There is nothing wrong with making plans, but if the Lord interrupts you and asks you to push your boat into the deep, let Jesus mess up your plans. I am so blessed by the gracious spirit of SACC that value our church making a difference to people in the community. I no longer try to be pro-active, but I try to have a balanced re-active agenda… I make plans all the time, but how often I am on my way to Sumas, the phone rings a couple of times, and suddenly my day is completely changed. Sometimes I cannot change my plans, I got a call on my way to a funeral, impossible to be interrupted, and so I figure that is the Lord’s purpose for me that moment. But if the Lord says quit washing your nets and push the boat into the deep, we need the grace and wisdom to be obedient. It’s hard!
Some guys get an adrenaline rush from skiing, hunting, fast cars… that same adrenaline is yours when the Lord calls you to do something risky… “Do things I’m not used to, Lord.” Jesus is entering his public ministry ~ how encouraging to watch him enter the ordinary life of his first disciples. Peter is washing his fishing nets. Invite the Lord to enter your world and shake it up as he chooses: “Lord, here’s my life. It’s not perfect, but it’s comfortable. Here is my wife/husband and here are my children/grandchildren. Here is my job. My school. Here is my church, here are my friends, and here is all the stuff I own. Lord, I’ve got it all laid out neat and tidy. But I’m inviting you to come into my world and rearrange anything you like if it will make me more effective for your Kingdom. Do things the way I’m not used to. I invite you to make a mess out of my order. Shake up my world so that your purposes will be accomplished.”
Amazing things happen in the course of daily obedience. Fishermen fish. That’s what they do. You have the things you do. In the first century, fishermen went out on the Sea of Galilee at night, fishing all night with their nets, then coming back at daylight. When the Bible says Peter and the others were cleaning their nets, the long night was over, and they were preparing the nets to go fishing the next night. Pray for God to move you from where you are to where he wants you to be. Mess me up Lord. Mess up my plans …
Luke 5:1-11 tells us how Christ called Peter (also called Simon) and others to be his disciples. It begins with a frustrated fisherman cleaning his nets after a long, hard night. an ordinary moment. If you dare to pray a prayer inviting Jesus do something different, this is all you need to do: when you wake up tomorrow go about your day, but be open for the Lord to give you an opportunity. The first step will be something small.
Jesus first asked Peter for the use of his boat as a pulpit to address the crowds. That was fine with Peter who was busy cleaning his nets. It was a small thing. But it would have been easy to say no. Jesus next challenges Peter to a much greater step of faith: READ Luke 5:4. First we obey in small things, and out of simple obedience, we discover a greater challenge. Maybe some of you need to become teachers, servants, helpers of some sort… what is the Lord speaking to you to do, everyone is offered a front row seat to God’s Kingdom work. But you struggle because you don’t want to take the time, you must finish cleaning your nets!
Jesus does have an annoying habit: he comes to us when we are weak. If there is a sense of dissatisfaction with your life, something is missing, things aren’t quite working ~ that may be the times we are most open to hearing Jesus. Jesus came to Peter at the end of a failed fishing trip. Peter, Andrew, James and John fished on the Sea of Galilee year round. This is how they earned a living to take care of their families. Peter and the others are tired, exhausted, and probably in a bad mood. It was not a good night of fishing. READ Luke 11:5b. A failed night of fishing, but the nets have to be mended anyway. Sure it’s part of the business, but it is still frustrating. Like a rainy spring that messes up the hay growing season. Like winter time when snow clogs up the mountain passes and truckers get stuck. It’s part of the deal, it is going to happen, but boy is it frustrating.
God prepares us for his call by allowing us to endure personal failure. Until we sense our need of him, we will not be ready to follow him. If you think you are self-sufficient, why would you need Christ? God will come to you in the ordinary, he will come when you are broken…
Luke 11:4-5 is a challenge to obedience. It contains a command and a promise. READ. Jesus is not saying, “Let’s go out into the deep water, put down the nets, and we’ll see what happens.” Jesus is promising that if Peter will obey, he will catch fish. After a long night of empty nets, this must have been hard to believe. As a professional fisherman, Peter knew the lake. And he knew that sometimes even the best fishermen come back empty. He could have said, “Sorry, Lord, but it’s not worth the trouble.” Or “I’m the expert here.” But that is NOT peter’s response. I love the way Peter puts it, “Because you say so” (v. 5). In the King James Version, the phrase is “Nevertheless, at Thy Word.”
This is the watchword of the saints of God across the centuries. May it be our watchword, too: “Nevertheless, at thy word.” What the Lord is calling you to do doesn’t have to make earthly sense, if the Lord is saying here is an opportunity, then do it. Conditions may be dark and the world may fight against us, circumstances may overwhelm us, and our fears submerge us. But God speaks and we must say, “Nevertheless, at Thy Word.” And off we go in obedience to Almighty God.
