Always Keep a Fishing Rod Handy

One thing that I learned from my fisherman grandfather was that a serious fisherman always keeps a rod handy. You never know when you'll have a chance to fish and you don’t want to be unprepared.

I remember well the rod and baits that Grandpa kept in the trunk of his car. In the course of his travels he would keep his eyes open for a stream or lake where he could take a few casts. The “travel” rod and reel that I keep handy fit into a suitcase. They have traveled with me in airplanes to many foreign countries. Whether I get to use them or not, I am ready. Who knows when an opportunity to fish will appear?

Always be Ready

Readiness to witness for Jesus at any time and under all circumstances is basic to faithful discipleship. Opportunities often come along when we least expect them. I will illustrate this.

It was a warm Sunday afternoon and I really needed a nap. I assumed no one would disturb me on such a warm afternoon, so I stretched out on the bed and fell asleep.

But you guessed it; the doorbell rang. Frankly, I was in a grumpy mood as I stumbled toward the door. I didn't feel like talking to anyone about anything!

I opened the door, and to my surprise I found a middle-aged man standing there. I had seen him in the neighborhood several times before. Today he looked different. His eyes were wild. He was known to be a heavy drinker, but he seemed to be sober. He was obviously very troubled.

I invited him to sit down on the front porch. He promptly began to pour out his troubles. He had lost his job (probably because of his drinking). They had run out of food and his children were hungry. His wife was pregnant. He admitted that he had abused her badly and she was now at the point of leaving him.

The man’s sense of failure and hopelessness seemed to overwhelm him. “Why did you come here?” I asked. He hesitated. Like a trapped animal, his eyes darted in different directions. He mumbled something I couldn't pick up. Then he said plainly: “I was on my way to commit suicide. But a voice inside me said, ‘Try going to that house; maybe they will help; give yourself one last chance.’ So here I am.”

“I’ll help your family,” I told him. “They will have food tonight, I promise you. But helping you is more than I can do.”
He seemed bewildered.

He sank to the floor like a lead sinker. He was doubled up, with his forehead almost on the hard floor. His shoulders heaved.

He sobbed and pleaded with Jesus to save him. He confessed more things than I care to remember. We prayed together, and when finally we were finished, there was a puddle of tears on the floor where he had kneeled.

His conversion was apparently genuine. He went home to his family and begged their forgiveness. We helped the family temporarily, and soon Gogerly found a job. He stopped drinking and joined a church. The last time I saw his family, they looked happy and well fed.

What began with an irritating interruption to what I had hoped would be an afternoon nap ended with a father saved and a family rescued from abuse and poverty. It turned out to be what some people call a “divine appointment.” By God’s grace, I was ready when the man came to my door.

In I Peter 3:15, the Bible instructs us: Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

The Reason for Our Hope

He sank to the floor like a lead sinker. He was doubled up, with his forehead almost on the hard floor. His shoulders heaved.

He sobbed and pleaded with Jesus to save him. He confessed more things than I care to remember. We prayed together, and when finally we were finished, there was a puddle of tears on the floor where he had kneeled.

His conversion was apparently genuine. He went home to his family and begged their forgiveness. We helped the family temporarily, and soon Gogerly found a job. He stopped drinking and joined a church. The last time I saw his family, they looked happy and well fed.

What began with an irritating interruption to what I had hoped would be an afternoon nap ended with a father saved and a family rescued from abuse and poverty. It turned out to be what some people call a “divine appointment.” By God’s grace, I was ready when the man came to my door.

In I Peter 3:15, the Bible instructs us: Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

The world is filled with people without God and without hope (Ephesians 2:12). But as Christ’s followers, we are people with hope. Even when times are hard, we can testify that life has meaning and something better awaits us beyond it.

We have hope because God through the blood of Christ has drawn us near to Himself and given us hope (Ephesians 2:13). Our witness is all about hope. “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (I Peter 3:18).

Here lies the great need of so many people. On the surface they may enjoy lots of good things. But their lives are essentially empty. They live only for today. Sooner or later their inner hopelessness becomes evident.

The Bible says to us: Offer people hope! Tell them of the glory of God and His saving compassion revealed in Christ. Don’t muffle God’s law, nor deny that He judges. But tell lost and confused people that through Christ there is forgiveness from God. There is room in the Father’s house. Offer them hope!

Hope in the Hour of Death

The first and final reason for hope is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Whenever the New Testament speaks of hope, the case for hope is built on Christ’s resurrection.

In this world death is all around us. The saying is true that “the young may die, and the old must die.” Friends and family die. One day each of us will die. What hope does anyone have for a better life beyond the grave? What basis do we have for expressions of condolence to someone grieving? When we speak to persons about to die, what can we say that has eternal significance?

Only the resurrection of Jesus Christ supplies the answer: “The dead in Christ shall rise” Joined to Christ by the unbreakable bonds of divine grace, we have the hope of seeing God, of entering another world and a better life, and of deliverance from suffering and every work of the devil.

We are people of hope. “We believe thatJesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him” (I Thessalonians 4:14).

Witnessing in a Doomed Jetliner

One of the most striking stories I have ever heard about witnessing to Christ in unexpected and horrifying circumstances is about Andrew Meakins, a missionary who worked with the poor in Ethiopia for 20 years.

Meakins was aboard the Ethiopian Airlines flight that was hijacked and eventually crashed into the Indian Ocean near the Comoros Islands on November 23, 1996.

According to survivors, when it became clear that the hijacked plane was running out of fuel and was going to crash, Meakins used his last moments of life to lead fellow passengers to hope in Christ.

Meakins took one of the microphones and spoke to calm other passengers. He then presented the gospel, inviting people to place their faith in Christ. About 20 people indicated their response to his invitation, including a flight attendant who did not survive the crash. Meakins himself was killed.

As a missionary engineer, Meakins had spent most of his life offering hope to desperately poor people in Ethiopia. When the moment of extreme crisis arose on the doomed aircraft, Meakins knew what to say. He was ready.

The lesson for us is this: always be ready. Effective witnesses spend time quietly reflecting on the hope of the gospel and on the reason for that hope, before the crises come. They are ready for God’s unexpected appointments which He is sure to send them.

Reprinted with pennission from Missionary Monthly, December, 1999.

Dr. Roger S. Greenway, Missionary Monthly Associate Editor, has been professor of World Missiology at Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, since 1989. Earlier, he and his wife, Edna, served as Christian Reformed missionaries to Sri Lanka and Mexico. Dr. Greenway has served as pastor and mission administrator and has written numerous mission books and articles.

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