each one of us. Faith and ministry isn't meant to be lived out in a fishbowl either. In Jesus last words to the disciples, He commissioned them to live in the ocean.
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age." - Matthew 28:18-20
Jesus Himself has sent each one of us out into the world's "oceans" to be fishers of men...not just to "catch" men but also to train them and "release" them so they too can share in the adventurous life of being fishers of men. Oh sure! It's safe in the fishbowl being handfed, swimming with the "right" people, the right environment, and without the dangers of intimidating predators, but we are called to be fishers of men in a catch and release system--not to devour but to train, encourage, and to take our young disciples along with us on this fishing adventure and journey of faith, teaching them and showing them the way until they are ready to venture out on their own. None of us were meant to be "keepers" of the aquarium. Christ never intended for any of us to remain within the walls of the church but rather to go outside the safe confines of "church" into a sinful and dangerous world to bring in the lost--to nurture, train, and equip them so that they too can make their way in the world and bring others to Him.
Fishing for men isn't necessarily a safe or easy calling for any of us...Nor is it meant for just "some" of us: He has called ALL of us to be disciples and fishers of men. Jesus told His own disciples to MAKE disciples--to create a ripple effect, even a tidal wave that reaches from one end of the axis to the other. Then He gave them AND us a guarantee: "Go out into the world and make disciples. Bring them in and send them out. Dare to join the adventure, and no matter where you are or what happens, I WILL BE WITH YOU for I am the Master and Keeper of the seas."
Nope, no aquariums here--just the wide open sea! Let's go fishing!
"How many are Your works, Lord! In wisdom You made them all; the earth is full of Your creatures.
There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number--living things both large and small. There the ships go to and fro, and Leviathan, which You formed to frolic there.
All creatures look to You to give them their food at the proper time. When You give it to them, they gather it up; when You open Your hand, they are satisfied with good things.
When You hide Your face, they are terrified; when You take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When You send Your Spirit, they are created, and You renew the face of the ground.
May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in His works--He who looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains, and they smoke.
I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to Him, as I rejoice in the Lord." - Psalm 104:24-34 NLT