“Afraid To Go Fishing
Luke 5: 1-11

y name is Bob and I am a fisherman. It has been 14 years since I have been fishing. I knew I had an addiction to fishing when I found myself at Lake Avondale casting with an expensive bait casting reel in the mid afternoon, when I looked up and saw a neighbor pastor drive by who was obviously out visiting his church members. Yet, after all these years of freedom from my addiction, I am still afraid to go fishing.

Jesus seems to have sensed that Simon Peter, James and John were afraid as they responded to his call to follow him: "Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him." (v. 10, KJV).

Our three Apostles had not been sport fishermen. Fishing had been their livelihood as partners of the Zebedee professional fishing company. They were giving up their lifelong trade, learned from their father as they exchanged fishing for fish for fishing for souls. Later in life they may have gone fishing again just for sport. Or perhaps they were afraid to ever put a foot into a fishing boat again for fear of getting hooked and backsliding from their higher calling, "to catch people alive,"(NRSV), to win people to Christ, to be chief engineers in building the Kingdom of God.

If you have ever faced a career change, either by volition, or by your former employer’s "downsizing," you know that on a scale of 1-10, a job change evokes a high level of anxiety. This is especially true if you are in mid- life, as were all of the Apostles. They each had a good life but then along came Jesus, who called them to a totally new way of life. Anyone setting out on such uncharted waters would have experienced a certain amount of natural fear. But their faith overcame their fear as they began to walk with Jesus day by day.

My own calling was not fearful at all, for I was too young to be afraid; and then also, I had no plan prior to my call to preach. I was only 21 and a sophomore in college. I was at that ripe stage in life where I was looking for a job. Actually, I had already changed my college major several times. My first declared major was biology, mainly because I had been a student assistant to Richard Snyder, a young professor that I admired. He had just completed his Ph.D. in ornithology, and was one of those who got me interested in imitating bird calls. Later I attended a U.N.C. basketball game with friend, Sonny Black, who was a young Optometrist, and I was soon investigating that career path. Then I made some A’s in history, under Clifford Lovin, and thought I might like to teach. Then there was that brief enchantment with literature and writing with Prof. Paul Teagan.

Then on February 15, 1966, Jesus called on a cold rainy Sunday. I had been reared a preacher’s kid and was in the habit of going to the campus church. Well, that morning was different for the Holy Spirit spoke in a much clearer voice to my soul than ever before. It had a lot to do with the preacher whom I had idolized much of my life, not because of his faith, but for the opposite. I had known Paul Baker Wood back when he was a rebel without a cause. He had also been a P.K. and would flaunt his rebellion by smoking long Pall-Mall filterless cigarettes on the steps of my daddy’s church as the saints came marching in for worship. As a child I remember staring at him and thinking, "I want to one day be that tough." However, he had found a cause over the passing years. He had been converted under my dad’s ministry and had gone back to college and graduated with honors. He had received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology and was a professor at my college. And on my fateful Sunday, he was the lay preacher. I don’t recall what he said, but him who said it haunted me after church, and on into the afternoon, and finally about 3:00 p.m. I gave up running from God and said "Yes!" to his call. I have never looked back from that moment until now, and have followed the Spirit’s leading, as a "Fisher of Persons."

My call was not unlike the call of the fishermen by the lake. It was not much different from your calling, or every believer’s call to follow him. We are each individuals and God’s plan for our lives is not a 44-R off the department store rack, but is tailor made just to fit us. He considers our aptitudes and abilities, our gifts and graces, our situations and backgrounds. But he has a unique place for every one of us. There is something special for us to do in his Kingdom and he will work things out to put us in just that right spot.

One common thread in all of our tailor made lives, is that we are all called to be evangelists, in one way or another. A few are called to be preachers, and some to other church related vocations. However, 99 % are called to witness as they pursue other occupations full time. Influential Christians were important in my life all along the way. I could name 50 people who directly influenced me to ultimately respond affirmatively to God’s call. Their ministry in my life expresses the heart of evangelism. And I have attempted to be a helper to others throughout my life. We never know what little word might help turn a life in the right direction.

In a letter to a man he had helped lead to Christ, C.S. Lewis said: "My feeling about people in whose conversion I have been allowed to play a part is always mixed with awe and even fear; such as a boy might feel on being first allowed to fire a rifle. Think of me as a fellow patient in the same hospital who, having been admitted a little earlier, could give some advise."

It is the power of influence of one seeker to another that remains the basic manner through which individuals are won to Christ. It is a fearful thing to stand in the midst of the working of the Holy Spirit in another person’s life; but, we are able to do so knowing that it is ultimately up to God and his infinite grace that individuals are won, one by one. Let us not be afraid to go fishing for souls.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor