Overdue! by Randy Rowley 9/12/08 ©


Six friends and I headed to the middle Texas coast, or coastal bend, for an FCS self-guided bay fishing trip on a Friday in late July.  The late Derrich Pollock, his son Will, Steve Watkins, Jim Quimby, and I fished the Land Cut and Baffin Bay, southwest of Corpus Christi, from Jim’s bay boat.  Mark Dillow and Ronnie Ross fished Aransas Bay, northeast of Aransas Pass, from Ronnie’s bay boat.

Everyone in my group caught about ten fish on live shrimp, including speckled trout, redfish, and black drum.  The keepers were four trout and three black drums.

As is typical with fishing in the summer, as the heat rose, the fish developed lockjaw.  Around noon, we decided to head back.

I called Mark on our ride back.  He said they had caught some fish, but the fishing had slowed down considerably.  The call dropped just as I was about to ask him when they would head back.  Several attempts to reestablish contact failed.  I knew cell phone reception was notoriously bad on the coast, so I didn’t worry about it.

Around 2:30 PM, my group dropped me off at Mark’s and my campsite at Padre Balli Park.  They then put Jim’s boat back in storage and flew home to Austin.  I turned the A/C on in the FCS pop-up camper and quickly fell asleep.

I woke up two hours later and tried to call Mark to learn their ETA.  My phone indicated, “Service is unavailable.”

Around 5:30 PM, as I put coals in the grill and lit them, I called Mark and got the same results as before.  I asked myself, “What could have happened to them?”  Various possibilities entered my mind.  I remembered Philippians 4:6-7, which says, “Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  I prayed, and the anxious thoughts went away.

Another hour went by.  I called Mark again and got the same results as before.  I also tried to call Ronnie and couldn’t reach him.  I started to cook dinner.  “They’ll be here any minute,” I told myself.  Meanwhile, those anxious thoughts had come back, and this time they had friends!

The question of what could have happened to them occupied my thoughts – and none of my possible answers were good.  They included:

  • the boat had a mechanical problem, capsized, or sank;
  • they had a medical emergency; and
  • one of them drowned.

Adding to my anxiety was a feeling of helplessness – I couldn’t look for them as I didn’t have a vehicle or a boat. I prayed while I ate dinner, but I couldn’t find the peace of God.  I kept thinking about what could have happened to them.  I knew God would cause all things to work together for good (see Romans 8:28), but my fear said the opposite.

I ate dinner and then put up the leftovers.  At about 8:00 PM, after another failed attempt to reach them, I walked to the campground’s headquarters, borrowed their landline phone, and called the coast guard.  The young man I spoke to couldn’t grasp we had two groups fishing in different locations, one group was fine and had gone home, but the other group was overdue.

After a couple of minutes of failing to communicate, I asked to speak to his supervisor.  After I explained the problem, he promised to call the Aransas Pass police, and they would begin to look for Mark’s truck at the boat ramps.

As I was walking back, my phone rang.  It was Ronnie!  I bombarded him with questions.  Are y’all OK?  Where are y’all?  What happened?  His answers astonished me.  They were fine, they were on their way to our campsite, and they had fished all day!  I hadn’t even considered that as a possibility, as I had never fished for an entire day.

Ronnie told me he routinely fishes all day.  He was surprised we hadn’t done the same.  He caught one shy of a limit of trout (nine), and they caught their limit of redfish (three each).  The fishing turned on about 4:00 PM.  They caught and released 20 more keeper-sized redfish.  He said it was the best bay fishing either of them had experienced!

While giving thanks to God, I chalked the experience up as another of the many lessons I’ve had to learn the hard way and kicked myself for not discussing our plans in more detail the night before.

I’m not usually the anxious type.  It is not in my nature to worry about things, but I was worried sick that day.  The experience caused me to investigate further what the Bible says about worrying.

According to Jesus, worrying doesn’t accomplish anything.  He said in Matthew 6:25-27, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

To put Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians to not be anxious about anything into context, we have to examine what was going on when he wrote his letter that could make a Christian anxious.  During Paul’s first visit to Philippi, he cast a demon out of a slave-girl who used fortune-telling to enrich her masters before her exorcism.  Her masters were enraged their meal ticket was lost and dragged Paul and Silas before the city magistrates.  Paul and Silas were then flogged without a trial and thrown into prison. (See Acts 16:12-24.)

The Philippians didn’t just have the stressors most adults must deal with – finances, taxes, homes, health, children, parents, neighbors, etc.  They saw what happened to Paul and Silas and knew the Romans imprisoned Paul after leaving them.  They had to live with the possibilities of imprisonment, punishment, and death because they followed Jesus.  That would undoubtedly make many people anxious!

However, Paul told us to be anxious for nothing.  He didn’t say, “Be anxious for nothing, except money, illness, children, and morality.”

The good news is Paul didn’t just tell us not to worry about a thing and then move on to another subject in his letter.  Instead, he told us how to have a worry-free life – by pleading to God with thanksgiving.

To plead without giving thanks isn’t enough.  To give thanks without entreating won’t get the desired result.  Pleading and thanksgiving must be done together.

The peace of God wasn’t with me as I waited for Mark and Ronnie because I failed to thank God for the trial.

It’s often hard to thank God for everything, especially when anxious.  But when we give thanks, it takes our minds off of ourselves and what we’re worried about and puts our minds on God and what we’re thankful for.  People who’re busy counting their blessings are too busy to count their worries.

Ephesians 5:20 says, “Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” and 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  But thanking him for everything and in all circumstances often goes against our nature!  For example, if we get a raise, we’ll thank him, but we’ll worry about how we’ll make it if we’re laid off.  Too often, we hang on to the things we like to fret about.

We’ll develop a habit of being thankful for everything and in all situations when we realize:

  • God loves us and has our best interests in mind. Jesus said in John 3:16, “‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’”
  • The ultimate outcome of every situation will be for our good.  Romans 8:28 (NLT) says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”
  • Our lives are in God’s hands.  Jesus said in John 10:29, “‘My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.’”
  • Fear is the opposite of trust and is, therefore, a sin.

Paul said in Philippians 4:6-7 that pleading with thanksgiving will result in “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,” guarding our “hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  God fills us with the peace of the Prince of Peace, which is far different than just an absence of turmoil.  It’s the peace that knows everything will ultimately work for our good.  Trusting God is the cure for worry and gives us the ability to be content even in the midst of trials.

God’s peace doesn’t come through protests, marches, hunger strikes, bumper stickers saying to visualize it, and trying to banish anxiety as I did during after fishing trip by pleading but not giving thanks for the trial.  God’s peace only comes from pleading to God and thanking him for everything and in every situation.


Mark and Ronnie

Categories : Devotionals

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I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.