The other day, my wife and I got back from a family vacation. I introduced our grandchildren to salmon and halibut fishing. I am hoping they will develop a lifetime joy in catching fish. It is something that I learned to do as a small boy. Needless to say, I have fish on my mind.
At one time, we used to live a short driving distance from the Adams River in the Central Interior of British Columbia. Most of the land on both sides of this 7.5 miles long narrow river has been incorporated into the Roderick Haig-Brown Conservation Area. This is the site of one of the great marvels of God’s awesome creation—the Adams River sockeye salmon run.
Every four years mature sockeye make their arduous 300-mile trip up the Fraser River, passing through the Thompson River and into Shuswap Lake by way of Little River. This leads to the Adams River, the spawning ground of between 2 and 3 million salmon. They arrive about the time of the fall festivals. No one knows for sure how they can find their way from the infinite emptiness of the North Pacific, Shuswap Lake by way of Little River. This leads to the Adams River, the spawning ground of between 2 and 3 million salmon. They arrive about the time of the fall festivals. No one knows for sure how they can find their way from the infinite emptiness of the North Pacific, one third of the way to Japan, back to their exact birthplace. Scientific American published an article titled “How Do Spawning Fish Navigate Back to the Very Stream Where They Were Born?” They said that few homing species can match the precision of the salmon but admitted that how they do it is not completely understood.
Crowds of up to 300,000 people come to view this majestic, spectacular phenomenon of nature when it occurs. What a sight! The fish pair off, male and female, in a seething mass of crimson bodies. The females, swollen with eggs, flail the gravel river bottom with their worn tails to create deep nests. When everything is ready, males deposit sperm, called milt, and the females lay their clusters of eggs in the nests. Together they bury the eggs with gravel.
After several days, when they have guarded the nests, they die, completing the cycle of life. Their bloated bodies float downstream and decompose, filling the air with their stench.
The silent spectacle has an almost mystical aura about it. You can actually get a lump in your throat as you watch the bruised and battered salmon literally serving to their deaths.
An Arduous Journey
They have come a long way, overcoming many obstacles, and have endured to the end. They have fought the rapids, whirlpools, fallen logs, rock slides and pollutants from pulp mills. They have escaped the fishing fleets of two nations, which stalk them and reduce their population by up to 80 percent. They have escaped the native fishermen along the shores of the Fraser River.
They have found their way from the far reaches of the Pacific Ocean, swam 300 miles upstream, fought the swift currents of the mighty Fraser and had their bodies battered for 17 days on their migration to lay down their lives so that the next generation might be born.
“With God’s help and with the navigational aids of His Word and the Holy Spirit, all things are possible.”
One area the salmon have to pass through is called Hell’s Gate, a narrow rocky gorge on the Fraser River 80 miles northwest of Vancouver. It is 110 feet wide at its narrowest point. The current is 20 miles-per-hour. It is laced with roving whirlpools, 40 feet in diameter and 100 feet deep, capable of swallowing whole trees and spitting them out again stripped and quartered. An average of 34 million gallons of water a minute rushes through this narrow gorge. At times as much as 200 million gallons a minute have been recorded during runoffs, since water from 8,400 square miles of British Columbia has to drain off through this area.
Back in 1913 railroad builders in the Hell’s Gate canyon needlessly dumped millions of tons of rock into the river, and in 1914, loosened by blasting, gigantic slabs of the cliff side fell into the narrow gorge, blocking the canyon and stopping the salmon in their migration route. Only a small number somehow managed to get through to spawn upriver. In 1946, manmade fishways were completed, after which the salmon population slowly began to increase to the pre-slide levels.
Anyone who has stood on the viewing platforms over Hell’s Gate has to admire the determination, strength and fortitude of the animated crimson arrows that leaped over this area without the aid of the fishways during the aftermath of the rock slide. Even with the fishways, it is a fantastic feat.
The sockeye salmon run of the Adams River survived because a tiny minority of overcomers defeated seemingly insurmountable odds and made it to their destination so that future generations might live.
