WHY FISH FIGHT
LESSON TEXT: Acts 7:57-8:4; 26:9-11; 5:38-39; Deuteronomy 28:67; Isaiah 48:22; John 7:24; Matthew 5:11: Psalm 139:7.
“If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them” (Romans 11:14).
LESSON AIM: To explain the possible reactions of men and women after feeling the call of God.
Teaching Material: Magni-Vu words: “Loss of Freedom,” “Fear of Death,” “Bound by the Devil,” “Head-shaking,” “Surges and Jerks,” “Aerial Acrobatics,” “Foul Up the Line,” and “Run for Cover.”
FINDING A FIGHTER
Every sportsman will agree that the fish they enjoy catching most are the real fighters. The tougher the battle, the more they enjoy bringing them in. The fish that presents the biggest challenge is the one most sought after. The meek little perch has very few admirers among the experts because it takes no skill or ingenuity to fill a stringer with them.
In soul-winning, this is also true somewhat. A saint of God dedicated to saving the lost is anxious to bring in every type person because they want no one to spend eternity in the lake of fire. Yet, there is a secret pulsating of the heart when a real fighter is landed. One reason for this is because this type person has some capacity for becoming an accomplished soul-winner themselves. If this “fight” can be turned in the right direction, an enthusiastic, red-hot evangel may have been discovered. It is a proven fact that those with the most zeal and fervor before finding God will be the greatest producers afterward.
REASONS FISH BITE
It has been said that bass bite for two reason. Either they are hungry or they are angry. Bass have been caught on artificial lures with a part of a half-eaten fish hanging out of their mouth, proving they were not striking because of hunger. The action of the lure or something about its color might have caused him to strike. Bass have been hooked on the side or the tail because they were throwing themselves against the lure. They were actually mad at the bait!
People also bite because of hunger and anger. Many are in our churches today because they became hungry for more of God. They felt starved in their former church and began searching for some good food put out by a pastor who didn’t resort to lectures and sermonettes.
Probably, an equal number fill our pews because the gospel upset them These had not intended to become involved with the Apostolics or anyone else. But there was something about that lure that caught their eye. They weren’t hungry especially, but they decided to inquire about this unusual-looking object floating around.
I wonder how many have come to our churches out of curiosity or to make fun-and have ended up in the “frying pan!” Years ago, the Apostolics provided entertainment for the community. Hundreds who came to “see the show,” became one of the actors!
The Apostle Paul used every means at his disposal to “provoke to emulation them which are my flesh,” that he “might save some of them” (Romans 11:14). As a skillful apostle, he played one against the other. He would stir up the Jews to jealousy by showing them how much the gospel has benefited the Gentiles; in this way he tried to save some of them. On the other hand, he would hold before the Gentiles the hope of far greater blessing when the Jews would be gathered in, and so set the Gentiles upon the enterprise of saving the Jews.
REASONS FISH FIGHT
There are several reasons why fish fight after they are hooked. It is just a natural instinct to want to be free. Anything that limits freedom of movement or that binds and hinders is to be avoided. There is also a certain amount of pain involved in being caught. If fish have any way of knowing what has happened to countless millions of their friends and relatives, undoubtedly there is a fear of the hook because it spells certain death.
Humans fight for the same reasons. Let’s discuss a few of them.
(Place each of the following Magni-Vu words on board as you teach each point.)
1. Loss of Freedom. No one wants to be bound. When people look at us, all they can see is what they will have to give up to serve God. They think they will never be able to do anything enjoyable again. They see that our ladies don’t cut their hair or wear makeup, short dresses, pant suits, jewelry, bathing suits, etc. Our men don’t wear their hair long or indulge in the latest fashions for man. No one smokes, drinks intoxicating beverages, uses drugs, goes to movies, ball games, bowling alleys, watches television, etc. It seems that everything they have ever enjoyed in life must suddenly be surrendered-should they decide to become a member of our church. Never again will they any fun-they think!
What they don’t realize is how much they will be gaining. A lack of understanding is the cause for much of their struggle. If only they knew the peace and joy and contentment we have. This is one thing we should always remember to stress-the positive side of our message.
It is true that we are no longer free to do as we please. We have, in fact, become a slave. But it is strictly by choice! We are love slaves and enjoy every minute of it. Who wouldn’t want to serve a kind Master such as ours who provides every need, heals us when we’re sick, solves every problem, gives us peace in our souls and who shall soon return to take us from this world of sorrow to a land of eternal bliss!
2. Fear of Death. No one wants to die. But die we must when we come in contact with Christ. We associate death with pain and agony, and there is a certain amount of both in living for God. To die out to the flesh is not an easy task. This surrender of our will to God’s will has caused many a fight; but there is no other alternative. The desire to have our own way is a built-in feature of humanity. Our wishes and ideas are so contrary to the Spirit’s, the two cannot exist together. The sooner we can die, the quicker we can begin to really live. As long as there is a shred of life left in us, we will be miserable and unhappy. The way will seem so hard. But when we are truly dead, how our whole attitude changes! Life becomes worth living after we have become willing to die.
3. Bound by the Devil. The devil has some people so bound, they violently resist-not because they want to, but because they can’t help it. If we could only see the chains that fetter the soul, it would be much easier to overlook the actions of people. When a child of God approaches one who is bound by evil spirits, there is an immediate conflict.
Have you ever entered a room in a public place and noticed a look of disgust or anger on the faces of people in the room that didn’t even know you? What happened was that the spirit in them detected the spirit in you and there was a clash of spirits. There are not near as many personality clashes as there are spirits crossing one another. If we forget this, we can lose a lot of souls. The devil will see to it that they try to scare you off by putting up this big front.
