Wednesday, April 24, 2013

"Will He find faith?"

I own a small fishing boat and I like to go fishing. However, I happen to be a terrible fisherman. By that I mean that I rarely catch anything substantial. I can’t tell you how many times I have ventured out even as far as 36 miles off shore and out of sight of land (home), just to return home empty-handed. And, every time this happens someone on the boat inevitably says, “Well, that’s why they call it fishing.” If you have never heard that quote before, allow me to explain. Technically, fishing is the practice of attempting to catch fish. If you attempt but don’t catch fish, you are still fishing. Said another way, “Well, that’s why they don’t call it catching.”

In fishing, I am a novice. But, as a novice, I know enough to appreciate its benefits. There are many reasons to fish. The obvious reason is to catch fish. However, there is so much more to the adventure than just that. The whole experience is a quest of sorts. What lies before the fisherman is a conquest that sometimes is rather dangerous and almost always promises bonding with your fishing mates. In fact, the main reason that I fish is to spend time with my son on the frontier of open water seeking trophies worthy of memories that photos can’t fully capture. And, as it is with fishing, so it is with Faith.

It is not mere coincidence that Jesus chose as his first disciples, fishermen. And, He bridged them from their occupations to their destiny in Matthew 4:19 with the call, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus introduced the entire world to faith in Him through humble fishermen. And, to these first disciples He characterized our faith as fishing, but for men. The chief passion of our King is to build His Kingdom. It consumes His efforts. And, so it should consume ours. Building His Kingdom through our fishing of men is the greatest of manly adventures. It will cost us our lives as we venture out of sight of home. And as we journey together we will bond as in no other experience. We will sometimes be blessed with a catch that, unlike elusive fish, is eternal. And then many times we may not catch any. But, fish we must.

Like fishing with my son, this is an adventure that I gain inspiration from my own earthly father with whom I spent many hours on boats fishing. It was he who also introduced me to the Father and King. It was he who showed me how to live in faith. It was he who risked almost everything to raise four sons who call Jesus, Lord. And, even today, in his mid-70s, he is still fishing and catching men for the King. It seems that every other time that we talk on the phone, he tells me of another adventure where he led people back to the Father.

In a culture consumed with social justice, the greatest social justice is to reconcile fallen men back to the Heavenly Father. What greater social justice is there than that? Is there any cause known to man of greater importance? More to the point, is there any cause known to God of greater importance? No! God loves us all so much that He came to suffer and die in order to erase everything that will ever separate us from Him. And, He freely offers reconciliation with Him with no strings attached. Unlike the fish that we catch that end up eaten, men caught by the Father receive adoption, favor, love and eternal royalty. And, fishing for men is what our King loves to do more than anything else alongside His children. In addition, like all fishermen, fishing for men is God’s favorite topic of conversation especially with His children. It is in prayer that He wants us to discuss with Him how we might fish for men together. It is in prayer that He wants us to ask Him for the things that He also wants, a catch.

These notions of prayer and social justice remind me of Jesus’ parable of the Persistent Widow found in Luke 18. In this parable, a widow pleads daily to a ruthless judge for justice against her adversary. Eventually, worn out from her unceasing requests, the judge grants her wish. Jesus then bridges this analogy to us by saying, “And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night?” Later on, Jesus closes out this lesson with a curious question, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” In this context, Jesus is painting a picture of faith with the actions of the Persistent Widow. He is revealing to His disciples that a true marker of faith is persistent, even obstinate prayer. In fact, this parable opened up in verse 1 by Luke explaining why Jesus shared it, “Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” And, this is less a picture about quantity or duration of prayer and more about endurance of praying. Every time I fish, I ask God for a catch. Even though my attempts far exceed my catches, I will never stop asking for it. And, so it should be with fishing for men.

There are also some pretty heavy prophetic implications by Jesus asking if He will find faith upon His return. What would inspire Jesus to ask this, given that He already knows exactly what He will find when He returns? Pondering this can be discouraging. How bad can it get before Jesus returns, for Him to ask such a prophetic question? And, keep in mind the characterization of faith that Jesus is making. When He returns, will He find followers who pray to Him day and night regardless of how long it takes to see justice? When He returns, will His followers still be building His Kingdom by fishing for men and praying for a catch? When He returns, will His followers be praying day and night for the souls of men that He so longs for? Will He return to find us praying? This is the faith that our King will seek when He returns. He will seek out faith of those who pray day and night for the things that He cares for, the souls of men. He will seek out faith of those who will keep on praying even to their final breath. He will seek out fishermen who keep fishing no matter how many times it takes to catch just one. He will seek out faith of those who believe even without seeing results, because the opposite is not faith.

Faith would be easy if we simply asked for something and immediately got it. But, the Persistent Widow asked day and night in spite of her hopeless circumstances. And, persistent prayer is the marker of faith that our King seeks even until He returns. If we are not praying day and night, do we truly believe in the God that we can’t see? Prayer is a barometer of what we truly believe. And fishing is the barometer of the love we should have for others. Fishing for men is an adventure that we daily embark upon regardless of whether we catch. That’s why they call it fishing. And, we must have faith that we can pray those we fish for into a relationship with the Father and King. The Persistent Widow is the picture of enduring faith in the unseen God. Is this your daily faith? If so, then in the words of I Thessalonians 5:17, “pray without ceasing.” Day and night, let us bring to the Master Fisherman the names of those we earnestly fish for. Let us do so until they are caught by His beautiful grace no matter how long it takes. Remember that He loves them more than you ever will.