Sportman vs. Professional If you fish for sport, you know your gear, the boat, the weather, and how to find the good spots and how to find a good spot when all the good spots are taken. If you fish for a living, you not only know where the good spots are, you also get there before anyone else does – it’s your livelihood, isn’t it?
Sound Advice: What Jesus told Peter to do made no sense. It sounded “foolish”. A carpenter turned rabbi telling a fisherman what to do? Are you kidding? If anyone else had commanded him to do it, Peter would have rebuked them on four logical, well reasoned grounds. After all, he’s a trained professional.
Availability: We’re not going to catch anything, because we’ve been out all night and have already caught nothing (which Peter reminds Jesus, anyway).
Exhaustion: We’re not going to catch any fish because we’re exhausted – these aren’t butterfly nets we’re cleaning. They’re made from strong, heavy rope, made heavier by the weight of the water within them, and we’ve already labored all night to place them, pull them in, and clean them.
Timing: We’re not going to catch anything when the daytime sun is high because the fish are all hiding in darker places.
Location: We’re not going to catch anything in the deep waters because fish are caught where the water is just deep enough and not too deep.
Any logical, wise person would hear the counsel of this seasoned professional and intelligently decide not to ask him something so foolish. Yet, the Lord asks Peter to do something utterly counter-intuitive. Scarcity of fish, exhaustion, wrong timing, bad location. Have you ever sensed the voice of God calling you to the wrong place, at the wrong time, when you’re discouraged and spent, and there’s no logical hope for accomplishing what He’s asking you to do? Who am I? I’m adventurous, with a moderate to high tolerance for risk. Right? I’m strong in my faith – after all, I’ve been called to “full time vocational ministry” for the past 6 years, right? I mean, I’m a trained professional, right?!I cheer on fisherman for a living! Uh, oh… You can see where we’re headed here, can’t you? Yet, over the past month, I’ve heard God call me to cast my nets into the deep. When I look at my assets: high risk tolerance and previously held beliefs about the strength and depth of my faith, I’d normally say “sure, Lord. You say so, I’m in.” If it were someone else asking me what to do, I’d pull out my pom-poms and cheer them across the finish line: “You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you!!! Go, team, go!!!” But, this is different. So, What’s the Problem? But, this time… This time, I’ve heard God calling me to do something, trust Him with something so big, so dangerous, so counter-intuitive, that if He doesn’t swoop in with a miracle, dozens of people are going to be impacted negatively, including my family. This is deep water – notsomeone else’s life, calling, boat, or nets… Not only does my boat look too small, but my pom-poms feel like they’re 100 lbs a piece. When I realized the fisherman I’m to cheer on is me, God exposed the shallowness of my own faith when I, a mere man, began to weep and tell the sovereign of the universe: “I’m going to trust you in this, but you’d better come through!” Can you imagine such arrogance?
Yet, Peter wrestled with the soundness and depth of his own faith so much that when the Lord did what Peter expected could only fail, he was brought to his knees by his own lack of faith. “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man! (Luke 5:8)”
Prayer: So, today, I ask your prayers – that I will trust God in the area He’s asking me to. That I will not rely on my own senses, wisdom, will, or nets, but on Him who calls me to the deep. That I will not be overwhelmed by the fear of men who would later say “why would you have done something so… foolish?” Today, I encourage you as always by allowing God’s faithfulness in my past afflictions and faults to overflow to you as a testament to what He might do in your current circumstance. But, this time, I’m doing it before the fact… With sweaty palms on heavy pom-poms.
Be encouraged: fisherman’s boat nearly sank with the catch… And, he later walked on water.
Can’t Always Get What You Want… Sometimes, I get confused about the difference between my “desired outcomes” and my “rights”. Let’s see if you might relate.
I have a constitutional “right” to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But, I know that something I get happy over is the approval of others and the respect of my peers. So, I pursue it. Sometimes I get it. Other times, I’m left hanging and my brain jumps from A (desired outcomes) to B (rights) leaving me disappointed at least and angry at worst. Can you relate?