There are many parallels of the sockeye salmon run to the Christian struggle. Let’s look at some of them.
Our Hell’s Gate
A Christian has to make it through the “Hell’s Gate” and turbulence of this world to reach God’s Kingdom. Christ tells us: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14 Matthew 7:13-14 13 Enter you in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads to life, and few there be that find it.
American King James Version×).
A Christian has to forge against currents polluted with immorality, escape the nets of materialism, resist the steady current of satanic influence and his own human nature as well as resist the whirlpools of negative peer pressure that constantly try to suck him under.
Just like after the rockslide in the narrow gorge where fishways had to be built, God opens a way. Psalms 118:19 Psalms 118:19Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the LORD:
American King James Version×says: “Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, and I will praise the LORD.” Also Isaiah 26:1-2 Isaiah 26:1-2 1 In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks. 2 Open you the gates, that the righteous nation which keeps the truth may enter in.
American King James Version×says: “In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: ‘We have a strong city; God will appoint salvation for walls and bulwarks. Open the gates that the righteous nation which keeps the truth may enter in.’”
Tribulations Along the Way
Some of God’s servants have suffered much physical abuse in this colossal struggle.
Paul commented in Acts 14:22 Acts 14:22Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
American King James Version×: “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God. He describes his hardships in 2 Corinthians 11:23-33 2 Corinthians 11:23-33 23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. 24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. 25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 In journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by my own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brothers; 27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. 28 Beside those things that are without, that which comes on me daily, the care of all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? 30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern my infirmities. 31 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for ever more, knows that I lie not. 32 In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: 33 And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.
American King James Version×. Yet he said: “We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
American King James Version×).
We read about some of God’s faithful people. They “through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens . . . Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented” (Hebrews 11:33-37 Hebrews 11:33-37 33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions.
34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:
36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yes, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:
37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;
American King James Version×).
God in His infinite mercy provides, along the way of life’s struggles, occasional quiet pools such as His festivals where we can rest and gather strength (Psalms 23:2-3 Psalms 23:2-3 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul: he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
American King James Version×). He even at times builds us paths around our obstacles (1 Corinthians 10:13 1 Corinthians 10:13There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.
American King James Version×).
Because of an elect group that endures to the end, God will spare the human race from total destruction (Matthew 24:13 Matthew 24:13But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.
American King James Version×, 21-22).
No Turning Back
Just as salmon hover over their fertilized nest of eggs and protect it from predators, a Christian has to protect his mind, which has been fertilized by God’s Spirit, from those who would shipwreck his faith and drown him in the perdition of ungodliness.
There is no turning back. Christ said in Luke 9:62 Luke 9:62And Jesus said to him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
American King James Version×: “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Great rewards lay in store, but these are still upstream, in the quiet waters of the Kingdom of God (Revelation 2:26 Revelation 2:26And he that overcomes, and keeps my works to the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
American King James Version×; 3:21). The strong currents that we swim against help build strong resolve and character. Trials and tests do come. As Paul wrote: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
American King James Version×). Eventually, the physical flesh will perish, but a new life will begin through the resurrection.
The psalmist compared our struggle to that of mariners battling stormy oceans and showed God’s desire to help us: “They mount up to the heavens, they go down again to the depths; their soul melts because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end. Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses. He calms the storm, so that its waves are still. Then they are glad because they are quiet; so He guides them to their desired haven” (Psalms 107:26-30 Psalms 107:26-30 26 They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.
27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end.
28 Then they cry to the LORD in their trouble, and he brings them out of their distresses.
29 He makes the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.
30 Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he brings them to their desired haven.
American King James Version×).
With God’s help and with the navigational aids of His Word and the Holy Spirit, all things are possible. We can make it through the “Hell’s Gates” of this world into the tranquility of God’s Kingdom (Romans 8:16-23 Romans 8:16-23 16 The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waits for the manifestation of the sons of God.
20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who has subjected the same in hope,
21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now.
23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
American King James Version×, 35-39)!