Luke 5:1-11 1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, 2 he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
So what kind of strategy will the Eagles or the Patriots employ in order to win tonight’s game? One commentator said the game would be won on the Eagles’ defensive line. Putting pressure on Tom Brady early is going to be key as well according to another person. Here’s the way I see it: The patriots secondary/Defensive backs have been riddled by injuries all year, and the replacements are weak and are going against the Eagles’ wide receivers who are very good. But the Eagles are Playing with a backup quarter back after their starting quarter back tore his ACL. So basically, whatever team has the deepest bench and will win. Pretty insightful, huh? (Well, that’s at least what Pastor Jed told me when I asked him about the strategy for both teams.)
Having a strategy is important in sports. Heading into the game with an understanding of what it will take in order to win is a must. Having a strategy for life is also important. What kind of strategy do we have in order to “win” at this thing called life? I want to give you some suggestions this morning from our text here in Luke 5 where Peter had the most successful day of fishing of his life.
First of all, I see that Peter’s success followed his obedience to Christ. We would be wise to follow his lead and adopt the winning strategy of obedience where we:
- Obey Christ immediately and fully.
I watched an awesome sermon this week by a fifteen-year-old preacher named Josh Pratt, and he spoke about the immediate obedience of Peter from Luke 5. Hearing his message got me thinking about this text. Peter’s obedience was immediate in two places here in Luke 5. Notice how Peter addressed Jesus in verse 5. He called Him, “Master.” That understanding, that recognition of Jesus as Lord, as Master, was what enabled Peter’s obedience. Even though the nets had already been washed, even though the fishers had rowed to shore, even though their shift was over, even though they had plans for the day whether to sleep or to spend time with their family, Peter, in recognition of Jesus’ Lordship, obeyed him immediately.
What happens when we delay our obedience to Christ?
What would Peter have missed if he hadn’t obeyed? What if it was the miraculous catch of fish that opened Peter’s eyes to what Jesus could empower him to do, to become? What if he hadn’t had that experience? I doubt we would be reading in verse 11 that they left everything to follow Jesus as His disciples. What I conclude from Peter’s submissiveness and sensational success is that Obedience to God will open the way not only for miracles to flow, but it will open the way for us to be directed by God into places and spaces where we can have a fuller impact for the Kingdom of God. Think about that right now. Think about how that ties in with where God has you and where He desires for you to go. Have you been resisting Him? Have you been delaying your obedience? What are you missing out on?
Peter went on to be the guy that gives us all hope. He failed and recovered so many times in his walk with Christ. We love to read about Peter because it helps us understand that our weaknesses and our lapses of judgment are normal and are part of growing in Christ. We love to be reminded that God can still use us in spite of the fact that we fail. We celebrate that Peter went on to preach the most powerful sermon ever recorded in Scripture where over 3000 people got saved in one day. That’s a lot of people; perhaps even more people than piranha! ? Could he have ever progressed to that point had he not gotten back in the boat in Luke 5? Is anyone having an “aha” this morning? Could this be a Luke 5 kind of day for you? Can you get back in the boat today with the expectation that a miracle awaits you in the deep?
It’s kind of interesting that in order to succeed in this story Peter had to get in the boat, and in another story, in order to walk on the water, Peter had to get out of the boat, but anyway . . .
Peter not only obeyed immediately, but he also obeyed fully. He didn’t just get the boat back out and pick the fishing spot he had always fished or the one he thought could possibly be a good one, but he went to the spot Jesus had requested. The deep water. He didn’t try to partially obey Jesus. He didn’t try to appear to follow Jesus’ request and then exert his own will in the process.
What happens when we try to obey Christ while trying to interject our own will at the same time?
A winning strategy will involve immediate and full obedience.
Secondly, I see Peter utilized the strategy of pushing past obstacles in order to experience great victory.
- Push past obstacles.
In order to have a winning day, Peter had to push beyond some personal challenges. He had already fished all night and caught nothing. Just think about where that puts a person emotionally. To expend all that effort and all that time and have nothing to show for it could really impact your affect. We have all been there. We have all had moments where we spent lots of time or lots of money or invested a lot of effort into a relationship or a pursuit and it didn’t work out the way we knew it could. We cannot give in to despair or defeat. We are called to live the life of an overcomer, but many times we live life overcome. Romans 8:37 tells me we are more than conquerors. We have to learn to push past moments of defeat. Don’t let a moment become a mountain. Jesus tells us we can exercise faith and speaks to mountains to move them out of our way, but sometimes it isn’t the mountain we need to speak to. Sometimes, we need to speak to ourselves and remind ourselves who we are. Let’s not let a moment of failure define a lifetime. Let’s remind ourselves of God’s call to push past that which is in our path. Don’t let anything stand between you and the miracle that awaits in the dep.
