Robert Jeffress - A Fish Tale
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. It's essential for every Christian to discover God's unique calling for his or her life. And while it sounds like a daunting task, the truth is you shouldn't have to look much farther than your own natural gifts and talents. Today, we're turning to Luke 5 to see how Jesus used Simon Peter's natural abilities to advance the Kingdom of God and how we can apply those same principles to discovering our own calling. My message is titled, "A Fish Tale" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
At the top of the list of Christian leaders I've admired most through the years, it would have to be the late Charles Colson at the very top of that list. And yet, at the zenith of his political career, council in the white house, he had an emptiness on the inside. And a Christian friend of his handed Colson a copy of C.S. Lewis's book, "Mere Christianity". And one night in a moment of despair, as he sat alone in the car, raining outside, he called out on Jesus to be his Savior. He went on to be convicted for his role in the Watergate cover up. He went to prison and he said in his book, born again, that, "Going to prison signaled the end of my career, but it was the beginning of my calling".
It was in prison that he began leading Bible studies for those who are Christians and leading non-Christians to know Christ as Savior. And that ministry in prison became the nucleus of the foundation of his organization, prison fellowships, which today, even though Colson is in heaven, that prison fellowship ministry ministers to hundreds of thousands of prisoners around the world. Colson said this, "The real legacy of my life was my biggest failure, that I was an ex-convict. My great humiliation, being sent to prison, was the beginning of God's greatest use of my life. He chose the one experience in which I could not glory for his glory".
We're going to see that same principle today, illustrated in the life of four followers of Jesus. Four followers of Christ who experienced a temporary failure that mark maybe the end of their career, but the beginning of their true calling in life. If you have your Bibles, I want you to turn to Luke 5 we're in the study of the life of Christ as recorded by Luke. And we're in the public phase of Jesus' ministry. The crowds were growing. People were excited by his miracles. We saw last time in Luke four, his authority over demons and sickness. The great authority that he had in his teaching. Now we're in the phase where people were excited. There is a buzz among the people about Jesus, and that helps us understand verse 1 of chapter 5. "Now it came about that while the multitude were pressing around him and listening to the Word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret". Look at verse 2, "And he saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake, but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets".
It was in the morning, and the fishermen had spent all night fishing. Apparently these fishermen had not been successful because there was no mention of the fish here. Instead, all they were doing was finishing up their job of washing the nets, which you would do after a night of fishing, laying them out to dry on the beach so that they wouldn't rot. And then as soon as they finished that they would go home and sleep during the day so that they could fish all night. And so Jesus saw these empty boats and said, I've got an idea. Verse 3, "He got into one of the boats, which was Simon's, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And he sat down and began teaching the multitudes from the boat".
Now this boat belonged to Simon. We know who Simon was. It was Simon Peter. This is not the first time Jesus met Simon Peter. Jesus said, Simon, I'm going to use your boat as a floating pulpit. Now that's an interesting way to preach, but that's what he wanted to. Get in the boat, so he could go out into the lake and turn and address the large crowd on the beach. And they would be able to hear him. That was the plan. But can't you just see Peter? We know Peter. We know what he's like. Can't you see Peter, the pride he must have felt? As the crowds looked out in the boat and saw him seated next to the man. The guy, Jesus. You can just feel the pride Simon felt at that moment. And not only was he proud that he was sitting next to Jesus, not only that, he probably looked out on the crowd and said, boy, I'm so glad all these pagans came to hear Jesus. I'm so glad Suzy's here and Bill's here and there's Tom. Oh, he really needs to hear the message today. That's what he was thinking.
Little did he and Andrew and James and John, their fishing partners, know that the real audience for the message that day was them. And we see that in the next verse. Look at verses 4 and 5, "And when Jesus had finished speaking, he said to Simon, 'put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch'. And Simon answered and said, 'master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing. But at your bidding, I will let down the nets'". Jesus said, I'm finished teaching. It's time to go out and do a little fishing. And Simon, thought, oh fishing. We've been up all night. We haven't had any success at all. We're ready to go home and go to sleep. They were tired. They were discouraged. They were ready to go home when Jesus says let's go out, and let's do a little more fishing.
And Peter must've protested and thought, Lord, I mean, you can be forgiven for not knowing about fishing. I mean, after all you grew up in Nazareth, there's no water around there, but Jesus, I mean, you don't even realize you don't fish in the daytime. You fish at night. And you don't fish in the deep waters, you fish in the shallow water. Lord, you stick to preaching. We'll do the fishing around here. You don't know what you're talking about, but he did have respect for Jesus as evidence by calling him master. So he decided to humor Jesus a little bit and go ahead and put the nets in the water. Look at what happened in verses 6 and 7, "And when they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish and their nets began to break, and they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and they filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink".
