EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT LIFE IS IN YOUR FISHBOWL
Fish Face II
January 21, 2001
I think as we peered into our aquariums, we saw many irregular people that we all come face to face with. Today, we swim to the other side and look at some other fish. As I talk about these fish, and as I share with you some fish facts, I am sure you will say, “Oh, that’s my boss. Oh, that’s my relative. Oh, that’s my spouse. Oh, I’m dating that person.”
Then I will give you some fish facts and after that, we’ll talk about the secret of dealing with difficult fish. We will discover that our Lord himself, Jesus Christ, went face to face with each one of these fish we are going to describe. Are you ready? Let’s take a dive in our tank and look around.
This first creature is very slippery and slimy. He likes to spend a lot of time in rocks and holes. Sometimes it buries itself in sand and waits for unsuspecting prey to swim by. I am talking about the eel. An eel is someone who exaggerates, who elongates, who falsifies, who puts their sinister spin on stuff. I am talking about those who don’t tell the truth.
You’d be shocked if you realize how many people are emitting eel-like tendencies and eel-like currents in their aquariums. It’s tough to deal with the eel. They damage people. They hurt businesses, teams, families, and even churches. Here is what is so wild about an eel. When you talk to them, you think they are fine, upstanding citizens, people who are responsible, people who have achieved all this stuff. Yet, if you look beneath the veneer, you see an eel.
What do we do with eels? What do we do with people who exaggerate, falsify, and lie? What do we do? Do we just say, “Well, I hope they turn over a new leaf. I hope they change their ways. I hope they say, ‘Well, I’ve been lying for a long time, but I’m going to start telling the truth now.’” We can do that, which is nothing; or if we know an eel, or we see someone in our lives emitting these eel-like tendencies, we can confront them.
The Bible says in Ephesians 4:15, “We are to speak the truth in love.” If you know an eel, based on God’s Word, I challenge you to go to that eel in love and confront them. Bring someone else along who has been hurt by the eel, an employee, another family member or friend, and say, “Hey, let’s talk. You’ve been doing the eel thing.”
The Bible says in Proverbs 12:22, “The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.”
Let’s run down some fish facts about these eels. The first one goes like this: confront the eel. Confront the eel. I just talked about it a second ago. Right now, I believe God is putting in your mind some eels that you are dealing with. Ask God for the courage, for the right timing to confront the eel, because if you do not confront the eel, let me tell you what is at stake. The eel will continue to slither and cruise around in holes and sand behind rocks and hurt life after life. Who is going to stop this cycle of sin? Who is going to stop this rebellious person? Who? If you are a Christ-follower, it needs to be you.
Here is another fish fact. Help the eel get real. Just help them get real. Eels are not real. They are living a lie. Oftentimes, when you confront an eel, let me tell you what they do, because I have confronted them before. They usually squeal. “You’re right,” the eel will say, “Okay, you are right. You confronted me. Yes, I have messed this client around. Yes, I have lied. Yes, I have falsified. Yes, I have put my sin on this deal.” Eels are so smart; they usually will confess when you call them to the carpet. “You know, you are right. I did mess up.” But the problem is most eels will confess, and then they will slither back to their hole and lie again and again.
You confront the eel after much prayer. You confront the eel with a trusted friend. But don’t stop there. You also help them get real. An eel needs some Christian counseling. I am all for Biblically-based counseling. If you knew Tiger Woods personally, would you ask Tiger to help you with your golf game? “Sure I would, Ed. What kind of question is that? Tiger Woods, the greatest golfer of all times. Yes, I would ask Tiger.”
If you knew Jimmy Houston, the famous fisherman from television land, would you ask Jimmy to give you some pointers about how to cast and locate fish? I think you would. Anyone ever talk to a financial advisor? You ever talked to an accountant? If you have legal problems, you talk to an attorney. If you are sick, you talk to a doctor. What’s wrong, if you have got a problem, Mr. Eel, or Mrs. Eel, or Ms. Eel, what’s wrong with going to an expert, a Biblically-based counselor and saying, “I need some help.”
Those of us who love God, love eels. We are going to confront them but also lead them to counseling. You know what? We can’t make them change. They have got to do it. We can’t force the deal. They have got to do it. It’s part of our call, helping people.
