Sunday, February 05, 2012

Who's the Real Fisherman?

Today I had a bit of an epiphany after hearing my pastor preach on Luke 5 this morning. I'm a bit ashamed to admit that it was an epiphany, because the lesson in the text is so obvious.

Actually, let me clarify that. There are many lessons that can be drawn from this particular passage in Luke. The insight I had was not part of my pastor's sermon, which in itself was an excellent, biblical message. My particular insight came to me while lying down for my afternoon nap. Okay, enough build-up. Let's get to the heart of what I want to tell you. Here's the passage in question:

Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. 

And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat. When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. 

And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men (Luke 5:1-10).

Okay, what did I draw from this short account from Luke the physician? Before telling you, I want you to have in mind our particular modern ways of "doing ministry" and related expectations. Think big crusades that cost lots of dollars, and big-name evangelists that manage to draw huge crowds and get their messages televised. Or, you can think the small town pastor who labors faithfully week after week. Or, you can think of each one of us, witnessing our faith with every opportunity and with lots of zeal. We get so dejected when no one responds, or so elated when boatloads of people come down the aisle.

But wait a minute.

Peter and his fellow fishermen had been out all night working as hard as they could. The Lord wasn't with them at the moment. No luck. But then the Lord shows up and does a little teaching. Then He asks Peter to take the boats out "for a catch." Peter's eyebrows no doubt go up as he wearily obeys the Master's command. Maybe secretly Peter mused under his breath, "I think we know a tad more about fishing than a carpenter." But that's me speculating, not Scripture. Gotta be careful with that.

Something amazing happens. The Lord goes with them. His blessing and power is obviously upholding their efforts, because their nets are bursting with fish. Even the boats are beginning to sink because they can't hold all of the catch! Then Peter is ashamed for his lack of faith in the word of the Lord.

Usually, that's the message we take away from that passage. Faith in God's promise. Or we know from that point on, Peter and his fellow disciples left angling behind and followed the Lord in His ministry travels. But there's more to be said.

As ministers and ministries, ALL of our efforts are in vain unless we recognize at the outset that the Lord is the One who does the drawing and the saving. In His generous grace, He uses us through the "foolishness of preaching" (1 Corinthians 1:21) to save those who believe. But He is really the One doing the fishing and the catching. As soon as we think it all depends on us, our cleverness, our gifted orations, our rapier wit, gift of gab and even Scripture-quoting ability, we are destined to bring back empty nets.

No minister or ministry is in greater danger than the one believing that they/it are indispensable to God.

So let's obey the Lord, joining Him in being "fishers of men" as He commanded. But remember, we're the junior partners. We're His servants. We're following His lead, and trusting in His peerless power and expertise in moving the human heart to a response of faith. It's not about us.

It's all about Him.

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