I’ve Got Bigger Fish To Fry

Sometimes this simple Bigger fish to fry idiom comes to my mind when I begin to lose focus on what’s really important.

In case you don’t understand the meaning of this idiom, it basically means that there is more important or more urgent business to attend to.

Of course, “what’s really important” is different for everyone, but as followers Christ, we should have a spiritual foundation of “important” and “urgent” business (“bigger fish to fry“) to keep our priorities in check. Without this “bigger fish” priority list, how would any of us know if we are wasting our time and efforts on fruitless endeavors?

As He (Jesus) was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon (Peter) and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.” (Mark 1:15-18)

Maybe it’s from watching too many zombie movies when I was growing up, but the above passage is kind of funny to me. I get this picture in my mind of these two ordinary fishermen becoming so transfixed by Jesus’s words and presence that, like zombies, they literally drop everything, their whole life’s work, and follow Jesus.

But then another picture comes into my mind; a picture of thousands of people at a Billy Graham crusade walking down to the front after hearing the words of Jesus preached with authority and conviction. Even two thousand years after Peter and Andrew dropped their fishing nets to follow Christ, His words still have the power to change the hearts and minds of millions of people.

Like many of us, I think Andrew and Peter were ready for their lives to take on a greater purpose; they were ready to be set free from the monotony of the trivial and this is why they (and we) responded to the call of Jesus.

“If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free…So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:31-36)

What’s really important?

I think about this question a lot. I believe the answer to this question should be different for followers of Christ than it is for unbelievers because unbelievers by definition do not have an eternal perspective.

I remember so well the grieving process after the death of a loved one or the day the neurologist told me I had ALS. I remember things like the news, my favorite television shows, sports, politics, and so many other things that filled up my day and the discussions I had with others, suddenly seemed so insignificant by comparison.

Maybe we’re at our best, our most compassionate, our most empathetic and our kindest when we’re in the midst of these difficult times. Maybe this is when we are most like Christ. Yes, I am convinced that this is when we’re most like Christ.

Instead of trying to avoid thinking about these difficult times, I think we should purposely reflect on them and remember all of the things that seemed so trivial. Those things are still trivial in the good times. And, the things that still mattered to us in the hard times, are, I’m convinced, the very things that Christ wants us to build our lives around; these are the bigger fish.

Can you have joy and happiness building your life around these bigger fish?


Through all of my really difficult times, especially battling ALS for the last 21+ years, I’ve discovered that building my life around these things that matter, these “bigger fish,” is the secret to true and lasting joy.

But, I still leave room for sports, mindless movies and other little fish.

About Bill Sweeney

In 1996, Bill was diagnosed with ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) and the doctors told him he had 3-5 years to live. He is now completely paralyzed and unable to speak, but by God’s grace, he’s still alive and through his blog shares a message of hope in Christ - Unshakable Hope!

Posted on February 23, 2018, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 85 Comments.

  1. Hi! I’m Cami. I have started blogging this year and I want my blog to reach more people. I blog about faith, my life, beauty tips, and advice for others. Please check out my blog, I would greatly appriciate it! If you have any questions feel free to message me on Instagram @cami.dahms I am just a teen girl trying to expand her corner of the internet!

  2. Nice post

  3. What an amazing reminder to stay focus on the things that really matter in life in view of eternity. Thank you. 🙂

  4. This is really good. Thank you. And I want you to know, I’m so sorry you have to struggle with this horrible disease. My dad *thought* he had ALS once… and that was bad enough. He has something else… but the way he’s responded to the situation is so different than what you’ve done here. And what you’ve done here, despite the fate you’re facing down, is life-giving. That’s the best you can give to the world. Thank you… thank you.

  5. Amen, dear Bill, amen. I don’t wish for hard times, however, they are fertile seasons for growing more Christ like.
    Blessings to you & Mary ~ Wendy Mac

  6. God bless you in your battle. May Jesus give you the victory. Thanks for your post. We should indeed all have bigger fish to fry!

  7. Thank you for writing this Bill. It’s so easy to become distracted by the cares — and increasingly, the entertainment — of this world. Keep writing.

  8. This is a great reminder of keeping our focus on what is really important. Jesus was totally focused on building God’s kingdom. We need to be just as focused. The things of this earth are minor in comparison. Thanks for sharing this great word!

  9. Amen! Excellent post, Bill. You put it all in perspective!

  10. I really enjoyed this post Bill, as I do all of yours. I can and do get so caught up in the daily dumb that I neglect what God is trying to show and tell me. It’s unfortunate but tragic events really do have a way of clearing our minds to what’s important. Thanks for the reminder to keep holding on to that during all times, not just the bad ones.

  11. The little fish always seem so urgent. So immediate. The bigger fish I need to focus on seem harder–and that’s where the enemy wants us to stay. It’s easy for me to make excuses to focus on minutia. It’s not scary. But majoring on the majors can be overwhelming–which is why I so need Jesus. Thanks for using your story, your challenges, to point out what matter, Bill. Hearing it from you puts a picture to it rather than just words. Your life underlines the truth you speak. And I appreciate that.