Middle-aged Abraham set off across the desert with no more than this: “Nevertheless, at Thy Word.” Noah built an ark in the face of an a scoffing world with no more than this: “Nevertheless, at Thy Word.” Moses defied Pharaoh, looking to heaven and saying, “Nevertheless, at Thy Word.” Joshua marched around Jericho day after day with this in his heart: “Nevertheless, at Thy Word.” young David confounded all the doubting men of Israel by marching into the valley armed with this confidence: “Nevertheless, at Thy Word.” Did you know my father, Earl Crouse, pastor of this church for 43 years, came to Sumas in 1951 sight unseen… “If you say so…” Clothesline… If you say soCrosswater? If you say so. Foothills, If you say so… What foolish thing is God calling you to do? That which makes no sense. While you are tired. The world may think you’re mad, but rise up in obedience, “Nevertheless, at Thy Word.” If you say so, Lord.
Then Peter added, “I will let down the nets.” We still have a part to do. The fish aren’t going to jump in the boat by themselves. We still have to do what we have to do. We’ve got to go to work, we’ve got to stay on the diet, we’ve got to go to the meetings, we’ve got to go to the counselor, we’ve got to do our homework, we’ve got to write the term paper, we’ve got to get that project done. There is still work for us to do. I believe there are many answers to prayers that await only one thing: “Let down your nets.” Put your net down into the deep water, do your part, and then God will do his.
Luke 5:6-7 is divine power at work: READ. A fisherman’s dream! What a sight! So many fish came into the nets that they begin to break. The men fill both boats with so many fish they begin to sink. The biggest catch ever. Everything changes with Jesus!
Peter’s response is a confession of Inadequacy: READ Luke 5:8-10a. Why would Peter beg Jesus to leave? For most of us failure is easier to handle than success. Failure means you don’t have to make any changes, you don’t need to work hard. Failure comes with excuses: It wasn’t the right time, I am a victim, I am being targeted… success means more responsibility, more risk. Losing is easy. Winning is harder. Winning comes with an unknown and unpredictable future. To follow God will mean changes, uncertainty, questions, letting go of control…
What if God gives you success beyond your biggest dreams?... “Medium success” would be nice, as long as we still get some of the comforts we worked so hard to attain, but don’t give me “outrageous success” which changes everything! Following God when it’s convenient would not be so bad. As one person put it, “Peter thought in “man-sized” categories, not “God-sized” miracles.” Is it any wonder Peter told Jesus to go away.
Jesus ignores Peter’s desperate confession of unworthiness and challenges Peter and the others to a personal commitment: READ Luke 5:10b-11. Jesus knows Peter. The difference is that now Peter knows the truth about himself. When you meet Jesus you will be changed. We may end up closer to God or we may harden our hearts. Peter knew he was a sinner and admitted it. God can use a person who knows his weakness and doesn’t try to hide it.
What a simple yet profound commitment. Went to the shore and left everything. If Jesus had not showed up that day, Peter’s life would have been so simple, but now everything is changed. They left everything. Are you willing to have a radical change in your life? For Peter and the other disciples, following Christ meant leaving behind the old life: boats, nets, and livelihood, and following Christ into an unknown future. Anything that hinders our walk with Christ must go. Even some good things must go in order that better things may come from the Lord. We can’t have it both ways.
Don’t be afraid to follow Jesus. My first teacher was my mother. She taught in Sunday School for 47 years, mostly the smallest children (Including Pasadena and Aurora). Isn’t it amazing the things that impact us ~ one of the favorite songs of the class: “I will make you fisher’s of men, fishers of men, fishers of men…if you follow me, if you follow me, if you follow me, I will make you fishers of men if you follow me…” The words from almost 50 years ago still ring in my head… it is still Christ’s calling to respond to him and join him in the work of building the Kingdom. Overcome your fear.
Respond to the Lord by being obedient to the opportunities he gives you in the course of everyday life. Lord, mess up the patterns. It will be something small at first, it may be in the middle of a personal failure, for that is when we are most open to the Lord’s calling. For our part, something small, let down the nets ~ and the Lord will do the big part: a catch of fish bigger than humanly possible. Our calling is the same as that of Peter: to be available to the Lord to be used to share the good news of salvation in whatever form he has each of us ~ to be God’s servant doing his will on earth. Let the Lord Jesus Christ mess up the order of your life, that you might find the amazing satisfaction that comes with giving up everything that hinders, and follow him. He’ll come in the ordinary, he’ll come at the point of your weakness, you’ll feel completely inadequate, and that’s when you will be the exact person the Lord will use. Amen.
(NOTE: I like Catherine LeFleur's summary of this message: "Jesus comes to us when we're weak, when we're seeking relief or release. He takes us and leads us in our vulnerability into new and unexpected directions, strengthening us as we go, and we are blessed beyond measure.")