Are You a Pilot Fish?

Are You a Pilot Fish?


When I was a kid, if anything was going to get me to turn the channel from Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon—it was Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. Whoever the executives were at Discovery knew what they were doing when they invented Shark Week. Here is an entire week solely dedicated to these animals which are as mysterious as they are frightening. Each show would approach different components or angles as they educated viewers on the king of the ocean.

            A few years back, I was indulging in another epic week of sharks when I got curious about something. I had always noticed these tiny little fish swimming alongside the sharks wherever they went. If the shark went left, they went left. If the shark went right, they went right. If the shark went up or down, they went up or down. Finally, it dawned on me how dumb these fish must be to swim beside the deadliest animal in the ocean. If the sharks wanted, they could very easily devour them in a second. The crazy thing is they never did.

            These peculiar fish are known as “Pilot Fish,” and they have a mutual agreement with sharks. As long as they keep parasites off the shark, the shark will lead them through the ocean and even allow them to eat scraps of the prey they kill. The problem with pilot fish is they have no way to lead themselves. They are so dependent on the shark that they have no idea how to provide for themselves, make decisions, or live on their own. So when the shark dies, usually the pilot fish continues to do what it does best and follows the shark to death.

            The more I thought about pilot fish, the more I saw a connection to so many Christians out there. Sadly, many Christians depend on others for their faith that they have no faith of their own. Paul says in Philippians 2:12, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Instead of working out their own salvation, they are living out someone else’s. They don’t know left from right or up from down and live a directionless faith without rhyme or reason.

          You see it in teenagers who grow up in a solid youth group just to turn around in college and abandon all the teaching and preparation that was put into them. They were so dependent on that youth minister that they could not pilot their faith when he wasn’t there to lead and guide them. So instead of becoming a shark that can fend for themselves, they swim and swim until they find someone else to follow. Unfortunately for some, they wind up following the wrong shark that doesn’t look out for their best interest.

          You see it in adults who may have grown up in the Lord’s Church and known facts about God but never known who God is. So they just went along believing whatever momma, daddy, and grandaddy always said, whether or not they actually believed it for themselves. These adults live life going through the motions, checking a box. They come to worship, sure. But when it comes time to explain why they believe what they believe, they have no answer. Again, this is because they never believed it for themselves.

         The problem with this kind of faith is that you wind up devoid of any personal convictions. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” Pilot fish Christians cannot give a defense because the hope was never in them to begin with. It was in their favorite preacher. It was in their parents. It was in their spouse. But it never was a faith they could claim as their own. These Christians go through life at the whims of wherever their leader takes them. When this happens, you are no longer a follower of Christ; you are a follower of whoever that leader may be.

        Are you a pilot fish Christian? Is the hope within you? Do you seek your own salvation, or do you live out someone else’s? Regardless of how you answer these questions, we all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). We aren’t going to be able to tell God to wait for a second while we pull our favorite preacher up there and have him answer for us. We aren’t going to be able to tell God to wait for a second while we pull our momma and daddy up there and have them answer for us. We can’t tell Him to wait for a second while we get our friends, spouses, Bible class teachers, or any other person. All we will have is ourselves and the faith that is or is not within us. Will it be enough?

-Ben Hogan, Minister of Evangelism