January 23, 2013

Empty Nets

One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there (Luke 5:1-3).

The crowd observing this must have thought to themselves “oh snap!” Here Simon (aka Peter) has just spent the entire night fishing and didn’t catch a thing. Now as he’s docking his boat, a near by teacher decides to use his boat as a platform to speak from. It’s almost as if Jesus’ is saying, “well you’re obviously not going to catch any fish with this thing, let me make better use of it as a stage.” You can almost hear one of the teen girls in the crowd saying to her friends “oh no he didn’t!”  But that’s only the beginning. Once Jesus finishes his lesson, he immediately offers Simon a few pointers about fishing, telling him to “go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”

At this point enough becomes enough and Simon chooses to speak up saying we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing.” Another way of putting it would be “teachers teach and fishers fish – let’s keep it that way.”

Let’s push the pause button for a second. Have you ever had a horrible day where you've exhausted every option and still found yourself failing or coming up short? On days like this, don’t you just want to throw in the towel and call it a day? Chances are you definitely don’t want to hear someone’s two cents about the situation either. Without a doubt this is one of those days for Simon. For this was no leisure night out with the boys. This was his job – his livelihood. His company depends on him and more importantly his family depends on him. In his case empty nets means one thing, he’s failed them both.

So back to the story, where it’s no surprise we find Simon exhausted, filled with frustration, humiliated by his failure and wanting to call it a day. Yet to our surprise, buried deep beneath those feelings is the courage to take Jesus’ at his word, in which he tells Jesus if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking (Luke 5:5-7).

Perhaps you’re having one of those days and you can relate to being exhausted, filled with frustration, humiliated by your failures and wanting to call it a day. If so, there are three things Simon did that you can do as well. And maybe, just maybe you’ll experience the turn around you are hoping for.

1. He allowed Jesus into his boat.
Like Simon, you may assume Jesus doesn’t have a clue about your situation. For example, Jesus was never married, He never worked in corporate America and He didn’t have any children. The list could go on and on.  Which raises the question, how and what could Jesus teach you? For some of those questions, I don’t know the answers. But what I do know is if you never let him in, you’ll never know what he has to offer.

2. He took Jesus at His word.
Simon tells Jesus, “I’ve done everything I can, but if you say so…” How different would our lives look if we responded this way? In reverse you must know what Jesus says in order to take hold of it. That being said, one of the best things you can do is immerse yourself in the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John).  There’s no doubt you’ll find Jesus has a lot to say. The question is whether or not you’ll respond by saying “ok, if you say so…”

3. He tried again.
Jesus doesn’t suggest a different fishing technique. He only calls Simon into deeper waters and then challenges him to try the exact same thing over again. Who knows, you may be one application away from the job you’re hoping for, or one conversation from the needed breakthrough in your marriage. It could be one more sales pitch or just another test. Whatever it may be, the challenge here is to try again.

In closing, I feel I should provide a warning. Although the worse day possible turned into the greatest day ever for Simon, he then found himself with a completely different problem. Their boats were sinking.

I pray you experience a similar inconvenience.