I know a lot about eels. Years ago, Lisa and I confronted an eel. It was a very difficult deal. Before I talk to you about the confrontation, let me tell you what happened. We met this young family, and I think I have a pretty good level of discernment, and we thought they were great. We developed a friendship with them and as we got closer, the trust level deepened. I didn’t know it. I didn’t realize it. I was in a friendship with an eel. This eel hurt me and my family to such a degree, that even today, I do not trust people as quickly as I used to.
I wish I could tell you, “Oh, yeah, everything’s okay. I just accept you and love you just like that.” I have my guard up more, because once you have been eaten up by an eel, once you have tasted the lies and the deception, once you have felt them stabbing you in the back and hurting you, it’s tough to get over. We confronted in love this person, helped this person in counseling and, the last I heard of them, sadly they were still doing the eel thing.
We probably have some eels here hearing my voice right now. Eels are freaky because they are fearful. Just one false move and you could be found out—leans against you, lawsuits against you, creditors converging on you, lying here, lying there. Stop the nonsense, I beg you. Get real. Get some help.
Let’s change to something else that is a little bit lighter, okay? This next fish is a very common fish—just a minnow. We all know minnows, those martyrs. Those people who say, “I’m just a benign baitfish swallowed up by this world. No one works like me. No one has the pain that I have. No one carries the mantel that I have.” Martyrs are always talking down, always priding themselves in their pity. They are poor delegators. They don’t want any help. They are just a little minnow. Just a martyr. We have male martyrs and female martyrs.
Here are some fish facts. Don’t get sucked in. Martyrs kick up a serious wake and if you follow too closely to a martyr, you can sucked into it and you will begin to pity yourself and them too. You’ll be saying things like, “Life is terrible. You better watch out or the world will eat you up.”
Here are some other fish facts of advice. I like this. Make the minnow, or the martyr, just laugh. The Bible says laughter is good. If you know a martyr at the office or around your family, throw a joke in. They need that more than anyone. Just do something crazy or something. I know some martyrs and I just kind of joke them around, the Three Stooges thing.
This is huge here: skip the swimming lessons. Martyrs do not take advice. Don’t try to teach them and say, “Let me show you how to delegate. Let me show you how to do that.” They don’t want it. They are prideful and they are control freaks. If you try to help them, it freaks them.
Here’s another fish fact. Keep your tank full. You can swim with a martyr, but limit your swimming time. If you swim too closely, you will get sucked in. Martyrs always say, “My tank, my fishbowl, is half empty.” Keep your tank full. Make sure you swim with replenishing people. I’ll talk about that in a little bit.
Lisa and I have known each other for a long time. We met at the ripe old age of fourteen. The first real date we ever had was to see my favorite movie, “Jaws.” I remember the first time I ever held Lisa’s hand. It was during the time when Captain Quint shot the Great White with that harpoon. The Great White was trying to swim around with those yellow barrels. Remember those things? I just grabbed her hand during the barrel time.
People are fascinated by sharks. They are aggressive. They are tough. Know a shark? “Ed, I’m married to a shark. He’s a control freak, Jack. He’s got his jaws around the finances. Oh, Ed, I work for a shark. This girl, man, she’ll wear you out, always looking over your shoulder with that dorsal fin.” I love sharks. I liked those things when they were not even cool.
A shark—they swim over people. They eat people up. They attack people and they don’t even know it. Could it be that you are a shark. Sharks are usually oblivious. “What? Me?” Hello. Right now, just stop and look over your dorsal fin. You see any victims in the water? Anybody bleeding? I learned a song awhile back that I taught my kids. I love it. I’ll sing it for you right now. “Baby shark, bomp, bomp, bomp. Baby shark, bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp. Child shark, bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp. Child shark, bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp. Teenage shark, bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp. Teenage shark, bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp. Adult shark, bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp. Adult shark, bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp. Grandpa shark, bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp. Grandpa shark, bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp. Lady swimming, bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp. In the water, bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp. Shark attack! I lost my leg, bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp.” It’s a great song.
There are sharks in all stages of life whether you are a kid, a teenager, an adult or a grandpa. Sharks are everywhere. In Proverbs 16:9, it says this to this controlling, arrogant, and aggressive fish, “In his heart, a man plans his course (‘I’ll swim the way I want to swim. I’ll dominate my aquarium. I’ll rule my fishbowl’), but the Lord determines his steps.”
