When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
– Luke 5:4
It can be tempting to view our walk with the Lord as consisting primarily of exertion. We must work to find time to study Scripture, work to go to church, work to lead our small groups, and giving of our own strength. Most of us are taught from a young age that effort leads to results. So when ministry is difficult or not obviously productive, we become discouraged. We often find ourselves out of ideas, and trying to explain to God that the whole thing doesn’t work.
In Luke 5:1-11, we read a story where Jesus tells Simon to cast his nets in a certain way. But Simon feels compelled to tell Jesus that they’ve been working all night, and they’ve had no success. However, almost as if to humor Jesus, Simon says they will take His suggestion. The results are overwhelming; they catch so much fish that their nets are straining to keep them all in.
The absurdity of Simon explaining his situation to Jesus is almost amusing. I can sense a bit of condescension in Simon’s words. It’s as if he’s saying, “Jesus, we’ve fished plenty of times before, and we know when there’s nothing to catch. Here, we’ll do what you say just to prove it to you.” This is perhaps not a very charitable reading, but to the credit of Simon and the disciples, they did follow Jesus’s instructions.
But it is what comes after this amazing catch of fish that stands out. When seeing the absurd amount of fish they caught, Simon has, for a brief moment, a clear view of who Jesus is. Furthermore, he recognizes the distance between Jesus and himself. In verse 8, he cries out for Jesus to go away, because “I am a sinful man.” Jesus could perhaps be forgiven for pointing out the skepticism of Simon, but instead His response shows compassion and a challenge: “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” In the face of the frustration and skepticism of Simon, Jesus offered encouragement and a refocusing.
Perhaps you feel like you have already tried everything in your attempts to do ministry. If God has been calling you to follow him in a way that seems foolish, the temptation is to try to explain to God why it won’t work. Maybe you are simply exhausted by the call of ministry. Maybe you have been humbled by the experience of seeing Christ move in His power. Simon faced all of these circumstances, albeit in the context of fishing instead of ministry. But then again, the job given both to Simon and to us is the same: fish for people. And the message Jesus has for Simon is for us who are in ministry: do not be afraid. Jesus knows your struggle, and He will guide you through it.
– Contributed by Nate Owens, Asia-Pacific Regional Communications Coordinator