How do you recover emotionally when life’s challenges hand you defeat?
Peter also had physical challenges to overcome. He had to have been tired after pulling an all-nighter on the lake. Some of you who get called out to handle energy crises, or who get called back to the hospital after you have already worked your shift, or some of you who have been up all night with a sick child, but you still have to go to work—You can put yourself in the mindset of Peter who was already fatigued. Did he even have the oomph to get back out there and try again?
Physical challenges are real. Tom Brady has had physical challenges to overcome in order to play in tonight’s game. He suffered a cut to his throwing hand which required stitches. It isn’t a convenient time to suffer an injury, but life happens. Any athlete who goes on to have great success will deal with multiple injuries and a grueling schedule. If they experience great success it will not only be because they are talented or because they are disciplined, but also because they have made up their mind to overcome physical and emotional challenges along the way. There will be times when our physical bodies place restrictions on us and we need to take time to rest or heal, and there are other times when we will need to push past an ache or a pain in order to get out into the deep.
How do you push yourself when there are physical challenges to overcome?
Success, winning, can also create challenges. How much pressure do you think there is on Tom Brady? Can he do it again? Winning creates expectations and pressure. Doing things Jesus’ way created additional challenges for Peter and his crew as now they would have to haul all of the fish to shore, clean all of the fish, get all the fish to market, and mend the holes in their nets. Success came with extra stress. They weren’t ready for the magnitude of responsibility and decision-making their success would involve. Could they handle the amount of success that resulted from their obedience?
While it is difficult to talk about church life as we would talk about corporate life or worldly success, I will share with you that I have wrestled at different times with the “success” or the growing nature of this ministry. When we got to 200 people in worship I was thrilled to celebrate the growth of the church, but I wondered if I was the right leader to take the church to the next level. During that time, I became aware of a book called, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.” The premise of the book was that the strategies and concepts and models that enable growth would change each time you reach a new level of growth or a new level of success.
For ministry life, that means, that the way we did ministry when we were 90 people wasn’t going to work with 200 people. And the way we were structured and operated at 200 people wasn’t going to work when we were 400, and so on. As an organization grows, as responsibilities are added, as ministries expand and multiply, as new gifts and talents walk through the door, as more funds are to be handled and managed, as staff are added, all of those nuances create the necessity to evaluate how we do things and if there is a better way as we continue to grow. People who resist change or won’t manage change will find themselves leaving the game early or settling for the status quo when God wants to give you a miracle that is beyond your ability to manage the way you have always managed whatever it is you are managing. Success can be overwhelming at times.
How do you keep going and growing when the success of your experience exceeds your capabilities and plans?
A winning strategy will include a tenacity to push beyond personal and physical and the challenges success brings.
One way we learn to push past obstacles is to draw strength and gain help from others around us. I see this in Peter’s story. He relied on some other people when he got in over his head. Peter utilized strategic partnerships in order to experience and manage a great victory.
- Form strategic partnerships.
I don’t know exactly how many people were with Peter during his all-night fishing expedition, but Matthew’s Gospel tells us his brother, Andrew, was there, and verse ten of Luke 5 tells us James and John, the Sons of Zebedee, were there as Peter’s partners. Verse nine also speaks of companions that were with Peter. We also know that at least two boats were present; Peter’s boat and one other one.
I don’t know if Peter had to do some convincing to get the other folks psyched up to go back out with him into the deep, but they went with him. It wasn’t just Peter in the boat. Whoever went with him had the same emotional and physical challenges to overcome, and they made the effort to support Peter’s commitment to surrender to the Lordship of Christ. They didn’t try to talk him out of going back out.
Verses 6 and 7 tells us that Peter’s partners became very important in that overwhelming and miraculous moment because they had to signal to their partners to bring the other boat to them in order to keep their boat from sinking and in order to be able to haul in all of the fish they caught. What if the partners were competitive and wanted Peter’s boat to sink? What if they weren’t true partners, true friends?