Years ago, I used to work with a shark. The funny thing about this guy was he was oblivious. One day several of us sat with him in love and we said, “Hey, man, you are a shark.” He said, “Me?” “Yes.” We listed about seven people who had worked for him who were just chewed up and eaten up and we said, “Look back over your dorsal.”
“Yeah, well, maybe I am.”
Some shark facts, not from the Discovery Channel. Don’t take the attacks personally. This is huge. When a shark begins to feed on you, don’t take them personally. Sharks are usually very talented people. Oftentimes, you have got to find out what is messing them up. Oftentimes, they will attack you because they are scared, or nervous, or because they are insecure. Most sharks struggle with a poor self-esteem.
Another fish fact. Find out what is freaking them out. When a shark begins to try to attack you and circle you, when the pectoral fins are like this and the dorsal fins are like this and you hear the music from “Jaws” in the background, when that happens, just say something like, “I understand that you are hacked, that you are chapped, that you are upset at me. Could it be because of what happened an hour ago, or maybe because this situation is occurring.” Oftentimes, the shark will then chill and open up to you.
Let’s do another one. Don’t let a shark’s skin fool you. I have caught a lot of sharks in my life. I have even swam with some sharks. Sharks have very abrasive, sandpaper like skin. If they swim past you without even biting you, they can take some hide off of your leg or arm. I caught a shark off Galveston several years ago. When they brought the shark on the boat, this nine-foot bull shark just whacked me with his tail, put a big old knot on my chin, and knocked off all the skin. Don’t let that fool you. Usually behind shark’s skin is someone who has a lot of talent and a lot of ability, but they are driven by this controlling, aggressive, power-hungry thing.
This is another important fish fact. During an attack, please don’t fight back. Don’t. You know what all the scientists say, “If a shark attacks, take a blunt object and whack him between the eyes.” Where do you get a blunt object when you are swimming? “Oh, let me pull this out of my swim trunks.” That is one of the dumbest things I have ever heard of in my life. People say that. Hit the shark with a blunt object. Oh, really? Don’t do that when you are attacked. Don’t fight back. That doesn’t mean to cower and cry, “Oh, a shark.” Don’t run, but don’t fight them. Stand your ground. If a shark begins to get too personal, or begins to encroach upon stuff he or she should not encroach upon, just say, “Wait a minute, big boy or big girl. It stops here. It stops.”
If you know anything about sharks, you know something about this next fish, the remora. Remoras are free-loading, free-riding fish. They affix themselves to a shark. They attach themselves to a shark or another big fish, and when the big fish eats, the remora detaches, eats the crumbs, and then reattaches. If you have been blessed by God, if you are successful in any way, financially, relationally, whatever, be very careful about the remoras who attach themselves to you when you have achieved some measure of success. Oftentimes, remoras are hooking onto you or maybe me, just to be able to meet someone, to be able to be seen by someone, for the trips, for the perks, for whatever. Remora relationships.
Here is how to know if you have someone in your life who is a remora. You have got to watch your weight. As you are swimming along, if you feel kind of bogged down, if you feel some resistance beneath the water, just look back and go, “Whoa! I’ve got a remora.” Here we have got to say, “God, I want to hear and to feel the promptings of your spirit.” When Christ comes in, so does the Holy Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit will nudge us and say, “Hey, you’ve got a remora thing. You’ve got someone using you up. You’ve got someone draining on you. You’ve got someone leeching off you. You’ve got someone freeloading off you.” Remora relationships.
One time I was speaking at a conference. I stayed there a couple of nights and spoke one of the nights I was there. After one of my talks, I just mentioned the fact that I had played some basketball at Florida State University. After the service had concluded, I was standing down in front saying hello to some of these young people. This guy walked up to me, chest stuck out like this and he said, “Hey, man, did I hear you right? Did you say you played ball at Florida State University? You talking about Florida State Seminoles?”
I said, “Yeah.”
He said, “Man, like, when did you play? What years were you there?”
I said, “Let me see, ’79, ’80 and ’81.”
He said, “Okay. You know, I play some ball too. I’ve got my gear in my room. I think I can beat you one on one, man.”
I said, “Really?” So I got my shoes on, went out and beat the fool out of him. I’m joking. I didn’t do that. Some guys are going, “Yeah!”