  12. Like many other people, I love the analogy of the zombies. So true! This is a wonderful post. Keep ’em coming.

  13. Although I am grateful for the things I’ve learned from difficult times and being “…able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God”, I am also grateful that we can learn from and be reminded of what’s important by the difficulties of others. Thank you for serving as an inspiration and example of Christ!

    • Thank you, Rene. As I was writing this post, that passage (2 Corinthians 1:3-7) Kept coming to my mind, so good. I think empathy and being able to comfort others is given to us, or at least strengthened, through trials.

  14. You always give us a gentle little nudge in the right direction, and help us to re-align our thinking and our life style.

  15. Such a powerful image–comparing zombies wandering aimlessly, with thousands of hearts miraculously transformed and moving forward at a Billy Graham crusade. Giving thanks for His Holy Spirit’s continual working to tend to our hearts and keep our priorities straight. Thanks Bill!

  16. excellent.

    God instructs us in the OT to remember what He has done … to teach these things to our children and our grandchildren. we don’t live continuously in these hard places, but we need to remember them and to remember what God did in them.

    i think this is true for marriages, too, especially wives as we get emotional and sidetracked by life … we need to remember what drew us to our husbands and remember the good things about them.

    there’s a place for ‘little fish’ … but not where they misdirect our purpose and perspective and have us running around chasing after meaningless things while the big stuff passes us by (if only i didn’t have so much experience with this 😉 ).

    • “…there’s a place for ‘little fish’ … but not where they misdirect our purpose and perspective and have us running around chasing after meaningless things while the big stuff passes us by…”
      Exactly. We have to leave room for the little things, they are important too. “wives get emotional and sidetracked,” really? 🙂
      Thanks for your enlightening comments. 🙂

  17. Thanks for sharing your heart, Bill. The revelation God gives you adds to my life. I’m so glad we are friends! Friendship is one of those bigger fish we must go after!
    Love you bunches!

  18. Keeping first things first in this short tension span, i-life living is a challenge. Living to the tune of study to be quite is a new/old way of living that seems to be able to adapt and live in both worlds at the same moment. As we focus on the quite life the fast lane becomes slow motion, like a movie accident. When we focus on the fast life the quite life blurs out of focus and the fast life becomes overwhelming and disturbing to a believer in Christ.

    Thank you Bill again for taking a foundational life style and contrasting it with a busy but empty life. You have a gift Bill, you surrender it to the Lord willingly. Thank you for sharing and the love you show for your siblings in Christ. Prayers to you my friend of mighty valor.

  19. “Maybe we’re at our best, our most compassionate, our most empathetic and our kindest when we’re in the midst of these difficult times. Maybe this is when we are most like Christ. Yes, I am convinced that this is when we’re most like Christ.”

    Yes! A thousand times Yes! My mind is already back there–not just as a spectator, but as a participant as well. Faithful presence. Somehow that’s the great gift of adversity. Not just the ability to accept it, but the ability to offer it to others. Thank you for this insight, Bill.


  20. So true, Bill. Maybe we choose to major in minnows because big fish are, well, scary. My fearful prayers often comes down to, “Give me a push, Lord–but just not too hard.”

  21. I so love your encouragement and devotion to the Lord. I remember feeling exactly this way after having meningitis. Thank the Lord it was viral and not bacterial, but still I did not seek treatment for 3 days and was severely dehydrated by the time I went in. The nurses made sure I understood how close it was.

    Sadly, I have had stretches of weeks or months when I forget this lesson. So thankful for the reminder! It’s a good one, because really none of us are guaranteed tomorrow.

    Blessings and love to you!

  22. no kidding brother, this idiom came to mind in the past couple days to me as well! I applied it differently to something else, but it was what drew me into reading this post. and I am SURE glad that I did! You are truly blessed and touched by the Lord. Thank you for your faithfulness.

  23. Dearest Bill, THANK YOU for this necessary reminder! You made me think of the time when my son was in the ICU and we did not know if he was going to live. I remember so vividly walking through a store for some things I needed for the hospital. EVERYTHING seemed so meaningless, except that our son would live. Today, as I read your post, I felt the Holy Spirit prick my heart, “Many people are unconsciously awaiting death. They are all around you. Make them a priority, before they go into eternity without me!” Yes, these are the “bigger fish”, Bill! Thank you for reminding me to tend my net and for always pointing me to the bigger fish. Sending hugs to you and Mary!

    • Yes, Heidi, you totally get it. I remember when your son, Corey, had that horrible accident. When you were on the way to the hospital, praying like you’ve never prayed before, nothing else mattered. I think we need to live with that kind of fervent prayer to see others healed and make a commitment to follow Christ. But, time and time again, we stumble over the little fish.

      • As you know, I was allowed to accompany the Flight for Life (because they did not expect him to make the 5 minute flight, as I found out later) … I remember staring down onto the ground below me, seeing the cars just heading out of their driveways going to work and people walking. I have never seen life clearer than in those five minutes (or better during those 10 days). I have gone back a few times since then and sat in the waiting room asking people if they needed prayer… somehow so very grateful for that perspective! “God, help us to be Your Fisher-men!”