Maybe your desired outcome is different – promotion/raise, the next car “up”, an apology from someone who really did you wrong, your teenager or subordinate at work following your advice and making smart choices, privacy, peace and quiet, death to crabgrass, a little recognition for the extra effort you put in on that last project… around the house? Ever experience that confusion… disappointment… even anger?
Ultimately, disappointments can become food for the internal battles within that James refers to below:
“1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel... (James 4:1-2, ESV)”
This week, a lot of the one on one discipleship conversations I’m having with the men I’m walking have been centered around this very issue. For many men, coming up short on recognition once or twice at work, (or worse, at home) = no big deal. But, over time, it can clutter the mental stage with a low level hum that distracts us from what we’re really trying to focus on. I like to call it “ambient spiritual noise”.
How loud is your stage?
Two thousand years ago, there was a disciple who learned a remedy to this. His mouth was shaped like a sandal so he didn’t look out of place every time he put his foot in it. Guy named “Peter”. Ever walk in his mouth… I mean, shoes?
Coffee mug for Simon Peter
Peter goes from hero to zero pretty quickly according to Mark, chapter 8. In one line, Jesus calls Peter “the Rock”, then a few moments later “Satan” and “a stumbling block”. Ouch. Jesus publicly commends Peter for correctly identifying Him as the Messiah. Jesus then goes on to tell everyone He’s about to be tortured, killed, and resurrected. Not the story Peter was expecting. Peter kind of snaps. He pulls Jesus aside and rebukes him. (Gusty, Peter. You want some mustard on that shoe before you eat it?)
Jesus follows up with an address to the whole crowd, facing Peter with the dilemma that every one of us who desires to follow Jesus must deal with:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. (Mark 8:34b)”
Jesus essentially tells them/us all. “To follow me, you must walk in denial of your desires and possessions.” Denial… To know who Jesus is, is head knowledge. To follow Him, will require sacrifice: what two things must we deny ourselves?
Can You Expand on That? Sure, thanks for asking… Philippians says Jesus “emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant… [and became] obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (2.7-8)” Think about that: Jesus, most powerful being on the planet, could have called down at least 60,000 angels to save Him from brutally violent death, denied Himself his right to life… liberty… and the pursuit of any form of happiness. Jesus models living “in denial”.
Are you willing to deny yourself everything and follow Jesus? I’m not. Not in my own strength. But, as always, there’s Good News and there’s great news. Good news: Jesus died for that sin. Great news: He sent the Holy Spirit to empower us to deny ourselves daily and take up our cross to follow Him. The act of “followship” is not one we are left to do in our own strength. When we fail, we’re already forgiven. God loves us so much He even sent a Helper to pick us up when we fall. The “Take Away”: Here’s your homework: write down your top ten goals and dreams – the house, the promotion(s), the boat, the acceptance and respect of your peers, the approval of your wife, kids, boss, or even your parents and draw a big line through them. Even better, find one of those insurance adjuster stamps that says “Denied” and stamp it on every one. Pray that the Holy Spirit will strengthen you to live in “denial” with me… with Peter… with Jesus, who humbled Himself on the cross and became obedient to death….
Side Benefit Expectations bind us to the desired outcome we’re seeking. When we expect and don’t get, a debt/debtor we risk falling into a debt/debtor relationship with what we expected. When we mentally and emotionally let go of expectations, anything we receive is counted as a blessing. Note: this doesn’t mean lowering or not having expectations. We are to strive for excellence, and to do so requires standards that may not always be met. However, there is a big difference between having expectations and being had by our expectations.
By “living in denial” (denying ourselves through surrender to Christ and quickly reconciling unmet expectations), we create massive opportunities for blessing and free ourselves from dependence on human justice. Surrender to Christ means surrender of everything, allowing free reign for the justice of God, who sees all things and will reward all men for what they have done and what they have denied themselves.
Going Deeper: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. (Prov. 13.12)”
“Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. (Matthew 17.27-29)”
For reflection: “How aware are you of your subtle attempts at controlling outcomes?” “As life becomes more ‘complicated’, how aware are you of your attachment to your outcomes, expectations, commitments, and possessions?”