Monday, October 19, 2009
Current Study: 1 Peter
Today’s Topic: Keep Fishing
Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 4:19 (NIV) So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
One of my favorite Bible stories is found in the Gospel of John. It happens after the resurrection of Jesus, but prior to the time the disciples become convinced that they made a good decision to follow Jesus three years earlier. The story is found in John 21.
Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.
I’m reasonably sure I’m not alone in my connection with Peter. He models the tendency most of us have to fall back into our comfort zones when things don’t go right. We are outcome based people, and when a certain path doesn’t produce what we think is the right outcome, we go back to the way we used to do it so we can take control of the outcomes again. After having left his nets years earlier, Peter now decides that he needs to think and reflect on his decisions, so he goes back to his comfort zone of fishing. At least there he’s his own boss and can manage his own outcomes.
Or can he? I love what Jesus does. Being all-knowing as He is, and in absolute control of all things because He’s God, He doesn’t allow Peter to catch any fish. Then, to prove to Peter that he’s not really in control of anything, Jesus tells him to let down the nets in the same spot where he has been fishing, just on the other side of the boat. Lo and behold, there’s fish. Lots of fish!
There are so many lessons in this story, but here are the two on my mind today.
- We can’t do anything unless Jesus is in it. We may think that by returning to our comfort zones and pet areas of expertise that we can control what will happen, but we can’t. If we have any success in those areas it’s because God granted it, not because we earned it. Everything is by His grace and His grace controls ALL outcomes.
- Jesus wants us to apply the same discipline and diligence we use in our comfort zones to serving Him. Peter was a professional fisherman. No way was he going to get skunked in an all-night fishing tournament. No matter how many times he and his friends brought in an empty net, they kept casting it out again. They knew the only way to catch fish was to actually fish for fish. They were bound and determined to catch, so they kept fishing. But it wasn’t until they did it the Lord’s way that they caught anything. When Jesus got involved, fish got caught.
Last Saturday night, a former youth pastor and worship leader at our church, James Alan Hall, posted the following comment to his Facebook page – We are guilty of spending far too much time counting fish and not enough time catching them. That got me to thinking. Our churches today are filled with fish that have been caught, and we spend most of our time in the comfort zone of counting them and controlling them. We rest on our past successes. We maintain and manage an aquarium for them without realizing that those left in the lake are going to end up in a lake of fire. We clean our aquariums and feed the fish, but we fail to bring those fish to the point of fishing for themselves. That’s right, in God’s aquarium, fish fish. Unfortunately, in most local aquariums (churches), fish just feed and fight.
We need to be building bigger aquariums. The same principles of discipline and diligence that we use to be successful at our jobs need to be applied to catching fish. We have been called to be fishers of men. We have been equipped with the Holy Spirit to be witnesses for Jesus. It’s time we put as much energy into serving our Savior as we do into the success of self. We must keep casting the nets. This may be the day that Jesus fills them with fish.