After being enthralled by a fishing programme on television he decided this was the new interest and pastime he had been seeking. Never one to do things half-heartedly, he did some detailed research and came up with a list of everything he felt he would need to become “the complete angler”.

The subsequent shopping expedition resulted in the purchase of the finest equipment money could buy – top class rods, reels, lines, lures, nets, coats, boots, baskets and just about everything else he felt he just had to have. Much time was then spent organising all this gear in his garage. An absolute fortune had been paid out and he had yet to catch a fish.  He also purchased all the books and videos he could find and took out subscriptions to a host of angling magazines. The walls of his home were decorated with pictures and posters related to his newfound passion. He made copious notes in regard to the characteristics, habitats and feeding patterns of each species he was likely to encounter.

Hours were spent on the Internet to glean every detail he could find – his appetite was unbelievably voracious. Not content with concentrating on one type of fishing, he prepared himself for every eventuality – rivers, lakes, canals and the sea. He wanted to be equally adept at fishing from boats, from the shore, in the water and in any part of the world. His motto was obviously “If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.”

No angler was armed with so much information, so much equipment, and so much knowledge. His obsessive preparation was mind-blowing in its intensity, fervour and attention to detail.  If you named a particular species of fish he could tell you everything it was possible to know about it. He was a walking encyclopaedia.  BUT – he had yet to catch a fish. The theory, and huge knowledge, had yet to be put into practice. Yet how could he fail with this bank of knowledge and theory that would surely be able to cope with every eventuality?

His approach, whilst commendable in its thoroughness and enthusiasm, begs one or two pertinent questions. Would a man learning all he could about football from books etc. and possessing top quality equipment make him a successful player? Could a girl learn to swim without getting into the water? By learning and studying all I could about athletics am I destined to be an Olympic champion? By knowing the Bible inside out, studying Greek and Hebrew and living an exemplary life am I a good Christian? Yes, knowledge and information are very useful but only when allied to experience, practice and active participation can their potential be realised.

Does the observation of so-called Christians depress you, annoy you, frustrate you and fill you with despair? Yes, they can quote endlessly from the Scriptures, regale you with tales of their good works, make flamboyant donations to support “the work” and generally set themselves up with a sense of spiritual superiority. You look at them and instead of feeling inferior you know instinctively this is not how Jesus would have people act and behave. The saying – “too heavenly minded to be any earthly use” – springs readily to your mind.

Thankfully, acceptance by Jesus is not dependent on acquiring a bank of knowledge or on a display of good works. Knowing all about Jesus is no substitute for knowing Him and having a personal relationship with Him. It is, of course, not a good idea to look at others as, given human frailties, this will inevitably lead to disappointment and disillusionment. Your eyes should be fixed on Jesus who will never let you down or fail you. You must surrender to Him, spend time in His presence, study His word and allow the Holy Spirit to guide your steps. Yes, there will times of trouble and difficulty but He will not leave you or forsake you – you shall overcome.

Our fisherman friend has spent a long time trying to get everything totally in place before he ventures forth on his first fishing trip. Were you to transfer this attitude to your spiritual life it would mean endless reading, study and research, purchasing all the Bibles and Bible aids you could find and ensuring you knew every doctrine and nuance of Christianity. Rejoice that it is not like that! You do not have to pass any kind of examination or test to be considered worthy of God’s love.  

Acknowledgement of your own sin and total inadequacy and a request for His forgiveness will bring great peace, an assured future and will open the gates to blessing, purpose and joy. As you progress He will show you what you need and will help you to obtain it so that you are fully equipped for the task He has planned for you.

When our fisherman finally made it to the riverbank he quickly discovered that he lacked the patience necessary to enjoy his new hobby and be successful. He rapidly became frustrated and gave up in disgust. A large quantity of fishing gear is quietly gathering dust in his garage as he pursues his latest quest to become a mountaineer!

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2: 8-9  NIV)

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