You want me to do what???

Does it ever seem like your best efforts aren’t cutting it? Sometimes our best efforts are our worst enemy. Sound unreasonable? Of course it does.

Let’s take a look at Luke 5:3-5. These verses will help us make sense of how God’s ways are different from ours.

“Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he (Jesus) asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”

Jesus had hitched a ride in Peter’s boat onto Lake Gennesaret. From there he had taught the masses. Afterward, he made an odd request of Peter to go further onto the lake and let out his nets. Keep in mind that prior to shuttling Jesus onto the lake, Peter had spent the night fishing (for a living, not for sport) and was caring for his nets. He was tired, downtrodden, and ready to eat and sleep. But, as usual, Jesus was asking someone to do something that seemed unusual and unlikely.

At that point, what do you think raced through Peter’s mind? Perhaps he thought, “this doesn’t make sense at all.” What would you have thought? Often, our responses to God can unfold into the following excuses:

  • What you are asking me to do rejects my experience and efforts. Or put glibly, “Jesus, you are ignoring my expertise and ability to do this work on my own.”
  • What you are asking me to do bypasses my usual approach. Or, “Jesus I know what I am doing here, and this won’t work.”
  • What you are asking me to do undercuts my reputation. Or, “Jesus, all good fisherman — like those on the shore — know that fishing like you suggested would be foolish.”

Take a minute. Go back and re-read those three excuses. Do they sound familiar? They are not unique to this situation. They are the same ones, perhaps with less syllables, that sprout and bloom in our own minds. When God gives us direction and nudges us into action these complaints, common to us all, incubate, then hatch.

Thankfully, Peter responded correctly. Though he barely knew Jesus he called Him, “Master.” He recognized Jesus’ authority, power, and Lordship. How? Perhaps, he had heard of Jesus and his reputation. Or, it might have been his response to his front row seat to Jesus’ teaching. Either way, he submitted to Jesus and obeyed Him. He got it right. It is easy to get it wrong here. We often yield to our own experience and efforts, or heed the counsel or coercion of others. Peter turned away from his own thoughts and preferences, looked away from the fisherman on the shore (his partners in business), and gave way to God’s word to him.

There is a pattern here that must not slip by us:

  1. We must move out of our routines to hear God’s Word. Peter had been washing and mending his nets. His shift was over. He was ready to go home. Jesus picked an odd time to step into Peter’s day. In the same manner, God rarely steps in at a time that suits our schedule.
  2. We must act on — not argue with — what God is teaching us or directing us to do. Peter had just heard Jesus teaching others, yet he applied it to himself. Think about that one. Ouch!
  3. We must leave the results with God, and embrace whatever follows. You know that this encounter resulted in Peter catching so many fish that he had to call out to James and John, his partners in the fishing business, to come and help him gather all of the fish. Obedience to one command led to two boats full of fish for future apostles.

Before I close, let’s rewind to Peter’s reply to Jesus, “we toiled all night and caught nothing,” and fast forward to Jesus’s words to the apostles in John 15:5:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in Him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

Just as Peter couldn’t do it on his own, neither can we. Our experience, our efforts, our best ideas, and our best intentions are nothing apart from Him. But, with Him, and through Him, anything is possible. Adjust your time and attention, keep your antennae tuned, and get ready for God to show you your next step. Then, launch out by faith in Him, His grace, and His power. The outcome will be unlike anything that you could have imagined. It may not be two boat loads of fish, but it might be just as amazing to you as those fish were to Peter, and to everyone who witnessed it.