SAILFISH-THE “HARD” FISH TO CATCH
LESSON TEXT: Ecclesiastes 5:18; Psalm 119:98-100; Colossians 2:8; Isaiah 47:10; Mark 10:24; Matthew 19:24; Mark 8:38; I Timothy 6:17-18; Acts 17:11-12.
“For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence” (I Corinthians 1:26-29).
LESSON AIM: To find ways to attract the highly educated and wealthy.
Teaching Material: Magni-Vu Picture EE; on the left of picture, place words “Our Negative Attitudes,” “Indifference,” “Unbelief,” “Carnal Security,” and “Pride.” On the right of picture place “Gifts of the Spirit,” “Word of God,” “Tracts and Booklets,” “Home Bible Study,” “Church Appearance,” and “Good Ushers.”
A SPECTACULAR FISH
(Show Magni-Vu Picture EE on board).
The sailfish is one of the most spectacular jumpers in the fish world. They go straight up as if to stab the clouds with their long bills, then fall back in tail first. They make arching leaps, dive in head first and come out with bill almost touching tail. Then with a pop you would think would slip a disk, they straighten out. With fast beating tail and sideways swipes of the body they skitter across the surface of the ocean, tailwalking for 50, 100 and 150 feet in a show of beauty and strength that makes one marvel. The frenzy of their leaps is such that sometimes they throw the bait, then become foulhooked as the hook lodges in some part of the body.
Sailfish are easy to identify by their high, sail-like dorsal fin,much larger than that of any other billfish. Those living in the Pacific
grow to an average of 100 pounds, while the Atlantic sail averages 35 pounds.
These fish are not caught by the millions as the catfish, salmon or perch. They are hard to find, hard to raise, hard to hook, hard to gaff and hard to boat.
The majority of sail are first seen, then hooked deliberately. A good skipper will be scanning the water near the bait constantly. They see the fish coming from a distance and give the angler warning. If the fish hits and fails to pick up the bait, he reels in fast. This excites the fish and makes him angry. Then he will follow it to the boat. If the sail leaves the bait, he drops back again and holds the rod high as he reels fast to keep the bait skipping on top of the water. Many anglers drop back four or five times before getting their fish.
The last few seconds in landing a sailfish can be dangerous. They have been known to slash through the front pocket of an angler’s shirt and knock the cap off the mate as he reached out to catch it by the bill. A couple of inches closer could have caused serious injury. Some have been killed landing sails by having the bill rammed through the neck or chest.
Most sail are turned loose after catching them unless kept for mounting or participating in a tournament. It is said that no matter how many sailfish one catches, you never cease to be astounded at the vigor and variety of the fight.
HARD TO CATCH PEOPLE
The people who have proven to be hardest to win are the upper middle class and wealthy, the highly educated of every field, and the atheist. Look over your congregation and see how many doctors, lawyers, college professors, politicians, scientists, executives of large corporations, millionaires or atheists have come into your church. Chances are you will find absolutely none.
It is very possible you have educated people in your church with a master’s or doctor’s degree, but usually they were already in the church before they went to college. There may also be members who are in the upper middle class or wealthy, but those, too, usually acquired their positions after coming to the Lord. We recognize the fact that “Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God”(Ecclesiastes 5:18).
The goodness of God is responsible for the prosperity of His children. We are wise enough to know where our blessings come from.
The sailfish represent those who depend upon their education or money to get them places. Their dollar “bills” are displayed to make an impression upon their audience. Beauty and strength are exhibited in their strutting around as they “tailwalk” down the street in their finery.
The main reason these people are hard to find, hard to hook and hard to boat is because we seldom go deep-sea fishing. In fact, we know little about catching them because of inexperience.
I suppose it has been the dream of every pastor to find a few of these trophies so his financial load would be a little lighter. But unless they are carefully boated, we may be like most fishermen and want to turn them loose again.
This type people have been sorely neglected, possibly because we have been afraid of them. It’s not too easy a task bringing a hundred pound fish into the boat. We are not too familiar with the strong line and tackling used to land them. Maybe our testimony is not effective enough to reach these giants of the sea. Perhaps we have never used the sophisticated bait required to get their attention.
Whatever the reason, it is time the people of God set their sights on reaching the sailfish. Never before has there been such a crying need for money to finance the spreading of the gospel to all the world. This task will require multiplied millions of dollars. Our sacrificial giving has met the demand up to this point, but just over the horizon looms the mammoth endeavor of publishing the gospel in every language of the world and the preaching of the gospel in gigantic crusades. It’s time to go deep-sea fishing for sailfish!
