Fishing with my dad was one of my favorite things to do as a child. I loved getting up early in the morning, before the sun came up, to fish the banks of the Cedar River with my dad. As the sun would rise, my dad and I would cast our lines into the dense fog that settled over the top of the river. And there we would wait, in peaceful silence, listening to the sound of God’s creation waking up all around us. I still love fishing with my dad.
My dad is what I would call a master fisherman. He taught me everything I would ever need to know about fishing. He taught me how to cast my line, bait my hook, fix my gear, take a fish off the hook, how to use lures and jigs and everything in between. I will never go hungry as long as I know how to fish!
The Cedar River has a lot of brushy areas, a lot of places you can get snagged. But in Iowa, it is one of the best places to catch some nice catfish! My dad knew this river very well. No matter where we parked along its banks he knew where I needed to cast my line to stay out of the snags. But, I didn’t always listen. I would see some activity up along a fallen tree and I would cast my line as close as I could. I was determined to prove wrong.
Very rarely did I ever catch anything other than a snag! As soon as I would cast my line out that way, my dad would say, “Be careful, you’re gonna get caught up.” But I would not listen and sure enough, instead of a big fish, I had a broken line and humbled pride. My dad was right and had I listened, I wouldn’t have had to spend the next 20 minutes fixing my gear! Had I listened, I could have been catching fish!
“No solider gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he completes according to the rules. It is the hardworking farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”
2 Timothy 2:4-7 ESV
2 Timothy 2:4-7 ESV
A soldier is under the authority of his commanding officer. The officer has worked his way through the ranks and knows and understands the sacrifice the life of a soldier takes. He commands his battalion to follow his orders, not for his sake, but for theirs. My dad knew the Cedar river like the back of his hand because he grew up along its banks. He had fished it, swam it and walked it longer than I had been alive. He knew its ins and outs, how the current went during the different seasons; he knew it because he had lived it. He knew if I was not careful, if I did not listen to him, I would get tangled up and lose my line, and sometimes, all my gear.
As good soldiers of Christ we too have a commanding officer, a Father who knows this river of life we are walking along because, as Hebrews 4:15 tells us, Christ suffered under the same temptations of life that we have, yet without sin. Jesus knows what it means to sacrifice and he knows how to keep us from getting tangled up in the snags of life. You keep getting snagged because you choose to keep casting your line where you know you shouldn’t.
My life has become entangled. Lately I feel like a worm on a hook, tangled up in the bottom of the river, caught on a log and not able to move forward. I feel stuck, stuck in the same old rut, following the same pattern that has gotten me nowhere. I have found myself struggling with the same struggle repeatedly. My eyes have cast themselves to worthless things instead of things that please my Lord. But how do I stop? How do I stop this vicious cycle of entanglement? I do what I failed to do as a child; I listen to my Father and I stop casting my line into the snags that are there.
Paul uses three examples in these verses to get across to us the same principle. To move forward in our relationship with Christ, to advance in the purposes and the callings He has placed on our lives, we have to stop casting our lines into the snags of the river of life.
Take a moment and think about your life. At this very moment, you know that there is a snaggy area in your life the Lord has shown you. There is a stumbling block in the race you are trying to run, yet you won’t remove it. You keep casting your line right into it. He has told you how to stop. You need to let it go, put it down and remove it from your life. Yet you keep casting your time and your resources into it. Hoping to justify that today you may get a different result. Today may be the day that you prove Him wrong and you are able to move forward and still hold onto all your gear.
You can’t take the easy way out my friend. A runner who wants to run the Boston Marathon doesn’t take shortcuts, doesn’t find a way to justify hitching a ride to the finish line. They put in the work. They make the necessary sacrifices to train their bodies to compete, to finish the race that is set before them. They don’t try to get around the obstacles that hold them back, they remove them.
The farmer plants a field, but all he sees for weeks is dirt. It takes weeks for a seed to take root and to pop its head out of the earth. He doesn’t give up. He removes the weeds and anything else that might hinder its growth and waits patiently for the fruit to appear. But we want it now. I wanted to catch a fish, a big fish, but I wasn’t patient enough to do it the way my dad knew would work. I wanted to do it my way. I had no one to blame for the snags I found myself in but myself. The same is true of my spiritual struggles today. I am where I am in my relationship to Him because I have chosen to be here. I have cast my line in this spot. Even though I know I shouldn’t have.
Why? Why am I like this? Because I get impatient and cast my line into the snags of life I know will hinder me. I know these areas of my life need to be removed, yet here I am, sitting upon the banks casting my line into the water, hoping that this time I might not get snagged. If we let the entanglement of life hinder us from running this race, then the fruit and the outcomes we seek will never make it out of the earth.
We can’t move forward until we remove the weeds that have us entangled. Our Father God, our Commanding Officer has given us the orders we must follow to catch the big fish! But we are the ones who must choose where we are going to cast our lines. He knows this river of life, because He has created it for you. Trust Him, He knows where the snags are, and the obstacles that will keep you from winning this race. Trust Him and we will, if we listen to Him, we will taste the first fruits of the crops of His grace!