This morning I was reading this very familiar passage of scripture once again, but today it spoke to me in a new way. Let's look at the scripture first:
When they (Jesus and His disciples) had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, does your Teacher not pay the temple tax? He said, yes. And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, what do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers? Peter said to Him, from strangers. Jesus said to him, then the sons are free. Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you. (Matthew 17:24-27)
I emphasized the part of that sentence because this is what spoke to me today. When Jesus tells Simon to go catch a fish, he does not tell him to keep looking until he finds just the right fish, but rather he tells him to take "the first fish." No doubt that in that sea there were thousands of fish. Fish of many different types, colors, sizes, weights, strength and ages, but regardless of all that, the Lord’s focus was on the “the First to Come Up”. He focused on the Willingness and Speed! He was not interested in waiting until "just the right fish" came along. Many of us would sit and wait for "the right person" to come to do a job or ministry. If this had been us, and a carp was the first fish caught, we might think, "no, let's wait until a bass comes along because that's a better fish." We often are like that, because we have in our minds a preconceived idea of who the person is or what their qualities might be and how they "look" in order to fit our own standards that we've set in our minds. But God is not looking for "flash" or ability... he is looking for availability. Many people want to sit and wait until that person who we think is the ideal choice decides that they finally have time to do what God wants done. Really? We are going to put the work of the Lord on hold while we get all our ducks in a row and we expect God to wait on us? How arrogant is that to think that we can tell God to just hold his horses and we will get around to it eventually? God is looking for "the first to come up" or those that will say, "I may not be much Lord, but what I am I make available to you. Do what you will with my life."
Think about that fish that Peter caught for a moment. Nothing special about him... just another fish. But how blessed was this "first fish" that came up and gave what he had to be used by the Lord to pay the Lord's tax! There was nothing special about this fish... he just made himself available.
What a picture of how God sees us.
How many times do we sit back and wait to see if someone else does the job, and if not, then we will make our self available. And we miss out on the blessing because we were slow and made our selves unavailable instead of being "the first to come up." We often think we are not qualified or don't have the ability, but just as God supernaturally placed that coin in that fishes mouth, so he fills us with the gifts, talents and abilities to fulfill the call... if we would only make ourselves available. I've often heard it said that God does not always call the gifted, but he equips those who make themselves available to be used.
One last thought. Jesus did not tell Peter to kill the fish... but to open his mouth, and there he found the coin. God's opportunity to do his will does not come as a threat or drain to us. As we avail ourselves to him, he gives us what we need and supplies the resources to get the job done. And you know, I don't read anything about them mounting that fish on a plaque and making him the focus of attention either. He just did his part and was apparently cast back into the sea to wait to be used another day. We have a tendency to want to make a show or spectacle of someone whom God uses. When we do that, the glory goes to "the fish" and not the Master.
I hope that maybe this spoke to someone else today too. God's not looking for the "right" fish, nor waiting on the "better" type fish... rather he is looking for the "fish that comes up first".... that one that says, "here I am Lord, use me."