“Stop being afraid. From now on you will be catching men alive.”—LUKE 5:10.
SONG 73 Grant Us Boldness
1. What invitation did Jesus extend to four fishermen, and how did they respond?
THE disciples Peter, Andrew, James, and John were commercial fishermen. Imagine how surprised they were to hear Jesus’ invitation: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”b What was the response? The Bible says: “At once they abandoned their nets and followed him.” (Matt. 4:18-22) That decision would change their lives forever. Instead of catching literal fish, they would be “catching people alive.” (Luke 5:10, ftn.) Today, Jesus extends that same invitation to honesthearted ones who love the truth. (Matt. 28:19, 20) Have you accepted Jesus’ invitation to become a fisher of men?
2. Why should we take seriously the decision to become fishers of men, and what will help us to take that step?
2 Perhaps you have progressed in your Bible study and are at the point of deciding whether you want to become a publisher of the good news. If you are unsure about accepting Jesus’ invitation, do not be discouraged. Your hesitation likely means that you know just how important this decision is. True, the Bible says that Peter and his companions abandoned their literal nets “at once.” However, Peter and his brother did not make that decision hastily. They had come to know and accept Jesus as the Messiah more than six months earlier. (John 1:35-42) Similarly, you probably have already learned much about Jehovah and Jesus, and you want to continue to progress spiritually. But you should not make this decision without counting the cost. What helped Peter, Andrew, and others to make their decision?
3. What qualities will strengthen your desire to accept Jesus’ invitation?
3 Jesus’ first disciples were motivated, knowledgeable, courageous, and self-disciplined. These same qualities no doubt helped them to become effective fishers of men. This article will discuss how you can develop those qualities so that you can be an effective disciple of Christ.
STRENGTHEN YOUR MOTIVATION
4. What motivated Peter to be a fisherman?
4 Peter caught fish to support his family, but it was more than just a job for him. Peter apparently loved fishing. (John 21:3, 9-15) He also learned to love being a fisher of men. And with Jehovah’s backing, Peter became very good at that work.—Acts 2:14, 41.
5. Based on Luke 5:8-11, why was Peter afraid, and what can help us to overcome similar feelings?
5 We preach because we love Jehovah; that is our primary motivation for doing this work. Our love for Jehovah can help us to overcome any feelings of inadequacy. When Jesus invited Peter to become a fisher of men, he told him: “Stop being afraid.” (Read Luke 5:8-11.) Peter was not gripped by fear of what might happen if he became a disciple. Rather, he was astonished at the miraculous catch of fish that Jesus had just given the men, and Peter felt unworthy of being asked to work with Jesus. On the other hand, you may feel overwhelmed when you realize what is involved in being a disciple of Christ. If so, strengthen your love for Jehovah, Jesus, and your neighbor, and you will be motivated to accept Jesus’ invitation to become a fisher of men.—Matt. 22:37, 39; John 14:15.
6. What else motivates us to preach?
6 Consider some other reasons why we are motivated to preach. We want to obey Jesus’ command: “Go . . . and make disciples.” (Matt. 28:19, 20) We also preach because people are “skinned and thrown about” and are in dire need of learning the truth about the Kingdom. (Matt. 9:36) Jehovah wants all sorts of people to come to an accurate knowledge of the truth and be saved.—1 Tim. 2:4.
7. How does Romans 10:13-15 show that the preaching work is important?
7 We will be moved to take up this lifesaving work when we think about the effect our preaching can have. Unlike a commercial fisherman who sells or eats the fish he catches, we “catch” people in order to save their lives.—Read Romans 10:13-15; 1 Tim. 4:16.
DEEPEN YOUR KNOWLEDGE
8-9. What must a fisherman know, and why?
8 In Jesus’ day, an Israelite fisherman had to know what type of sea creature he could catch. (Lev. 11:9-12) He also had to know where the fish could be found. Fish usually stay in an area where the water conditions suit them and where there is plenty of food. Does it matter at what time a fisherman does his work? Regarding the best time to catch literal fish, note what a local Witness on a Pacific island said when he invited a missionary to go fishing. The missionary said, “I’ll meet you at nine o’clock tomorrow morning.” The brother replied, “You do not understand. We go when it is the right time for the fish, not when it is the right time for us.”
9 Likewise, fishers of men in the first century went to places where the “fish” would be and at a time when they were likely to be there. For example, Jesus’ followers preached at the temple and in the synagogues, from house to house, and in the marketplace. (Acts 5:42; 17:17; 18:4) We too need to be familiar with the habits of people who live in our assigned territory. We need to be flexible and preach where and when we are most likely to find people.—1 Cor. 9:19-23.
10. What tools does Jehovah’s organization supply for us?
10 A fisherman needs the right equipment and must know how to use it. We too need to be properly equipped for our work. And we need to know how to use that equipment. Jesus gave clear instructions to his disciples on how to fish for men. He told them what to carry, where to preach, and what to say. (Matt. 10:5-7; Luke 10:1-11) Today, Jehovah’s organization provides a Teaching Toolbox that contains tools that have proved to be effective.c And we are taught how to use those tools. That training helps us to gain the confidence and skill we need to be effective in our work.—2 Tim. 2:15.
