In a recent walk with a friend I recounted a childhood experience. In part, I explained, that amazing experience has helped to make me an optimistic evangelist.
It was the legendary, long, hot summer of 1974 - in the south of the UK it didn't rain for months (as rare as hen's teeth). I was with my parents in Wales - we were on the Gower Peninsula holidaying with friends. Along with my dad and older brother John, Islwyn and Hobbs took us out to fish on the Bristol Channel in two scarily fast speedboats!
The sea was as flat as a millpond, the sky was bright as brass, so for 1-2 hours in baking heat, we let down our orange, nylon, crab-lines with nothing but silver foil milk-bottle tops for bait. We let out the lines by hand, each arrayed with 7 hooks, and within less than a minute, we all had landed the same number of mackerel on the boats. So it continued, line after line, until both of the vessels were waist-deep in fish.
It was an utterly unforgettable totally awesome experience - both boats were parked "by chance" (code for divine providence) over a massive shoal of fish. The mackerel saw the foil and committed suicide. We boated back to Saundersfoot harbor, unloaded our huge catch, and made a killing selling fish!
It reminds me of the event after the resurrection of Christ, when disciples had fished all night without net-bulge or bite - then the risen Christ approached with the aim of cooking breakfast on the beach (to restore a lapsed denier). He needed fish to cook, so he commanded the fishing fleet "Cast your nets on the other side of the boat." The resultant catch of providence, directed by Christ's voice, almost burst the nets which they had to drag ashore. Evidently the Zebedee boys had fished in the wrong place. The disciple of love records the catch in John 21.1-12:
After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberius, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathaniel of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will go with you." They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, "Children, do you have any fish?" They answered him, "No." He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off. When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught." So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." Now none of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord - John 21:1-12
Brand me a hopeless optimist! Call me unrealistic about the Kingdom! This providential catch in Wales and this sovereignty text in John have always made me believe this - if it please the Lord, preachers are always only one cast away from a catch they will struggle to land - it may be knocking doors, giving leaflets out, talking to folks in markets, preaching at open-air events, delivering a sermon on Sunday in church, an evangelistic service, or a conversation in an airport, but if Christ delights to work, no obstacle exists except our obedience of faith.
So fling out the nets, preach out your heart, pray yourself to dust, and expect the Lord to work - some day soon your catch of fish might be far, far, far, more than you might ever expect!