Monday, March 19, 2012

OnFire #276 Lessons from the Fish Tank

OnFire Encouragement Letter

OnFire #276 Lessons from the Fish tank

Hi Folks:

My latest post on Pastor of Everything Else is “What To do When the Senior Pastor Resigns.” So far, I’ve spent a total of almost three years of my nine years in associate ministry without a senior pastor at the helm. Feel free to pass this along to associate pastors you may know.


A few weeks ago I began to see signs that our koy and goldfish were distressed. Not the “I’m overwhelmed and I’m going to flip out” kind of emotional distress, but the lethargic, not eating, kind of distress which signals that the fish were weak and might not survive.

To explain, these are fish that I brought in from our backyard pond because last year’s fish didn’t survive the winter in the shallow water. A friend gave us a tank and all winter we’ve been keeping 3 koy and 4 goldfish. I couldn’t catch one goldfish, and so it remains somewhere in the pond, forever traumatized by my efforts to net him.

Anyway, one by one and two by two I lost all of the fish over the next couple of weeks. They died despite my best efforts to change the water and filter and clean the gravel. I felt really bad that I tried to save them from freezing, only to have them die in my fish tank later from problems I was ill-equipped to handle.

It was hard not to reflect on those fish and see my life. I sometimes wonder if I’m pouring time and energy into situations and problems which will only be a wasted effort. How depressing that thought is! And yet, it is one of my secret fears. Is all this trouble for nothing? I’m generally a positive, hopeful person. It’s something people like about me. But deep down, when things aren’t going so well, I have these fears.

I have to be careful because some people think I write OnFire like a diary or journal. They think I must be writing about church life or my current mood. This is not always so. I write OnFire because I think that if I talk about the secret feelings we’re afraid to say in public, then we’ll all be better off for it. If I feel this, then others do, too, and so let’s do this together. “I’m not the only one!” is what I hope people will think.

I was surprised when I had these thoughts, and I had to work through them. It really came down to this. As frustrating as things are sometimes, as difficult and discouraging as they may be, I cannot surrender to these fears. Even as these thoughts occur, I must reject them and choose instead to trust that God is good and He is not finished with me.

This is one of the thoughts I cling to. “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus,” Paul wrote. (Phil 1:6)

I hope this helps. Be on fire.


OnFire is a bi-weekly letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. Troy is the Pastor of Family Ministries at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. This letter published Mar 19, 2012. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at Blog located at

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