HOW DO FISH FIGHT?
One of the best examples in the Bible of a fighting fish is Saul of Tarsus. When Stephen was martyred, Saul had never seen anything like it before! While they stoned Stephen, he was praying that God would not lay this sin to their charge. This spirit of forgiveness was more than Saul could stand. The hook was in his jaw. And, oh what a fight he gave!
“As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison” (Acts 8:3). In his frenzy to get away, he personally sought out every believer he could find and had them put in prison.
While rehearsing his conversion many years later, the apostle said, “I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities” (Acts 26:9-11).
Why did Saul go to such extremes to persecute and afflict the saints of God? Why was he so “exceedingly mad” that he would compel believers to blaspheme and put them to death? He was on the hook and was trying desperately to free himself!
In our last lesson we studied several things bass do when they are trying to get away. Let’s compare their antics to those of humans.
(Place these words on board as you teach).
1. Head-shaking. The answer to every question is “NO!” Their heads are constantly shaking their disapproval to everything you say. They are disagreeable; dissatisfied with everything. They can’t sleep or eat. As a result, they are moody and irritable. “In the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were even! and at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morning!….” (Deuteronomy 28:67).
2. Surges and jerks. At times a person on the hook will surge forward to “reform” their life. They may even join another church. Perhaps this will soothe their conscience and give them some peace. But, “There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked” (Isaiah 48:22). Before long, they give another jerk and leave that church because it’s dead and boring. It’s easy to lose fish when they do this because we may stop giving them the line, which is our testimony. We may feel it is useless to continue praying for them (the action of the reel). However, if we will double up on our praying and give them a little more line, they can be brought in. There is no way to predict the next move of a person who is trying to reject truth, so you must be prepared for anything!
3. Aerial acrobatics. Some people really show off by throwing temper tantrums. Men have been known to beat their wives and children or storm out of the house over nothing. This is the time that their very worst is portrayed to their family and friends. Pouting, fussing, cursing, flying off the handle and fits of anger could mean that someone is running from God.
When we look at a sinner, we must not see his hard features; we must pay no attention to his temper; we must not look at his countenance or think about his wealth or his poverty. All we see is a soul. And around that soul are spirits that may force him to act as if he hates us. “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24).
4. Foul up the Line. Occasionally you will find those who begin looking up Scriptures to contradict what you have said. They are trying to foul up your testimony. If they can possibly embarrass you or make you appear foolish before a group of people, they would be thrilled beyond words. It is amusing to watch a person who knows nothing about the Bible try to argue with someone who is very familiar with it. Usually, they hem themselves up. If they cannot succeed in winning an argument, they may try to turn others against you. The best thing to do is keep a sweet spirit and say as little as possible. “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake” (Matthew 5:11).
If the reel of prayer is working properly, they cannot accomplish too much in ruining your reputation.
5. Run for Cover. Some folks will try to cover up by using another person as their excuse. A mother can’t make it to church because her children are small and would make too much noise. A man can’t come to church because of his job. He has to get up early in the mornings and would miss too much sleep if he goes to church with you. Others may move away from your neighborhood, thinking they can get off the hook. Reports have later been given of traveling from one place to the other all over the country to get away from the call of God. But, like Jonah, when the Lord is working on a man, there is no use to run. “Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” (Psalm 139:7).
OFF THE HOOK
It is a tragic thing to see someone fight so long and hard that they finally tear themselves loose and get off the hook. Life is never the same afterward. Should that call from God ever cease to ring in the heart, there is no hope for the soul.
Some people are not as wise as Gamaliel. Though we have no record that he ever came to the knowledge of the truth, we do know that he gave some wise advice to the Sanhedrin. “And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God” (Acts 5:38-39). Who would be so brave as to try to fight against Almighty God with a hope of winning? Through steadfastly resisting the call of God a soul could be forever lost.
FISHING FOR YOUR FAMILY
The people we want to win most after being born again are our family. It seems that God always gives us a new love for the members of our household and we can hardly wait to see them at the altar pouring out their hearts to the Lord. In our haste to win them, it is so easy to run them away.
After a person receives the Holy Ghost, they should quickly tell their family what God has done for them, in most cases. Show them in the Bible that you have received the same experience as the apostles and early Christians. The promise is extended to “all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39).
Once you have taken a stand for God and changed your way of living, it is usually best to quit prodding them and begin praying for their salvation. It is possible to harp on it until you drive them away.
Of course, there are those who never get the courage to ever press them to come to church at all. This could also create another situation in the home. The opposite extreme would be to make them feel that you could care less about whether or not they ever come to church with you.
It is a mistake to refrain from boldly declaring yourself at the very beginning. If you do not, eventually you will become embarrassed to pray in the home or read your Bible. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to live for the Lord and gain spiritual strength.
Most young converts don’t know enough Scriptures to give their family to prove their experience with God, especially if their family are members of a different denomination. Instead of trying to teach doctrine to your husband, wife, children or parents, try to arrange an opportunity for your pastor to come in the home so he can explain what we believe. There is more to this salvation than an emotional experience and a seasoned soul-winner would know how to answer their questions.
The best thing to do to win your family is pray. And pray. And pray some more. No doubt you will soon see all five of these attempts just discussed to get off the hook once God has called them to serve Him.
See how many students are expanding their methods of witnessing. No doubt some of your class will be making good progress. Give a few minutes for testimonies. This will encourage those who are working and those who have not yet begun. We must remember that none of us are exempt from fulfilling the great commission. Those who shirk this duty will be cast overboard to share the same fate as the fish in the sea. Soul-winning is everybody’s job!
(The above material appeared in Fearless Fishermen, Search for Truth Publications, Houston, TX.)
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