No, I didn’t do that. He could probably beat me. Most people could. You know who I was dealing with? I was dealing with the next creature in our aquarium, the competitive crab. Everything is a competition. Watch crabs. When you throw a piece of meat in the tank, these crabs will go after each other. Do you know a crab? Are you a crab, competing? Who’s got the best jewelry? Who’s got the best car? Who’s got the best house? Who’s the best decorator? Who’s the best cook? Who’s the strongest? Who’s the biggest? Who’s the baddest? Who’s the smartest? Competitors. Yeah, we have got to win. Crabs.
One of the most competitive people I know doesn’t look like it. This man, as far as from the outside, his veneer, looks so calm, so sweet, so kind. But this guy has got some monster pinchers, just waiting to pinch you, to bite you. Crabs are always looking for a weakness. You know why? They want that leverage, to be able to better you, to best you. You have got something that they want.
Here are a couple of fish facts. Avoid the crab trap. Crabs put that bait out. Then they try to lure us into competition. “Come on and play with me: ping-pong, a little pool, a little cards.” It could be whatever, and most of us say, “Well, okay.” Then we are in the competition and we say, “Man, that guy is such a jerk. He is so competitive.” We just freak.
Here is another crab fact. Guard against envy. Remember, and I will reiterate this again, crabs look at you and me and they say, “Man, she has got something I want and you know….” Don’t go there.
Appreciate, also, a crab’s strengths. Crabs, these competitive people who kind of overdose on competition, they have a lot of strengths. They are usually successful people, people who achieve a lot. Remember that, and understand that. I think it’s great to be competitive, but a lot of us here have overdosed on it. A lot of us here have these big pinchers and claws and we look like crabs out there just fighting it out. It’s between you and God. You worry about pleasing God and being the best you can possibly be for him in every arena. The rest will take care of itself. The moment you start comparing yourself to other people, the Bible says, and pinching on them, doing this—that is when you miss your focus.
Let’s do one more fish and then we will do something else. Those of you who know fish a lot, know what this fish is. I had no clue until I began studying this stuff. It’s called a kissing fish, a gurami. A gurami is a flirt, seductive, caught up in their appearance, needy and lonely. Do you know a gurami? Do you know somebody who is always flirting, always dropping those innuendos, those stories, always wearing that type of clothing, always saying something that makes you say, “What did she mean by that? What did he really mean by that?”
Some of you right now are in a marriage. Tomorrow, you are going to go to work and you are thinking about having sex with a gurami around your office. You are thinking about it right now. You are having conversations with this person that are too long. You are meeting this person alone. You are thinking about this person and comparing this person to your spouse. Don’t go there.
I am sick and tired of talking to people who have messed up in this area and they have ruined their marriage and they have trashed the lives of their children due to sex outside the marriage bed. If you have committed adultery, it is not the unpardonable sin. God will forgive you and change you, but don’t mess around with a gurami. A gurami always wants to hug everybody, “I just want to hug you.”
Fish fact number one, swim away at full speed. If you feel someone kind of putting their flags up for you, spin on your fins and get away.
There’s something else. Never ever swim alone with a gurami. If you are married man or married woman, I challenge you. Don’t get alone with some flirt, with someone who has their flags up for you. Here is the problem with most of us who are Christians. We have prayed prayers like this, “Lord, give me the strength to handle temptation.” Well, that is good. That’s good, but here is what we should pray. What did Jesus say in the model prayer? Lead us not into what? “Lead us not into temptation.” We should say, “God, lead me away from even the arena, even the fishbowl, even the aquarium of temptation.” It’s not worth thirty minutes of passion for a lifetime of hell, is it?
Here’s something else, and you can give Preston Mitchell credit on this one. PDA with your spouse. Do you know what that means? A public display of affection. If you are married, have a picture of you and your spouse prominently displayed in your office. Hug your spouse in front of people. Hold hands with your spouse. Kiss your spouse. I don’t mean to get gross, but you know what I am saying to you. Preston told me the other day, “Ed, if someone is not flirting with their spouse, they are flirting with disaster.” It’s a great line. The closer we get to the Lord, the more he will send lures by your life and mine.
