The Hazards of Fishing

“And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea for they were fishermen. Then he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men'” (Matthew 4:18,19).
Fishing in the world’s seas is one of the most dangerous professions on earth. That this is as true in the Indian Ocean as in the Atlantic off New England, or the northern Pacific in the waters of Alaska was brought home this week. Storms in the Bay of Bengal have left approximately 100 known dead and over 1,000 missing, almost all of them fishermen. In addition to storms, Bengali fishermen face pirates lurking to rob them, and natural predators, the Bengal tigers, who continue to take scores of human lives annually. Many of those killed and eaten by tigers are fishermen, seeking to wrest a livelihood from the waters of the Sundarbans.
Many are familiar with the metaphor Jesus uses to the Apostles, who having been catchers of fish, he will transform into catchers of men (Luke 5:10). We recognize its appropriateness when applied to the activity of evangelism. Just as one goes out seeking fish and works to bring them into captivity, so the Apostles were to seek men and bring them into the Kingdom of God. What we may not immediately realize, however, is that the analogy is very fit in other ways as well. One of these is in the hazards of each profession. Consider Jesus’ instructions to his disciples as he sent them on their first mission:
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for my sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles …. Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:16-18; 21,22).
The greatest and most obvious danger that Christians face in their evangelistic activities is persecution and opposition from the enemies of the Gospel. Just as Jesus was himself rejected, beaten, and killed, so many who have proclaimed his name have suffered. The apostle Paul states it as inevitable law, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). History records multitudes of cases of martyrdom for the name of Jesus, including those of both these first men to be called by Jesus to become “fishers of men.”
Others perish from hazards of the activity itself. Shipwrecks, traffic accidents and plane crashes have caused the deaths of numerous evangelists, and injury to many more. One cannot “go” without incurring risk, and the longer and more often the journeys are, the greater the accumulated risk. Additionally, travel and stressful work exposes one to many diseases and health risks. This is true of many occupations, of course, but it is certainly true of evangelism and mission work.
All of this is not to praise those who embrace these dangers, but to cause us to carefully count the cost (cf Luke 9:57-62) of carrying out our mission. But, having done that, we also must recognize the potential rewards. No occupation has the eternal significance that evangelism does. No occupation entitles its practitioners to as many blessings as that of the preacher or missionary. And no occupation brings greater satisfaction. There is no indication whatsoever that any apostle ever regretted his change of profession, to become a seeker of souls. May we know the joy that was theirs in serving the greatest Fisherman of all.

One thought on “The Hazards of Fishing

  1. Mike,
    I am a friend of Barbara Oliver, getting ready to leave on my first mission trip to India Wednesday. Thanks for the “encouragement.” Thanks a lot. I told her that was great timing. Now that you have brought to mind all the dangers, I think you have a duty to pray particularly for my safety. 🙂

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