The hardest thing about fishing isn’t the catching, but the releasing. On many fishing trips, I have waited for what seemed an eternity for the slightest nibble on my fishing line. Sometimes after I felt a little tug on my line, I would reel it in, only to find what must have been the smallest fish in the whole lake hooked on my lure. (At least I could tell my wife I had caught something when I returned home.) But tiny fish aren’t worth keeping because they are undersized, so I usually remove the hook and throw them back in the lake — I want to give them a fair chance to grow so they will be worth catching later. The problem is the little fish squirm about so that removing the hook from their mouths can become dangerous. If they only knew that I didn’t want to hurt them or eat them, they would relax.

A carnal Christian lives with the same tension as a hooked fish. When a pastor, teacher, or friend tries to help him get free from the snare which is hindering him spiritually, this person squirms and lashes out. The squirming may cause others to be hurt. A wise, spiritually-minded Christian will try to keep this from happening by being gentle with the carnal believer. Instead of ripping the hook from the believer’s mouth, he takes it out with care, being sensitive towards his injury. Still, it’s up to the believer who is being helped to listen to his counselor’s advice.

Perhaps you have been snagged by a besetting sin, and you are struggling to break free. There are people in your church who can help you, if you really want to be helped. Listen to their advice. The words they share with you may make you uncomfortable at first, but they will give you life if you listen.

Devotional by Dr. James A. Scudder