One of the fun past times here in the Dakotas during winter is ice fishing. At first, the thought of fishing in below freezing temperatures did not appeal to me. I’d rather be wrapped up in a blanket and sipping hot chocolate all winter long. Then my husband got invited to go ice fishing with a co-worker for the first time. He was completely taken by it. Shortly after, we tried it as a family. The kids absolutely love that they can walk on the water, which is frozen, that they once rode on in the boat during summer. We recently were able to go ice fishing on the Missouri River. While sitting in the warm ice fishing tent, I began thinking about Jesus calling the disciples to be fishers of men. Let’s look at Matthew 4: 19-20.
Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him.
It dawned on me that Christ called us to fishers of men, whether in the water or ice. The ice reminds me of those times when ministry gets really difficult and even discouraging. Looking at a frozen river, you may say that there is no way to fish. This may discourage others from even trying. However, Christ calls us to fish, whether it is in water or ice. Let’s look at what you have to face to fish on the ice.
First, the weather is extremely cold, as in below freezing. Most people will not even venture out when it is that cold. To stay warm, you have to wear a lot of layers of clothes and insulated boots. If you don’t, you can do significant damage to your body. I even wear two pairs of gloves. When times in ministry or just in life get tough, you have to be prepared spiritually. You have to “layer up” by continuing to be in a relationship with Jesus Christ, through prayer, studying Scripture, and, sometimes, fasting. To face the “cold” of ministry, you have to make sure that you are spiritually “warm (hot is actually a better term)”.
Secondly, you have to make sure you have the right equipment. In addition to fishing poles and nets, you have to have an ice auger of some kind to make the hole in the ice. In difficult times, you may have to face additional trials or hardships, in order to minister to people. Sometimes, you have to get through a lot of “ice” with people to get down to the core. People can face such big obstacles in their lives that you have to break away or drill your way through to get to their heart. Often people have to get down to their lowest point before they are open to God.
Also, in ministry, you may face difficult circumstances that make you want to quit. That can form a major “block of ice” in your road. Before coming to the church located on the reservation, my husband and I had a plan to use a moveable church building (literally, it had wheels and could be pulled around) to get into communities that had no church building. We had a moveable job site trailer all ready to be used for the first service. The weekend that we were to begin to use the building, a freak powerful wind toppled it over and utterly destroyed it. Other buildings surrounding it were all untouched. We were devastated. We felt, at that moment, like giving up. But we didn’t. Instead, we prayed that God would take our sorrow and show us the way. The next month, my husband received the invitation to put in his name to become the pastor of the church on the reservation. God worked it all out!
Thirdly, you have to face any fears you have to walk out on the ice. Unlike fishing from a boat or bank during the regular months, you have to actually walk out on the ice you are to fish on. Being a mother with little ones in tow, walking out on the ice for the first time can be a cause of anxiety. Thoughts go through my head, like “is the ice really going to hold me?” or “what do I do if me or my family falls through?” These are valid concerns and can send a person to panic mode. Here’s the thing: You have to have faith. It may seem scary, but you have to have faith that God has done what is necessary to harden the ice. Also, you need to remember that God is in control. When you are doing ministry, some situations may seem scary or you may not know quite how to handle it. Let’s look at Luke 5:10.
And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.”
Jesus was aware of the fear that the disciples had. Jesus told them not to fear. We are to look straight ahead and put our faith fully in Christ. After all, we are following Jesus’ command, not our own whim.
Ice fishing has turned into a favorite winter past time. We look forward to doing it every year. The opportunities are few to go ice fishing, but we are prepared and ready when it is time. As followers of Christ, we are called to be fishermen. I challenge you to be an ice fisherman; fishing where the waters are frozen and the air is cold. Ask God today to start preparing you for the tough ministry times, when you think you can’t get through the frozen water. God will prepare you in ways you would never imagine!
To see more ice fishing pictures, click here.