You know those Bible passages that you’ve read a million times, but when you read them again for the million and first time, something new stands out to you? That happened to me with a story in the Luke 5 the other day. It’s the familiar story of Jesus telling Simon Peter to cast the nets out after a long, frustrating night of catching nothing. Simon, out of frustration, reminds Jesus they’ve been fishing, but he’ll give it one more try. Of course, they catch so many fish that their nets begin to break and his boat and James and John’s boat begin to sink! Simon repents, Jesus forgives and says to follow Him, and off they go, leaving the fish behind.
I feel as though my 5 years on staff at Calvary is summed up really well by that story. I’d say the first 3 years of ministry for me were like the night of catching nothing for Simon. It was hard work that I didn’t seem to see the fruit of. Of course that’s where all ministry begins – it takes time. Thankfully, by God’s grace, I stuck in there long enough to begin to see fruit. Finally, it was as though Jesus told me to keep going. Although at times, things were extremely frustrating, and our leadership team was very low, I kept going. And after 5 years, I can look back and have the same reaction Simon Peter did – fall at Jesus’ feet and proclaim what a sinner I am! It’s amazing to think of how God has used me and how far things have come. It’s mind-blowing. I’m completely undeserving. As I stand back and look at the incredible team of leaders God has assembled and the huge amount of students that are coming and bringing friends, I have no words to the Lord besides, “THANKS!”
So, as the story goes, the nets began breaking, so Simon Peter called in the back-up – a second boat! James and John quickly come to his rescue…or at least attempt to. As all 3 men (and probably Jesus too) begin to pull the fish into their boats, they’re faced with a new problem – there are too many fish! The boats are sinking! That’s a GREAT problem! There have been times, as I look back through the years, that I realized we also had too many fish (you know, mid-schoolers can be slimy and grimy like fish)! The time we budgeted for 100 kids for a lock-in and 225 showed up, or the time that we had a worship night in the PLEX and we put out every chair and it was eventually standing room only! Or maybe how every year for Lone Tree, we have to tell a handful of kids that they can’t go, because we’re simply out of room! Crazy! Those are GREAT problems. My only reaction can be one like Simon Peter’s – “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” Who is God that I should have ever doubted or ever wondered? And why in the world did He bless ME (of all people) with this? There’s no explanation for me and there wasn’t for Simon either.
Well, if they didn’t do something quick, they were going to end up swimming with the fish, so they got back to land as quickly as two sinking boats could. Of course they must have been working hard, but I wonder if their eyes were $$$. The thought had to have crossed their minds about how much money they could make off of this catch, or what kind of attention they’d get when people saw how many fish they had. They may have been thinking about the new camel they’d buy or how they’d trick out their boat. You know it had to be a crazy amount of fish for Simon and “all who were with him” to be astonished! These men lived on the sea, in boats. They fished for a living. They didn’t get astonished by just anything. This, however, had to have been unlike anything they’d ever seen.
So, as amazing as this is, and with money bags floating in their minds, Jesus asks them to do something crazy – leave it all behind and “catch men.” Catch MEN? What?! Leave this huge catch of valuable fish behind and follow a guy that the religious people hate? Leave the biggest catch of fish they’ve ever seen in their career behind and follow Jesus? That’s not smart. That’s not good business. That’s a waste of good fish. Not in Jesus’ eyes. He was looking for loyalty. He was looking for people who would leave the cares and success that the world offers and follow Him. Jesus found exactly what He was looking for. Verse 11 wraps it all up – “So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.” FORSOOK ALL! They left it all behind to follow Jesus into something they weren’t prepared for and that they didn’t even know if it would work. They had to go, though.
That is exactly where Jenn and I find ourselves now. Ministry is better than it’s ever been – more leaders than ever, better, stronger leaders than ever, busting at the seams with students, and so much more. And yet, Jesus’ calling for us is to leave all of that and follow Him. He’s asking us to step out into the unknown – to do something that we’re unequipped for and under skilled for. Something we know very little about. However, if there’s one thing we know, it’s that following Christ doesn’t always make sense, but in the end, it will ALWAYS make sense.
So, here I am, looking back, astonished at what God has done, and astonished at the little idea I have in my head about what God may want to do with us. Following Jesus sure is a ride, but I’m buckled in and stoked to see where He takes me!
1 So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, 2 and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. 3 Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.
4 When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
5 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.” 6 And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. 7 So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”
9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” 11 So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.