11. Why must fishers of men be courageous?
11 Commercial fishermen need to be courageous. They sometimes face unpredictable conditions at sea. They often work at night and on waters that may be subject to sudden storms. Fishers of men also need courage. When we start to preach and identify ourselves as Jehovah’s Witnesses, we may face “storms” of family opposition, ridicule from acquaintances, and resistance to our message. But this does not surprise us. Jesus warned that he would send his followers into a hostile environment.—Matt. 10:16.
12. In line with Joshua 1:7-9, what can help us to build courage?
12 How can you build your courage? First, be convinced that Jesus continues to direct this work from heaven. (John 16:33; Rev. 14:14-16) Next, strengthen your faith in Jehovah’s promise to care for you. (Matt. 6:32-34) The stronger your faith becomes, the more courageous you will be. Peter and his companions showed great faith when they abandoned their livelihood to follow Jesus. Likewise, you showed great faith when you informed acquaintances and members of your family that you had begun to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses and to attend their meetings! No doubt you have made significant changes in your conduct and lifestyle in order to live by Jehovah’s righteous standards. That too took faith and courage. As you continue to build courage, you can be confident that “Jehovah your God is with you wherever you go.”—Read Joshua 1:7-9.
13. How can meditation and prayer help you to build courage?
13 How else can you build courage? Pray for courage and boldness. (Acts 4:29, 31) Jehovah will answer your prayers and never abandon you. He is always there to give you support. Also, you can meditate on how Jehovah has saved others in the past. Think, too, about how he has helped you overcome challenges and given you the strength to make changes in your lifestyle. Certainly the One who led his people through the Red Sea can help you to be a disciple of Christ. (Ex. 14:13) Maintain the same conviction as did the psalmist who said: “Jehovah is on my side; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”—Ps. 118:6.
14. What do you learn from the experiences of Masae and Tomoyo?
14 Another way to build courage is by learning how Jehovah has helped people who are naturally timid but who have learned to be bold. Consider the experience of a sister named Masae. She was shy and felt that she could never speak out publicly about her faith. The very thought of talking to strangers loomed like a high wall that she believed she could never scale. So she made a special effort to deepen her love for God and for her neighbors. She reflected on the urgency of the times we live in and prayed for help to heighten her desire to preach. She overcame her fears and even served as a regular pioneer. Jehovah can also help new publishers to “be courageous.” Note the experience of a sister named Tomoyo. When she started to preach from house to house, the first householder she met shouted: “I don’t want anything to do with Jehovah’s Witnesses!” and slammed the door. Tomoyo courageously told her companion: “Did you hear that? I didn’t have to say a word, and she recognized me as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I’m so happy!” Tomoyo now serves as a regular pioneer.
15. What is self-discipline, and why is it important for Christians?
15 Successful fishermen are self-disciplined. Self-discipline has been described as “the ability to make yourself do things that should be done.” Commercial fishermen must discipline themselves to get up early, stay until the work is done, and persist despite bad weather. We too need self-discipline if we are to endure and complete our work.—Matt. 10:22.
16. How can we develop self-discipline?
16 We do not inherit self-discipline. On the contrary, our natural inclination often is to follow the course of least resistance. It takes self-control to be self-disciplined. Therefore, we need help to train ourselves to do the things that may be difficult for us to do. Jehovah gives us that help through his holy spirit.—Gal. 5:22, 23.
17. As recorded at 1 Corinthians 9:25-27, how does the apostle Paul describe his efforts to cultivate self-discipline?
17 The apostle Paul was self-disciplined. But he admitted that he had to “pummel” his body in order to do what was right. (Read 1 Corinthians 9:25-27.) He urged others to discipline themselves and to do all things “decently and by arrangement.” (1 Cor. 14:40) We must exercise self-discipline to maintain a good spiritual routine that includes a regular share in the symbolic fishing work.—Acts 2:46.
DO NOT DELAY
18. What will make Jehovah view us as successful?
18 A commercial fisherman judges his success by how many fish he catches. On the contrary, we do not judge our success by the number of people we bring into God’s organization. (Luke 8:11-15) As long as we endure in preaching the good news and teaching others, Jehovah will view us as being successful. Why? Because we are being obedient to him and his Son.—Mark 13:10; Acts 5:28, 29.
19-20. What special incentive do we have to preach now?
19 In some countries, fishing is permitted only during certain months. In such lands, a fisherman’s sense of urgency may intensify as the fishing season draws to a close. As fishers of men, we have this additional incentive to preach now: The end of this system is fast approaching! The time left to share in this lifesaving work is greatly reduced. Do not delay or feel that you have to wait for the perfect circumstances to take part in this vital activity.—Eccl. 11:4.
20 Act now to strengthen your motivation, deepen your knowledge of the Bible, build your courage, and cultivate self-discipline. Join the more than eight million fishers of men, and you will experience the joy of Jehovah. (Neh. 8:10) Be determined to have a full share in this work and to see it through to completion. The next article will discuss three ways in which we can strengthen our resolve to continue in the Kingdom-preaching work as fishers of men.
SONG 66 Declare the Good News
a Jesus invited humble, hardworking fishermen to be his disciples. Today, Jesus continues to invite people with those qualities to be fishers of men. This article will discuss what Bible students who hesitate to accept Jesus’ invitation need to do.
b EXPRESSION EXPLAINED: The phrase “fishers of men” refers to all those who preach the good news and teach others to become disciples of Christ.