When a Good Kid Gets Caught, Part 7
Honest Faith
by Greg Wright

Commander Dave breathed fast and hard. He only had about a thousand feet to go; would he make it? The hard pavement of the circular mile track met his feet harshly; his knees cried out for relief; his side screamed as if cut by a knife. But he persisted, and when it was over, no amount of discomfort could diminish the satisfaction he felt.

Getting Commander Dave to run two miles on a track was like getting a hippopotamus to do ballet. Commander Dave was badly over weight. Indeed, he hated the way his stomach and chest bobbed up and down when he ran. He despised the way his thighs rubbed together, chafing against each other. But he had set a goal of working himself up to a two mile run, and today he celebrated success.

At the end of the run, he decided to walk for half a mile to cool down. That would put him right beside the vending machines. He checked his pockets. Yes, he had remembered to put in 60 cents so that he could get a Mountain Dew.

Almost to the vending machines, he saw three kids walking towards him. "Hey, look what we got," one of them called out.

Commander Dave couldn’t imagine why they would be calling out to him, so he just kept walking. Besides, he was so thirsty he was almost dizzy.

"Hey mister, are you deaf?"

He was startled. Ignoring the rudeness of the question, he stopped, smiled, and asked, "What do you have?"

"Crawfish and minnows," the older kid responded. He looked to be about 13. The girl with him was about 10, and the other boy looked to be around 8.

They sat an aquarium on the grass when Commander Dave walked up. He sat, or rather, flopped down onto the grass beside the aquarium. "May I pick one up?" he asked.

"Be careful; one of them got me good," the older boy responded.

Commander Dave reached into the aquarium, grabbed one of the crawfish from behind the head, and lifted him out of the water. The animal spread his claws like a warrior prepared for battle.

"He would really like to get me," Commander Dave laughed. "Where did you find these?"

"Over there in the creek," the girl responded. "There are minnows and crawfish all over the place. We even saw carp."

"Cool," replied Commander Dave. "By the way, I’m Dave. Today’s a big day for me. I just finished a two mile run."

"Congratulations," replied the older kid. "I’m Brock. This is my sister Mollie, and this is my brother Benny. We live in a trailer beside this place."

"It must be great to live so close to a nice park. Do you get to go fishing very often, I mean real fishing, with bait and a pole?" Commander Dave asked.

"No, but I wish we could some time," Benny responded. "I’m sure it would be more fun than catching them with our hands."

"I know of a group of fisherman who fished with nets," Commander Dave began. Sometimes it was fun for them, too, but not this time."

"What was wrong?" asked Mollie.

"They had been up, fishing all night, and had not caught a thing," Commander Dave continued. "Completely frustrated, they gave up and returned to shore. And, then something wonderful happened."
The children waited, expectantly. Commander Dave reached into his pocket for the testament he carried everywhere. Today it was wrapped in a plastic bag so it wouldn’t be drenched with sweat. Carefully, he took it out, turned to Luke chapter 5, and read:

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, he saw at the water's edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’

Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything, But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’ When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’ For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.’

"That’s a nice story." Said Mollie. "Are you a preacher?"

"No Mollie, I’m a computer programmer and a fisherman. I try to catch as many fish as I can for Jesus. Of course all I can do is throw out the net. It is up to Jesus to make the fish come. So, it is really Jesus who does the catching. But I throw out the net, because being caught by Jesus is the most wonderful thing in the whole world."

"Were you surprised that these guys listened to Jesus?" Commander Dave continued.

"After all Jesus was trained as a carpenter. They were the expert fishermen. Brock, why do you think these guys did what Jesus said? Why do you think they were willing to throw out their nets, even though they had fished all night without success?"

"I don’t know," said Brock, a little embarrassed to be put on the spot.

"That’s okay, Brock. It’s easier for me to answer because I have the story right in front of me. Verse 5 says that Peter let down the nets just because Jesus said to. You see, these guys knew who Jesus was. Having been caught by Jesus Christ, they knew that he was the Son of God, and now they would do anything for him.

"Guys, the most important person you can know in this life is Jesus Christ. To know Jesus is to know the giver of eternal life. To be caught by Jesus Christ is the greatest thing that can happen to you. My desire for you is for Jesus to catch you in his net and carry you away to those pure, clear waters that only he can give."

"Hey!" Benny complained. "What are we, fish?"

