Give a man to fish, the saying goes, and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.
When Jesus came to earth as man, He not only gave us the ultimate fish, His gift of saving grace, but He also spent the bulk of His ministry teaching His disciples and followers how to fish.
After almost five decades on this planet, I am convinced it will take me a lifetime to learn how to live according to Jesus’ simple truth: love God first and foremost and love everyone else with the same fervor with which you love yourself. The truth of the gospel is as simple and as complicated as living each day in humble acknowledgment that God is in control and by continually acting out one’s faith through love.
How can something so simple on the surface be so difficult to achieve in practice? I don’t know. Every day, I worry when I should say, God, I entrust myself to Your mercy. I indulge in self-pity and judgment of others and myself when I should be asking the Holy Spirit to guide my thoughts. I let pride guide my actions instead of bending my knee to the will of the Almighty.
And all of that before I even finish breakfast.
But examples of living in ways that will bear fruit abound when you study the life and ministry of Jesus. He challenged judgmental people, trying to take on the role of God by passing sentence on a sinner, to cast the first stone at the adulteress, refusing to condemn her and admonishing her to go forward and sin no more. He prayed often, with His whole being, so passionately in the Garden of Gethsemane that His tears leaked blood. He gave generously of His time and energy, preaching and healing past endurance, never discriminating or seeing Himself as better than anyone else. He never gave in to temptations, not even when He’d been in the desert for 40 days without sustenance.
Learning to fish in a spiritual sense is learning to make the most of the gift of the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised before His crucifixion:
And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), to be with you forever—the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive [and take to its heart] because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He (the Holy Spirit) remains with you continually and will be in you. (John 14:16 -17 AMP)
Paul expounds on the outward signs that show a life lived by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He tells us the fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). These characteristics are not separate, not fruits, but one, all-encompassing embodiment of a life lived as much as lead. The Amplified Bible version of these verses explains it this way:
But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites. If we [claim to] live by the [Holy] Spirit, we must also walk by the Spirit [with personal integrity, godly character, and moral courage—our conduct empowered by the Holy Spirit]. (Galatians 5:22-25)
Not only does God’s word provide us with food for our spiritual lives, just as Jesus more than once filled Peter’s nets full to bursting with a live catch, it also provides the instructions for living each day in a way to bring about the most abundant harvest. Looking closely at the fruit of the Spirit, I think about how much better my life can be if I work to make the Holy Spirit the central focus of everything I do.
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In my daily planner app, I have long since assigned these qualities to different days of the week as a gentle reminder of where my focus should be. In the end, if I fail to learn how to live according to the Spirit in me, why did I bother inviting the Spirit in to begin with?