HINDRANCES TO WINNING THE WEALTHY AND EDUCATED
Many of our people have become expert fishers of the children, the good church member and the social outcast. In fact, we have learned to rescue almost every nationality and religious person on the lower and middle classes of society. But somehow, we have been able to claim but few on the upper levels. Let’s see if we can find some reasons.
(Place each of these phrases on left side of Picture EE as you teach).
1. Our Negative Attitudes. We are the No. 1 hindrance. We are afraid. Some saints are convinced they cannot reach anyone above their level of society. As a result, they never try. For years we have filled our churches with the poor and the outcasts-which is good. No one should ever be turned away from our doors. But on the other hand, while trying to balance the scales, we have overbalanced it. The people with wealth and a first class education are starving and no one feels they can be reached.
Often we feel inadequate because our education is limited. What if we should use the wrong tense of a verb or misuse our English? Some are afraid to speak to a visitor above their level for fear of saying something incorrectly.
This is nothing more than a trick of the devil to make us feel this way. If the truth was known, the most educated and influential people are not that hard to talk with. They want you to be yourself!
This doesn’t justify us for being careless in our speech or not caring how ignorant we may sound; but we should never permit a negative attitude to prevent us from witnessing.
Since we know the truth, we actually know more than the scientific geniuses of our day. Since we have the peace and joy of the Holy Ghost in our hearts and the promise of a home in heaven, we are more wealthy than Rockefeller or J. Paul Getty. You know, we are children of the King of Kings!
On subjects of religion we are experts in comparison with the educated and wealthy. We know more about the Bible than they ever dreamed of knowing. Our preachers are qualified to discuss the Bible with any person in town because they know something these others don’t know. The average saint in our churches knows more about the Bible than the executives of the large corporations and bank presidents. Those who are brilliant in their professions are usually completely ignorant of the Bible.
The weak little points they try to use can quickly be destroyed with a few familiar Scriptures, while they shake their heads in disbelief. We can feel superior to these people-not in education or wealth-but in what we know that they don’t know!
If this attitude can ever be sufficiently developed in our saints, we can win these people to God. Truth has a way of putting you on a higher level. David said, “Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies….I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts” (Psalm 119:98-100).
For me to know the Bible makes me wiser than all my teachers, no matter what field of learning they may specialize in.
2. Indifference. Many who enjoy the luxuries of life are contented as they are. No concern is given to their soul. No thought is given to God. They do not care enough about religion to oppose it. If they should see the need of religion, they usually put it off until later. These are the hard ones to reach. I would far rather have a man an earnest, intense opposer of the gospel than have him careless and indifferent. Not much can be done with a person who will not speak about religion or care to hear what you have to say concerning the things of God.
The only way to overcome indifference is to be doubly in earnest yourself. Keep your own zeal alive and blazing. Stir them up somehow; if all your earnestness seems to be in vain, still blaze and burn for the Lord. If that has no effect upon your hearers, go elsewhere as the Lord may direct you.
3. Unbelief. People have become so broad-minded in our day, they will not always accept the Scriptures. They do think about religion, but they do not believe in the truth that we preach to them. Their opinion is to them more weighty, more worthy of belief, than God’s inspired declarations. They shrug their shoulders and say, “Every man to his own opinion.”
Scientific progress has done much toward tearing down faith in God and His Word. Men have convinced themselves that there is no need for a higher power. Man-made theories abound which boldly contradict the written Word. But the Bible teaches: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8). “Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee; and thou hast said in thine heart, I am, and none else besides me” (Isaiah 47:10).
These people are very hard to influence, but we must not fight them with their own weapons. Infidels and atheists are rarely won by argument. The argument that convinces men of the reality of salvation is what they see in the holiness and earnestness of those who profess to be a follower of Christ. Faith will do more to conquer unbelief than reason.
4. Carnal Security. Riches have a way of blinding the eyes. Jesus said, “How hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:24). “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matthew l9:24). A camel going through the eye of a needle is most likely a proverbial phrase Jesus was using, but it points out the fact that it is very difficult for those who feel secure because of the size of their bank account to realize their need of salvation.
They have not tested the foundation on which they are building to see that it is sound and firm; they only suppose that all is well. Many of them seem to have no fear of death at all. Against these people we must thunder in our testimony to present their real danger. Should we shun to declare the whole counsel of God and instead offer soothing and agreeable things, part of the responsibility of their ruin might lie at our door.
