The Immovable Object
I tuned-in to the radio station just as he was telling the story about a walleye pike in a large fish tank. Several minnows are placed in the tank at the far end. The walleye sees them and swiftly jets into their area to catch his dinner before they can scatter. He dines. After his meal he decides he wants another; and, just as before, he charges the minnows now in another area of the tank, and again he captures a minnow for his meal; and later another.
A clear plate-glass wall is inserted into the tank to separate the minnows from the walleye. Just as before, the walleye charges the minnows as they attempt to scatter. But this time the walleye runs smack into the plate-glass wall with a thud and bounces back. He is stunned and confused. He hovers there looking through the plate-glass not able to understand what has happened. The minnows were there before and he had caught them? And they are there now--he can see them!
He swims away to begin a new charge at the minnows. But this time he charges just a little slower, and hits the plate-glass wall just a little softer. The action is repeated several times with the walleye approaching just a little slower and hitting the wall just a little softer each time, until finally the behavior is totally extinguished. He's gotten the message; the minnows are there but they are not available to him. The plate-glass wall is removed and the minnows swim into the area of the walleye pike. They swim up to and around him and even bump his fins--- and he does nothing. He now knows that no matter how close they are, they are not accessible to him.
And there in a tank filled with his favorite food, the walleye pike starves to death.
The story was told by Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family. If you know his work and ministry, you know that he told the story as an illustration of how children can be taught to not try. After being ridiculed for unsuccessful efforts, many simply give up, never to try again. Similar illustrations have been used to describe the lasting effects of racial discrimination. But, as I heard the story, it brought to mind the strength of the local church and the fellowshipping of Believers.
In his book, Love Not the World, Watchman Nee argues that the fellowshipping
(meeting together) of Believers on a weekly or twice-weekly basis is essential for keeping
one another strong and protected from the snares laid weekly or daily by the enemies of
Christ. He likens the gathering of Believers to a foot washing that refreshes by the
removal of soil that has become deposited as we go about our daily tasks. In John 13:10,
Jesus told Peter, " . . .He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is
clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all." To refresh his guests, the host
would wash their feet as they entered his home. It was assumed that the guests were clean,
although their feet, clad in open sandals, would have gathered dust in walking to their
destination--the foot washing was very similar to wiping your feet when you enter
someone's home today. The "but not all" applied to those present, as at least
Judas was not cleansed of sin, as well as to the fact that only Peter's feet needed
Watchman Nee used this story to explain how we who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior have been made clean. But, as we continue to live in and interact with this world, we become soiled. And very similar to washing the feet of those who would be totally clean were it not for the dust clinging to their feet from their daily journeys, the foot washing represents one Believer refreshing another. And refreshing one another is a very important part of our ministry to one another.
Evangelism to those who have not accepted Jesus is a very important role of the local church, just as is teaching those who have accepted Jesus so that they continue to grow in His strength. But evangelism and teaching alone do not keep us strong and able to face whatever is thrown at us. And both evangelism and teaching can be done successfully without fellowship, the true friendship and free association of Believers. That is why the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, "Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do." The Living Bible perhaps give a clearer meaning, " So encourage each other to build each other up, just as you are already doing." We can tell people why they should follow Christ and instruct them on how to do so correctly without providing daily and personal encouragement. It is the daily and personal encouragement that keeps us going when we run into that plate-glass wall.
That is not to say that we should keep butting our heads into an immovable object. But, as we fellowship together, we receive counsel from those who may have some experience in the particular area with which we are having a problem. It is only with personal interaction with one another that we learn what others have done in similar situations. Hebrews 10: 25 says, " Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." Exhorting means to admonish, advise, alert, caution, counsel--all require personal interaction. And with this close association, Believers encourage each other to continue, even when times are tough; even when there is scant evidence that we have chosen the right course. No matter how much evidence we think we see that there is no healing or prosperity for those who believe, we know that God has provided for His children and we encourage one another with the promises. Certainly it starts with faith, much like a runner who continues to strive for a better time in the long-distance run, knowing that with continued effort he can improve on his time.
Hebrews 12:1 says, "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." There is a crowd cheering us on. And there should be a small group of Believers providing counsel. And with the right combination of both, that which has always seemed immovable might just be overcome.