        • Seeing others going on with their lives, especially from above in a helicopter, as if nothing happened must have been eye opening. Isn’t the world supposed to stop at times like this? We need to be the ones that stand with those whose world has stopped.

  24. Thank you brother, this was a good thought that helps us remember what’s important.
    And I agree with you. When we are in serious trouble, all of the things we pursue as important in our lives are distilled down to the bare essentials of who loves you, and how much have you loved others.

    God bless you buddy.

  25. God love you Bill, I was just thinking about you yesterday and was hoping you would grace us soon with one of your blessing posts, and sure enough ….. I know exactly what you mean because the same thoughts swept through my mind when I was diagnosed with cancer and told I had a 17 percent chance of being alive in five years. That was 11 years ago and the cancer is still gone. But you’re right, it’s like someone just splashed cold water on your face and the insignificant things in life immediately becomes glaringly apparent. Our relationship with our Lord and our relationship with those that we love immediately come to the surface and in essence it’s all encapsulated within the love that emulates from God. We love Him because He first loved us, and that love is what we believers are heading into, moving towards, drawing closer to. You my brother, shine your light, as does your wife Mary, so much brighter than so many of us who have yet to fully comprehend the simplicity of this gift of life that currently is and yet is to come. God’s grace and blessings on you and yours Bill.

  26. It is easy to allow the small annoyances of life to distract and discourage us. Thank you for the reminder to keep our priorities in order, Bill. Christ must remain our focus. Blessings, A.

  27. Through my battle with cancer, I have come to a place where I fully agree with what you say here. The battles we go through strengthen us to help others even more. What we may see as little fish can be big fish to them. getting the proper perspective of how things impact other people’s lives is so important.

    I have been asking the Lord to fill me with more empathy so I can better relate to those who are going through tough times. But not only that, so I can better understand where someone is coming from when they lash out or speak unkindly. There has to be a reason, and usually it is an area of hurt for the other person.

    Some of those bigger fish are inside of me! I need to fry out pride, lack of compassion, lack of empathy, jealousy – all those things that keep me from really touching other people where they are. Frying these fish are the hardest ones!

    be blessed

    • Thank you, Pete. I pray that the Lord helps you conquer this cancer and the other things, pride… That you want out of your life. As for your prayer for greater empathy, I know that people who pray along these lines are already empathetic and humble people, prideful people don’t pray like that, Pete. You know the difference between big and little fish.

  28. Bill, You are a real inspiration to me, I’m sure to many others. Yes, the fish get a lot bigger when my heart attack happened. That was in 2001, long time ago. But I remember it well, how what I thought important was not. Only a life lived for Jesus is what really matters. Thanks for your insight today and God bless you, Richard

    • Thank you, Rich. It’s been 17 years since you had your heart attack and you’re still going strong, that’s great to hear. I hope you have many more years to fry the big fish 🙂

  29. No doubt your blog fries a lot of big fish, Bill! You KNOW of what you speak–allowing the difficult circumstances of life to make you more like Christ. Your sincerity, passion, and positive attitude continually touch people’s hearts. And you are providing a stellar example of what God can do with a life turned over to him–even when there are serious limitations. How glorious that in spite of ALS for so long, you live in true and lasting joy, because of him and the purpose he’s designed for you–to minister to all of us. Thank you for pressing/frying on!

    • Thank you for your encouraging comments, Nancy. Yes, by His grace and mercy, I know first-hand that if we focus on the big fish, we will have joy and peace in any situation. He is is still good, Nancy – even in the worst of times.

  30. Bill, Whenever I see a post from you in my inbox, I want to read it right away. And as usual, this is just the reminder I need today.
    Whether times are smooth or rough, our focus should remain on the bigger fish-which often involves relationships. Jesus was always concerned about relationships. Ah, but relationships can be some of the most difficult things we will ever face. This is where your “bigger fish to fry” comes in. Lord, help us see each situation with your cross in the backdrop.
    I treasure the messages that God gives to you to share with us.
    Blessings, dear brother to you, Mary, and the rest of your family.

    • YES, Beckie – relationships are the biggest fish. In the difficult times, the times of mourning or receiving a difficult diagnosis… We really discover the strength of our relationships. It is so easy to have a relationship with others in the good times, but I want to be a friend in the difficult times. I think you are the same type of friend.
      Thank you for your comments.

  31. Wonderful, Spirit filled post Bill. Praising God for the way He continues to use you to send a clear message to the Church.
    It is evident that the Lord’s hand is upon you to minister to us the way that you do. Thank you for opening your heart and becoming a great fisherman!

  32. This post should serve as a tremendous reminder, or wake-up call, that we need to be tending to the “bigger fish,” especially during the good times of life. We should not have to wait until affliction hits. Thanks so much for the great post!

  33. Thank you so much. Every one of your posts means a great deal to me, and to the world which is crying out in pain, needing HOPE, pleading for it but missing the only way to have it.

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