5. Pride. This is a tremendous obstacle to overcome for the wealthy and educated. To leave their fashionable church with all their refined friends and come to an humble House of God is almost too much for the social-climber. What will their family and friends say? They may even stand the chance of losing a sizeable inheritance should they choose the way of the cross. But then we remember the words of Jesus: “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).
It would be much better to overcome our pride now than to be overcome by it later at the judgment. If we are not willing to bear the cross, I’m afraid there will be no crown to wear.
TYPES OF BAIT
A common characteristic of the highly educated person is that they like to study. Give them the facts; be able to prove what you have to say. Like the sailfish, you must give the bait, then wait for them to swallow it. A common practice among fishermen is to count to ten before setting the hook.
These people must have time to think before they act. They will carefully weigh it out from every angle and study every Scripture you give them. Never expect them to be gullible enough to believe something simply because you said it was so. “Tear-jerking” stories and highly emotional appeals resemble psychology too much and they will reject it. They care little for the “spiritual” portion of our gospel, such as would attract the church member. Their emotions have been so well mastered until any display of sensationalism would be identified with illiteracy.
Our sincerity would be recognized and appreciated, but don’t try to “put on the dog.” To pretend to be on an equal status would never work. Only a few moments of conversation would reveal whether your education is lacking. Therefore, it is useless to try to be an actor. They have studied enough about human characteristics and psychology to “read” you pretty well.
(Place “Gifts of the Spirit” on right side of Picture EE).
The gifts of the Spirit, I say, will work on any kind of fish. The reason is that this is a supernatural ability that no human can possess. The most scholarly must admit that you or I could not speak a few words and blinded eyes be opened or a cripple leap and run. They know that cancers cannot vanish or deaf ears be unstopped on their own accord. The miraculous power of God is something with which they cannot argue.
(Place “Word of God,” “Tracts and Booklets” and “Home Bible Study” on board).
The next most important bait would be the Word of God itself, or books, tracts or a Bible study course. Anything that can be read, studied and evaluated is ideal. It is a pity that we don’t have more good literature produced by Jesus’ Name people. This is one of the first things they want to get their hands on after they get a glimpse of truth-books!
(Place “Church Appearance” and “Good Ushers” on board).
Church appearance means a lot to the educated and wealthy. Good ushers and good behavior in the House of God are especially noted. They can take shouting or dancing in the Spirit a lot easier than children running in and out, teenagers whispering and passing notes, babies screaming, etc. They are used to order and reverence in the church sanctuary and they expect it in our churches too.
These people will be watching to see if you are overly friendly. This could scare them away if they think you are making over them simply because you want to raise your prestige in the neighborhood by their attendance. If they ever suspect that you are looking for a hand-out or that you are interested in them because of their wealth or education, they will back off. Even after they are caught and landed in the boat, never play favorites with them or show them off as your “trophy.” This is one good way to cause discontent among the other saints.
In God’s sight, we are all on the same level. Paul admonished “them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy. That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute…” (I Timothy 6:17-18).
Don’t be discouraged if you fail to catch these fishes. Paul witnessed to the philosophers at Athens, but without success. He was brought before governors and kings, but made no converts of them. However, Sergius Paulus, the pro-consul of Cyprus was converted when he saw the gifts of the Spirit in operation. Elymas, the sorcerer, was made blind by the apostle when he withstood Paul and Barnabas. When Sergius Paulus saw what was done, he believed, “being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord” (Acts 13:6-12). At Berea, Paul found honorable Greeks who “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11-12).
When you find a sailfish, you can expect him to see for himself whether or not what you say is true. Then if he likes it, everyone around will know that he is hooked!
Give your students an opportunity to add to this discussion. Perhaps they can give instances when they helped to bring a sailfish into the church. Discuss ways to attract people that your members are personally acquainted with, such as bankers, lawyers, doctors, dentists, college professors, school teachers, business executives, city councilmen, mayors, judges, presidents of corporations, etc.
If we begin praying and casting our lures in the direction of these men and women, surely we will begin winning them to the Lord. Their souls need to be saved as badly as the drunkard or common man on the street. With the leading of the Holy Ghost and the proper fishing gear and a good deal of wisdom, we should soon be catching every kind of fish from the least to the greatest.
Be sure that your students are completing their record sheet each week so they can see how well they are progressing.
(The above material appeared in Fearless Fishermen, Search for Truth Publications, Houston, TX.)
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