Deep Water

The disciples had been fishing all night. They were tired and ready to go home, but Jesus told them to try one more time. If you were Simon (aka Peter), what would you have done?

Read Luke 5:1-11, Isaiah 6:1-8 here.

Listen here:

 “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neal Donald Walsch

What do you think about that idea?  You might agree, or you might be saying, “hey, I’ve worked hard to find this comfort zone and I’m not leaving it.”  But studies show that we actually stop learning when we’re in our comfort zones, because stability shuts down the brain’s learning centers.[1]  We talk in church a lot about growing – growing our faith, growing in our relationship with God and with one another, growing in the ways that we serve Jesus.  If we want to grow, we have to be willing to get out of our comfort zones.  We have to be willing to say yes to Jesus like Peter and Isaiah did in our Bible readings today.

What is the hardest/scariest thing you’ve ever done?

I’ll bet you all have a lot of great answers to this question.  In thinking about this question for myself, what came to mind was learning HebrewShemainHebrewI like learning languages.  I know a bit of Spanish and French and Greek from school, and a bit of German and Italian from my parents.  Hebrew, on the other hand, is ridiculous.  The alphabet is entirely different.  There are no connections with English to grab onto—nothing that sounds similar or looks similar.[2] But I had to learn Hebrew to get my Master of Divinity to become a pastor, so I just kept going over it and over it and over it.  I made so many flash cards and lists and spreadsheets.  I thought I was doomed to fail because it felt like I was stuck in a thick fog of ignorance.  They say it takes repeating things three times to memorize them, but I was repeating things seventy times seven times and still not getting it.  I might be exaggerating a little, but you get the idea.  And then, suddenly, one day it clicked and I had it!  The alphabet, that is, because a friend taught me the song.[3]  Learning the rest will take a lifetime.

I wonder if Peter felt as frustrated about fishing as I did about Hebrew?  In what we read today from Luke 5, Peter and his buddies had been fishing all night and caught nothing.  Then Jesus says, “try it one more time.”

Go out to the deep water and let down the nets one more time. 

61662872_56c0e447e9_zPeter points out the futility of trying again.  He was a seasoned fisherman, and he knew that trying one more time wasn’t likely to produce any different result.  But Peter does what Jesus asks and puts the net out again anyway, and boy was he glad he did.  The nets were filled to overflowing!

Peter trusted Jesus enough to put out the nets one more time.  It meant putting off going home and getting rest.  It meant setting aside all the reasons it shouldn’t work.  The blessing was a huge haul of fish, a miraculous catch. And the realization that Jesus is someone special, the messiah.  God blesses our trust in him.

The blessing I got for not giving up on Hebrew was passing the class and retaining enough to pass ordination exams, and I’m glad I remember enough to be able to use that knowledge to dig in deeper in my study for sermons.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9)

Where might God be saying to you that it’s time to try one more time?

Where is God calling you to take a step of faith into deeper water?

Peter’s response to seeing the miracle of the full nets was humility.  He said, “I’m too much of a sinner for you to have around” (Luke 5:8 TLB).  Instead of inadequacy, though, Jesus saw possibility, because Peter was willing to listen and do what Jesus said even when it didn’t make sense to him.

Uncertainty and humility are recipes for success with God.

We see this same humility in the story of Isaiah’s call to ministry.  He has a vision in which he sees the courts of heaven and the holiness of God.  In the face of God’s holiness, Isaiah is struck by his own sinfulness, and says, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5).

GeeseWriter and Pastor Mark Batterson says we should expect uncertainty in following Jesus, because being led by the Holy Spirit is sort of like going on a wild good chase.  In Celtic Christianity, the term for the holy spirit is ‘an geadh-glass’ which means “wild goose.”  Batterson says, “A part of us feels as if something is spiritually wrong with us when we experience circumstantial uncertainty. But that is precisely what Jesus promised us when we are born of the Spirit and start following Him. Most of us will have no idea where we are going most of the time. And I know that is unsettling. But circumstantial uncertainty also goes by another name: adventure.”[4]

Following Jesus will take us to new adventures if we are willing to go.

This is what the disciples found.  And they left everything and followed him.

These fishermen would probably have lived and died without ever leaving the shores of Galilee, but following Jesus took them to the ends of the earth.  “According to the third-century historian Eusebius, Peter sailed to Italy, John ended up in Asia, James the son of Zebedee traveled as far as Spain, and even doubting Thomas chased the Wild Goose all the way to India.”[5]

In Isaiah’s vision, when the Lord asks, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?”  Isaiah doesn’t hesitate to say, “Here I am. Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8) Even though he doesn’t really have any idea what he’s saying yes to.

What does deep water mean to you? If God is calling you out of the shallows and inviting you to go deeper, what might that look like?  How do you need to step out of your comfort zone?