Okay. I will stop talking about fish now for just a second. Some of you right here need to do this (flushing sound). You need to flush some of your relationships. I don’t mean to be mean, ugly, or rude. You are swimming around with the wrong people. I could say it kinder, but I am not. You are messing up. Your relational world is a joke. It’s taking you down. It’s tearing you down. Do this. Simply say, “God, I want to swim with replenishing fish.” God’s designed us as relational creatures and he wants most of our relationships to build us up, to encourage us, to strengthen us, to support us, to make us swim the way God wants us to swim.
Some of you can’t swim, because you are hooked up with the wrong fish. I can’t tell you what to do. I can’t just say, “Oh, do this: A, B, C, D.” You have got to say, “God, I want to do life your way. I know it starts from you and no one else.” Some of you need to step out of the shadows of your aquarium and get involved and begin swimming with fish who make a difference. I’m talking about strategically stocking your tank.
Is your relational tank strategically stocked, or do you say, “Well, whoever swims by is who I am going to become a friend with. I’ll just do that.” Strategic relationships.
We could talk for months about difficult people. But do you know what? You are a difficult person and I am a difficult person for some people. We all see ourselves as some of these fish, don’t we? We could talk all day and night about changing the eel and changing the shark. It’s good to know the fish facts and all that.
Here is the secret. The secret is not from the outside; it’s from the inside. The moment we ask Christ to come in from the outside into the inside of our life, from the moment we rely on him, we begin to glorify God. And we worry about ourselves and our reactions to those other fish faces. We don’t worry about trying to change them. I’m always way ahead of the game whenever I say, “Lord, I want to put on your scales, your fins, and reflect your glory, and I want to react the way you reacted to all these fish face people.”
Think about Jesus. Go down the list. The eel—he dealt with Satan. Talk about the father of lies and deception and exaggeration. Remember Jesus went one on one with the martyr. Remember Martha? Jesus went over to Mary and Martha’s house with some friends and Mary was at his feet, drinking up every word he said. Martha was swimming around going, “Oh, I’ve got to work, you know. I’ve got to do this. No one does it like me. I’m just a little martyr.”
Jesus dealt with her. He said, “Martha, you are missing it.”
The shark? I think about old Caiphus, the head of the intelligencia, the religious leaders of his day. He was so aggressive, so shark like, he ended up being responsible for crucifying Jesus.
I think about the remora. Remember when Jesus did the fish and chips miracle? You know the fish and the loaves? That was a little joke. He fed 5,000. People were like, “Yeah! Feeling good now. The stomach is full.” The next day, they were looking for Jesus, “I want to see you do another miracle, Lord. I’m hungry. Maybe some McDonald’s sausage biscuits today or something like that.” They found Jesus speaking at a synagogue. They packed it out. Jesus laid down the gauntlet. The Bible said this, “Many no longer followed him that day.” Can’t you hear those remoras? They were swimming away. “I am tired of eating Jesus crumbs. They are getting too serious. Too much accountability, too much commitment.” Jesus dealt with remoras.
I think about a crab. Remember James and John, some of the disciples? They were just crabbing it out. “I am going to be number one. I’m going to do it. I’m going to get to that level.”
Jesus also dealt with a flirt, didn’t he? The woman caught in the act of adultery. She was brought to Jesus, and what did Jesus say? He said, “Go and sin no more.” These religious freaks were going to kill her. Jesus said, “Wait a minute. If you have never sinned, you can go ahead and throw the rock.” People said, “Oh, wow.” But it begins with you and me.
During the Roman persecution of Christians, a symbol began to emerge. You’ve seen the symbol before, the symbol of the fish. It was like a password to Christ-followers. During Roman persecution, if you walked up to a stranger and you were a Christian, you would draw an arc in the sand with your sandal. If they were a Christ-follower, they would complete the arc. The fish stands for Jesus Christ of God, the Son, the Savior.
Change takes place when we say, “I’m going to dress like Jesus. I’m going to put on his scales and his fins.” We have got the clothe ourselves in Christ. We have got to dress up. Galatians 3:26-27, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ Jesus.”
That’s where change begins, when I begin to clothe myself and not worry about you. You begin to clothe yourself and not worry about me. We become the fish. Isn’t that cool? Ichthus. We reflect Christ through his scales, through his fins, and we revolutionize our world.
So the deal is this. Are you going to be a fish face or are you going to reflect the face of Jesus?