A Voice in the Wilderness - Observations and Excursions of a Christian Zealot

Terry Walker's Weblog --- Occasional articles on the Christian Ethic

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Why Every Christian Needs a Fish!

When I was a kid I had a fish tank full of fish. Actually I had a few fish tanks. Ok, to be honest, I at times, had enough fish tanks to hold more than a thousand gallons of water.

I have heard that the soothing white noise of a fish tank always helps a man get to sleep. But I just loved fish. Fresh or salt it made little difference, except that salt water fish are a lot more expensive. But at times, raising fish garnered me something else I used to love, money. Yes mammon, the root of many an evil. So as a kid, I raised fresh water African fish from Lake Tanganyika, the longest fresh water lake in the world, and the second largest lake in Africa, and I sold them to buy salt water fish. That is until I broke a tank, and 39 gallons of salt water ran down the walls of my mom’s apartment, into my neighbor’s below me and started a fire in his electrical outlet. Not sure why I brought that up so forget I mentioned it.

Anyway, I currently have only two fish tanks, about 220 gallons total, but only 30 gallons are salt water. I have fresh water goldfish and salt water mud minnows. The mud minnows were actually fish bait, but the two I still own, have survived so long I figure they deserve to live. The gold fish have grown old with excessively long fins and perfectly over plump bellies. They look like miniature bowling balls with fins. They actually recognize me and will allow me to touch them. But mainly I just like watching them swim around without a worry. They don’t even give thought to whether I will feed them or not. But don’t get me wrong though, I don’t envy my gold fish for their carefree lives. I know their ultimate fate, the “swirly dive straight to oblivion”, because I don’t think there are any goldfish in that river of life. I am not even so sure that the river is an actual river! So despite what you told your kids when they were younger, “no gold fish go to Heaven”. But I do think that while yet alive on Earth, every Christian needs a fish, if for no other reason than to understand the significance of what I am about to say.

Jesus preferred fishermen, and He preferred fish. When He fed the 5,000 men, he didn’t serve a pig. Jews couldn’t even touch the animal. He didn’t use cattle or lambs or turkeys, no, Jesus used fish! And when Jesus fed the 4,000 men, once again, fish, and little ones at that. And when Jesus cooked a little apostolic lunch by the lake, you guessed it, fish again. So I think that is proof enough, Jesus preferred fish. And what did He do over these fish? He prayed, giving thanks. And that is something we all should do more of. Not just give thanks, but pray.

I am a terrible prayer. You know you are a terrible prayer when you pray to be a better prayer. I am not even so sure that it is a real prayer for a Christian to pray to be a better prayer. I am certain the Bible commands Christians to pray. But even if it didn’t, prayer is just one of those things real Christians inevitably and inescapably do. Like something basically essential to even calling yourself a Christian; and it’s a sin if you don’t. You know, something utterly essential, like, …… like breathing! Prayer and Christian go inseparably together, as if neither is true without the other.

Never the less I pray to be a better prayer, especially for those who could be seen as my enemies. I pray the Lord would infect my entire mind with endless prayer, but the truth is far from that ideal.

Many times I don’t pray because I figure I need to exhaust my own ability before I call on God. This is “utterly ridiculous”, as if I have any ability that is not given to me moment by moment by God. A blood cell does not move in my body without its path being directed by God. This sort of self reliant thought and consequent action, teeters, if not plunges headlong, into self idolatry.

Some times I don’t pray because I figure such a prayer would concern things, I think are beneath, or unworthy of God’s attention. But is it not God that numbers the very hairs on our heads and feeds the wild goldfish their daily worm? Oh, God cares, it is I who doesn’t. God brought this home to me recently in a miraculous and very strange way.

A few months ago I purchased an exuberant, pretty, gold fish with unusual markings to add to my collection. But just days after releasing him into my well maintained tank, I found this little gold fish floating at the surface, on his side and barely breathing. As nature would have it, the other fish were merciless and making a meal out of him. So I isolated the fish from the others and waited for his inevitable death. You see I have never, ever, in all the thousands and thousands of fish I have owned, seen a fish recover once they side float with an arch in their back. And this fish looked like a horseshoe and had external injuries as well.

As I sat there watching this little fish die, I thought of all the verses in the Bible concerning fish. I thought of Jonah’s fish, the temple tax fish, Peter’s 153 large fish, and the fish Jesus cooked and blessed on more than one occasion. I sure would have loved to have been there, but it got me to thinking about praying, thinking about praying for this little fish. The thought caught me like a 2x4 across the head. What was I thinking? I live on a world going to Hell in a hand basket and I am thinking of praying for a goldfish! But for once, I ignored my flesh and decided to give it a shot; after all, the life of this fish has to be more important than how many hairs are on the top of my head.

So I sincerely prayed that God would spare the life of my little goldfish and went to bed. And sure enough, in the morning when I woke up, I felt like King Darius finding Daniel still alive in the lion’s den. And that is how my goldfish is to this day, alive, well and as exuberant as ever. The goldfish that Jesus saved! Go figure! Even a prayer for something so insignificant, is truly significant to God. Why? I am not really certain. But then I don’t need to know why. I just need to remember that I need to pray like that fish needs water, without it I cease to reflect Christ, I cease to reflect true Christianity, my fate become unclear, and perhaps my destination becomes a little swirly as well.

So pray my fellow fishermen, pray like never before, and as we seek to save souls, and perhaps God will make our school a little bigger.

Brother Terry Walker
Providence Baptist Church
Greer, South Carolina