I think churches in America are dealing with this circumstantial uncertainty today in a big way.  Our culture has changed, and churches are struggling to figure out how to be the people God is calling us to be in this new and changing world.  Our old metrics and strategies are not working the way they used to, and so it’s easy to feel like we’re failing, even when we continue to be faithful.

It’s easy to give up and stop trying to spread the gospel, but that’s exactly what we need to keep on doing.  That’s what Peter and Isaiah are both saying yes to.  We’ve been casting the nets over and over, and many churches have packed up their nets and gone home. It might be tempting for us to do the same.

But the Holy Spirit is still here, still calling us, and guiding us and leading us.  So what do we do?    Say yes with prayer

This is the most vital part of our work as a church.  Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

I keep coming back to prayer, because God keeps reminding me how important this is.  We need to be doing this on God’s power and not our own. That’s why our memory verse for this week is about remembering who it is that makes miracles happen and who changes hearts and brings us new life:

“Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

Be willing to say yes to God and take a step in faith

John, who was in financial difficulty, walked into a church and started to pray. ”Listen God,” John said. ”I know I haven’t been perfect but I really need to win the lottery. I need the money. Please help me out.”

He left the church, a week went by, and he hadn’t won the lottery, so he walked into a synagogue. ”Come on, God,” he said. ”I really need this money. My mom needs surgery and I have bills to pay. Please let me win the lottery.” He left the synagogue, a week went by, and he didn’t win the lottery.

So, he went to a mosque and started to pray again. ”You’re starting to disappoint me, God,” he said. ”I’ve prayed and prayed. If you just let me win the lottery, I’ll be a better person. I don’t have to win the jackpot, just enough to get me out of debt. I’ll even give some to charity. Just let me win the lottery.” John thought this did it, so he got up and walked outside.

And as he did, the clouds opened up and a booming voice said,

”John, meet me half way.  Buy a ticket.”[6]

John was praying, but he also needed to take the next step.  John was spending a lot of time thinking about winning the lottery, but not taking any steps towards accomplishing that goal.

Neighborhood MapOne of the next steps we’ve talked about recently is finding opportunities to meet and get to know our neighbors.  A few months ago, we each got one of these cards and our challenge was to learn the names of the people who live around us.  I told you then that the only neighbor whose name I knew was RJ.  Since then, I’ve met our neighbor across the street.    It’s a challenging time to meet neighbors, because, and I say this as a California girl, it’s way too cold to be outside, but it will get warmer, and we’ll keep on working on getting to know our neighbors.

God brings us opportunities to grow, to step outside our comfort zones and say yes to him.

Where in your life might it be time to try again?  Or try something new?

How might it be time to try in deeper water…beyond what’s safe and easy?

How will you say yes to God today? What’s your next step?

  • Are you praying daily? If not, that’s a good place to start.
  • Are you reading the Bible? My husband Rob and I just started a new readthrough using a guide on Bible.com that’s set up chronologically.  (On our phones, it’s the youversion app.)

If the whole Bible sounds daunting, start with one book.  How about the book of John?

Maybe the next step for you is to get connected with other Christians in a small group.

  • That could be Sunday school, or our women’s group that meets monthly,
  • or the men’s small group that’s getting started soon.
  • Or maybe you’d like to start your own small group?
  • Or get involved in one of our new ministry teams?

Whatever the Holy Spirit is nudging you to do next, I’d love to help you with it, by providing resources, helping you get connected, or even just praying for you.

Let me know [in the comment section below]. If you need some help figuring out what your next step is, let’s get together over coffee and talk about it.

That day out on the lake, Peter probably just thought it was like any other day in the life of a fisherman.  He expected to finish cleaning up those nets, go home and get some rest, and come back tomorrow and try again.  But then Jesus said, “Trust me. Try one more time.” And in doing so he got to see that God was there with him in that boat.

Then Jesus said to Peter, “Don’t be afraid, come follow me and I’ll teach you to fish for people.”

Jesus says the same thing to us today.  Don’t be afraid.  Step out of your comfort zone. We’ll have a great adventure!  Or, as Dora the Explorer would say, “Vamanos!  Let’s go!”

vamonos-everybody-lets-go

[1] https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/want-to-learn-faster-make-your-life-more-unpredictable.html?cid=sf01002&fbclid=IwAR11EcsTynnZScORnNh6MLGfGr6q3vvoSQVnnLQ0z3tNzN9DMfPjMCEDKYU

[2] Languages ranked by difficulty for English speakers to learn https://www.effectivelanguagelearning.com/wp-content/w3tc/pgcache//language-guide/language-difficulty/_index.html_gzip

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UiCzoTs1AdE

[4] Batterson, Mark. Wild Goose Chase (p. 2). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[5] Batterson, Mark. Wild Goose Chase (p. 10). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[6] http://jokes.cc.com/funny-god/1gkcpp/the-lottery-ticket

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