Your friends, your business partners, even your family, can make you or break you in many circumstances. Who you surround yourself with, in your inner circle, needs to be strategic. You need people in your life who will support your desire to have God as the Master of your life. You need people who will go the extra mile with you when you are tired and need help. You need partners who will come alongside you when success comes faster than you think it will, and will pitch in to help you when you feel overwhelmed. You can’t go it alone and be successful. That isn’t a winning life strategy. No one will succeed on their own, and no one can manage success on their own when it comes. Part of your life’s goal should be to invest in friendships that will provide you support when you need it. You need people who have your back, and you need to have the back of your partners. You need people who will support your decision to be obedient to Christ.
Both teams tonight are going to have to play as teams in order to execute plays together. Tonight’s win may not be the result of a brilliant quarter back or a strong defensive line, but it may come down to which team plays better together. How coordinated is the effort? How well do they communicate? How well can they read each other? How well do they have each other’s backs? How well do they protect the one who has the ball?
I want you to know that our staff is tight. We have each other’s backs. We share about our struggles. Our families go deep with one another. We are a team, and we are all committed to whatever miracle God wants to send our way. If it is too big for one of us in any area of ministry, we are going to pull together to manage whatever God trusts us to haul in. If it means we come early and stay late, we are in. If it means pulling up the slack for one another, we can count on each other. If it means deep water, we’re going. I wonder what role the willingness of Peter’s partners played in his ability to get pumped up to go back onto the lake. I wonder if their encouragement and support strengthened his resolve to obey Jesus. Those are the kinds of partnerships we need to develop if we are going to make it when the task is hard and the night is long.
Don’t let anyone talk you out of obeying Jesus. Surround yourself with people who will help you get to where Jesus is leading. Naysayers, negative and small-thinking people cannot have a place of influence in your life. Finding people who will join their heart with yours as you follow Jesus is part of a winning strategy. Who knows what role Peter may have played in inspiring Andrew, James and John to follow Jesus with him. Proverbs 27:17-“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Invest in relationships that will be mutually beneficial as you follow Christ.
- Put your full trust in Jesus.
So, I said earlier that catching such a huge amount of fish, having such incredible success, was going to be a huge responsibility. There would be extra work to clean the fish and sell the fish and mend the nets. At the moment when Peter was evaluating all of that, when he was trying to absorb how this miraculous catch would impact the rest of his day or the rest of his week, he had not yet been invited to join Jesus’ team. As it turns out, Peter didn’t process all of the fish. He didn’t mend the nets. He didn’t celebrate his success. He didn’t enjoy the extra income that came with such a haul. He didn’t get to go from house to house to tell the greatest fisher story ever. He didn’t get to build upon his booming business. No. Peter left it all to follow Jesus. On the heels of his greatest personal success, rather than look for ways to capitalize on that success, he left everything to walk with Jesus.
As I read the story again, I thought of Pastor Jed who left corporate America, where he was being groomed to become the Vice President of his company, to become a full-time youth pastor for less than part-time pay. Why? Because God called.
No one living in the world for the things of the world would see that as a smart move, but Peter saw that more than earthly success was possible. He and his partners saw an opportunity to partner with Someone who could take them where they had never been and use them beyond what they could ever dream. He saw a different dimension to living, a deeper reality. He believed that life with Jesus could be better than life on his own. He believed that a spiritual life with Jesus was better than his best day at work.
Now, God doesn’t ask every Christ-follower to quit their job and live on faith as they travel from town to town. There are some people who make those kinds of sacrificial choices at the call of God. But, that isn’t what this story is about. This story is about the call of God that is the same for all of us who want to follow Jesus. The call of God is that we would trust God fully. This text isn’t about walking away from worldly success, but it is about desiring to give your all to Jesus and to respond to His invitation no matter what that invitation requires or where it leads. It’s about trusting Jesus so fully that if He asked you to leave it all, you would be able to lay down whatever, wherever, and whenever to follow Jesus. That attitude is a winning strategy.
Going deep in the things of God will enable us to win at life no matter what life brings us, but going deep in the things of God will only result from a life that is fully surrendered. Do we trust God enough to allow Him to have total control and to follow His lead?
In this moment do you see yourself as winning at this thing called life? Winning isn’t defined by the world’s standards. Winning, for me, is walking so closely with God that
when I hear His instructions, I have the faith to obey and that when I receive His invitation to a new way to impact people for the Kingdom that I trust Him enough to follow.