"In a way, Benny, you are," responded Commander Dave. "In the book of Matthew, Jesus compared the Kingdom of Heaven to a net being spread out over all the earth in the last days. All the fish will be brought in. The good fish will be kept and the bad fish will be discarded. The only problem is, we all start out being bad fish. And, unless we turn away from our sins and turn to Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we remain bad fish forever. In the end, we die and go to hell with all the other bad fish. But, when we turn to Jesus Christ who never did anything wrong, all our rottenness is covered by the blood of Jesus, as if we had never sinned."

"We’re not bad fish," Mollie argued. "We’re not like all those other kids who join gangs, cuss, steal, and do drugs. You’ve got us all wrong."

"Mollie, it is possible for a person to think he is good by the world’s standards and never realize that, against the pure and radiant glory of a holy God, he is rotten. God absolutely demands perfection. That is why we need Jesus Christ; he is the only one who ever lived in this world without sin. Please note that all Peter did in this story was doubt that by obeying Jesus he would catch fish. But it was enough to make him fall on his knees before Jesus and confess that he was a sinful man.

"Moreover, for Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, all they had to do to be condemned was eat a piece of fruit that God had forbidden. Even as good as you all are, surely you have done worse things. Right?"

"Benny has done a lot worse than that," said Brock. "He lies all the time."

"I do not," challenged Benny.

"Come on guys, drop it," rebuked Mollie. "Dave, we have all done bad things. So how do we get to heaven?"

"Mollie, the first step is knowing that we are all sinners. Whether it is Benny, Brock, Mollie, or Dave, we have all done bad things and displeased God. Romans 3:23 makes this clear.

For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God

"Furthermore, we are all subject to the same punishment, the torture and horror of spiritual death, as stated in Romans 6:23:

For the wages of sin is death.

"But, look, the verse continues," Commander Dave said. He held up his testament for the kids to see.

But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

"The passage from Ephesians 2:8-10 comments further about this free gift of God.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

"The faith to believe, savingly, in Jesus Christ, is a gift from God. If you are able to believe these things, then you can come to Jesus right now as Lord and Savior."

"How do I know whether I have this kind of faith?" asked Mollie.

"Mollie, many people walk down an aisle and supposedly trust Jesus as Lord and Savior. But when you look at them a few days later, they are living just the way they were living before. This is dishonest faith, a faith that suggest that we can have all the benefits of being reconciled to God without having Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives. It is almost like joining a football team, wearing the letter jacket and jersey, but never showing up for the games. When Jesus truly saves you, he changes your heart, which in the Bible is the center of all your desires and affections, and he becomes your Lord and boss. You do not live just for yourself anymore, you live for him. This is honest faith. Romans 10:9 and 10 clarifies this.

That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

"It is a big step, guys. You can’t have Jesus as savior without having him as Lord. It’s a great trade, you give him your sin, he gives you his righteousness. You get heaven; he gets you. Before you lived for yourself and owned your own life; now you live for him.

"Mollie, Benny, and Brock, search your hearts. Do you understand what you are hearing?"

"I guess I sort of understand," responded Mollie. But I would like to think about it for awhile. I’m not sure that I am ready for this kind of commitment. What about you guys?"

"Yeah, I don’t want to do anything, now," responded Brock and Benny.

Commander Dave resisted the urge to argue. "Mollie, would you or your brothers like to take this testament home and look it over. I have more at home."

"Sure," said Mollie. She took the testament and placed it in her pocket.

"Look at the first page," continued Commander Dave. "The key verses having to do with salvation are listed there. Also, the gospel of John is a good book to start with. And, my phone number is inside, if you ever want to call me."

"Thanks," replied Mollie.

"No problem. By the way, I’m here on Tuesdays and Thursdays around six o’clock and on Saturdays around eleven. Feel free to stop me anytime you care to talk. I look forward to seeing your next batch of crawfish and minnows."

The kids waved goodbye and Commander Dave returned to his car. How he missed the days when he could just read a tract, read some questions off the back, get the kids to answer them positively, have them say a quick sinners prayer, and be done with it. How much harder it was to lead a child to understand that he cannot have Jesus as savior without having Jesus as Lord.

Was this the kind of easy believing that Chad held to? Did Chad actually call himself a Christian, thinking that he could have Jesus as savior and still live any way he wanted.

"Oh Father in Heaven," Commander Dave prayed, "spread your net wide. Bring in Chad, wherever he is, and bring in Brock, Mollie, and Benny, too. Please, father, prepare divine opportunities for us to talk again. I beg you, please do not let these be the fish that got away. Thank you for this special opportunity to be your fisherman."

Commander Dave’s heart was full of praise as he journeyed home, so much so that it was hard for him to keep from speeding. Only when he was about halfway there did he finally remember, almost slamming on brakes, "I forgot my Mountain Dew!"

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