We’re well into the first month of 2020 now, and already the year is off to a tumultuous start. The airwaves are full of people making dire predictions about the impact of various international conflicts, and news commentators are wringing their hands over threats of aggression. Internally, we’re being bombarded with negative declarations about the state of our nation and radical proposals made by those with political ambitions. To suggest that it’s going to be a uniquely challenging year is an understatement of award-winning proportions. So how is the average, run-of-the-mill follower of Jesus to respond in the midst of an increasingly oppositional culture, and where do we get the strength to resist the constant pull to just give in and go along with the crowd?
Never Just Average ~
First, let’s determine not to be “average” or “run-of-the-mill,” particularly when it comes to serving the One who created us in His image and following the One who overcame everything in the battle to secure our redemption. Even in our flawed, imperfect human state, parents don’t normally want to consider any of their children as merely average or run-of-the-mill. Every one of them is unique and special in his or her own way, even those with special needs. Most of us want to see our children take our best hopes and dreams to new heights and accomplish more than we did.
If imperfect, self-centered, sinful human beings can experience such love and embody such desires and ambitions for their children, what must our flawless heavenly Father’s opinion be about us? Does He think any of us are just “average?” No way! Does He ever look at a single one of us and conclude that we’re just “run-of-the-mill?” Never! Our challenge in the face of growing difficulties and overwhelming obstacles is to reach even higher and accomplish even more, but how to do that is the question. One episode in Jesus’ ministry suggests that the key to success begins not by trying harder, but by going deeper.
Not Always Joyful Followers ~
As we might suspect, not everything Jesus asked His followers to do was met with joyful smiles and outbursts of praise. Sometimes His directives came at points in their lives when they didn’t really want to hear them. Sometimes His requests contradicted everything that seemed reasonable to them. That was certainly the case one morning when He arrived at the shore of the Sea of Galilee surrounded by a multitude of people pushing to get close and anxious to hear what He had to say. The situation was logistically unwieldy, and Jesus needed both a speaking platform and a practical means to put a reasonable space between Him and the crowd pressing around Him. He decided to borrow one of the fishing boats along the shoreline, and He happened to choose one that belonged to a fisherman named Simon (later to be called Peter).
Meanwhile the fishermen had been going about their usual, end of the workday routines, washing their nets and wrapping up a long, fruitless night fishing. We don’t know how long Jesus spoke, whether the session involved any supernatural events, or how the people reacted to His message. When the teaching session was over, Jesus turned His attention to the owner of the boat He had just used. Given that Simon and the other fishermen had been working all night before the episode began, it seems reasonable to assume that by the time it was over, they were ready to head home and get some rest. They were very likely not in the mood to engage in any extraneous activities, especially any that might only add to the preceding night’s frustration and futility. Jesus, on the other hand, had a different objective in mind. The outcome He had in mind did not depend on a concurring opinion about the rationality of the project. The result He sought did not require Peter’s approval, only his obedience.
No Misunderstandings ~
As they often are, Jesus’ directive was clear, unambiguous, and personal. Jesus was probably looking directly at Peter when He spoke and though His words weren’t harsh or demanding, they carried the force of a command. Luke begins his account in these simple terms:
When He [Jesus] had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Luke 5:4 (NKJV)
In our current vernacular, we can almost hear Peter saying, “Wait… What?” It was as though Jesus was not only ignoring Peter’s fatigue and the prevailing mood shared by the other fishermen, but He was totally disregarding the proven practices of commercial fishing. In light of that, the somewhat reluctant tone of Peter’s acquiescence was understandable.
But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” Luke 5:5 (NKJV)
I’m sure you know what happened next. Peter did what he was told, and the result was overwhelming. So many fish swarmed into the nets that they began to break.
It Could Happen to Us ~
There are lessons in this story worth remembering as this tumultuous year unfolds. The Lord may show up on some ordinary day in our lives and challenge us to do something that doesn’t seem reasonable or necessary to us at the time. Before we begin to review our list of excuses about why it won’t work, here are a few observations worth considering from Peter’s experience:
- Peter’s fatigue and recent failure presented no deterrent to God’s ability to provide overwhelming success. With God, the greatest successes are often predicated on abject failure.
- Jesus didn’t ask Peter to sign up for a class on how to fish better. No new techniques were needed, only practicing them as Jesus directed.
- Peter didn’t need new equipment or a new body of water. He fished in the same lake, and used the same boat, same oars, same ropes, and the same nets.
- No preliminary vision of the miraculous catch was necessary. He only needed enough faith to say something like, “OK, Lord… It ain’t gonna work, but just because You said so, I’ll give it a shot.” Apparently, that’s all the faith Jesus needed.
This year will challenge us to move beyond the shallows of our familiar routines. Shallow commitments, superficial rituals, frothy religious exercises, and prayers with no depth have not succeeded and can never produce the harvest that this nation, and the world, desperately needs. Peter was just an ordinary fisherman. His efforts weren’t supernatural, and he didn’t do anything that he hadn’t done before, but when he yielded his efforts to the One who created the fish he wanted to catch, the results were astounding.
We’ll pursue this principle further in future articles, but for now, I encourage you to yield to the Lord’s direction in 2020. New heights of achievement are waiting when we shake off our fatigue, forget our frustrating failures, and “launch out into the deep.”
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- “Peter’s fatigue and failure presented no deterrent to God’s ability to provide overwhelming success. With God, the greatest successes are often predicated on abject failure.” (Luke 5:4-5) @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Peter didn’t need a preliminary vision of the miraculous catch. He only needed enough faith to say something like, “OK, Lord… It ain’t gonna work, but just because You said so, I’ll give it a shot.” Apparently, that’s all the faith Jesus needed.” (Luke 5:4-5) @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “New heights of achievement (with God) are waiting when we shake off our fatigue, forget our frustrating failures, and “launch out into the deep.” (Luke 5:4-5) @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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