Can you get the picture here? Here they put the nets into the water. Peter is probably thinking to himself, okay, how long do we have to leave these nets in here to be polite? But then they look at the ropes and they see those ropes began to tighten and they realize the boat is starting to list toward the left and realizing that those nets are filling up, they begin to pull them up and strain and they're filled with fish and they empty them in the boat. And they said, let's try this again. And they tried it again and emptied it in the boat and fish upon fish, upon fish. And finally they cry out to their partners in the other boat, that famous line from jaws, "Help us. I think we're going to need a bigger boat". And so they come over with the boat, and they start filling up that boat until they both begin to sink. And here's Jesus standing over in the corner, laughing himself silly watching this. But Peter wasn't laughing. Not at the pandemonium. In fact, notice what his reaction to this was.
Look at verses 8 and 9, "But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus' feet saying, 'depart from me, for I am a sinful man, o Lord' for amazement had seized him and all of his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken". What is it that made Peter suddenly become amazed and seized with fear and just fall down and worship Jesus? Peter had had one of those aha moments. Peter suddenly realized who Jesus was. Peter realized the reason Jesus was so good at catching fish is that Jesus was the one responsible for creating the fish. And whenever you come into a real experience of the presence of God, you have that same reaction. You fall down as you realize how unworthy you are in the face of someone who is so worthy. That's what it does when you come into the presence of Jesus. You are immediately overwhelmed by your unworthiness.
So, ladies and gentlemen, I'm telling you. If you really have an experience with God, you realize it's not about you. It's about him. You realize how unholy you and I are in the face of one who is absolute holiness. Isn't that exactly the experience job had? Remember in bob 42 verses 5 and 6, he said, "I have heard of the, by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see thee. Therefore, I retract and I repent in dust and ashes". Remember job. He wasn't a murderer. He wasn't an adulterer, he wasn't a crack head. Job one says he was a righteous man, upright, faring God, turning away from evil. And yet when he had a face-to-face confrontation with God, he said, "God, I repent of my sin".
When you come into the presence of God, you realize that great chasm, that gulf, between God and you. That was Peter's experience. And how did the Lord respond? Look at verse 10, "And Jesus said to Simon, 'do not fear, from now on you will be catching men'". That phrase, "From now on" in the King James version says, "Wince forth". Peter, no matter what you were doing, you have a new beginning. You were catching fish, but now you're going to catch men. That Greek verb literally means to catch people alive. It's the verb, zogreo, and it's used only one other time in the Greek New Testament. It's found in 2 Timothy 2:24-26. Look at this carefully. This is such an important point.
"And the Lord's bond servant," Paul wrote, "Must not be quarrelsome. He must be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the trap of the devil having been held captive". There's that word, zogreo. "Having been held captive by Satan to do his will". The only time this word catch alive is used other than here in Luke is referring to Satan who catches people alive. And what Jesus was saying to Peter, he said, I am going to invite to join me on this search and rescue mission to help catch people alive, to deliver them from the grip of Satan that he has on their lives and to deliver them into the presence of God.
And by the way, that is exactly the same mission that God has given you and me. To join him on this search and rescue mission. Come and join me in catching people alive with the Gospel. What was their response? Verse 11, "And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and they followed him". What does that mean they left everything? Well, they left their boats. That was their means of livelihood. That's how they made a living, through the boats. They left those. Apparently they left the fish that they'd been so excited about a few moments later. They didn't say, well, let's take time to prepare them. No, they just left them. They left everything in order to follow Jesus. And today I want to share with you four practical principles from this message that I think will be a great encouragement to you in discovering your true calling in life.
Principle number one, write this down. God invites us to partner with him in ministry. Let me ask you a question. Did Jesus need Peter's boat in order to be able to preach to the crowd? Did he need Peter to row him out there so he could address the throngs on the beach? Of course not. I mean, if Jesus wanted to, he could have walked from the beach out on to the water, stood there on the water and addressed the crowd. He didn't need Peter did he to do that? Did he need Peter and Andrew and James and John, did he need them to bring all of those fish into the boat? Did he need their hard work and effort and strain to bring those nets up? No. He could have simply just pointed into the boat and zap the fish could have appeared there instantly.
Did Jesus need Peter and Andrew, James and John, and the apostles in order to catch people alive and to save them and introduce them to God? For that matter, does he need you or me to help him in that process? No, God doesn't need us. But in his grace, he allows us to partner with him in this great kingdom enterprise. You know, that's always been God's pattern. God has created us to be a part of his eternal plan of rescuing people and seeing them come into the Kingdom of God. And that's his grace. To fulfill a need we have of being part of something bigger than ourselves. God invites us to partner with him in ministry.
Principle number two, and boy, I love this. I got so excited about this this week. God uses our natural gifts for supernatural purposes. Now God said to Peter and to Andrew, to James and John, I want you to be fishers of men. Did you know no place else in the New Testament does he call you and me to be fishers of men? Did you know that? You and I have not been called to be fishers of men?
Now don't misunderstand. He's called us to help rescue people by introducing them to the Gospel. But he doesn't use that term with us, fishers of men, because he used that phrase for people who were fishermen. And so God used the natural gifts and abilities he had given these men for the supernatural purpose for which he had created them. And the same thing is true for you and me. God will use our natural gifts and interest for his supernatural purpose. Your interest in leadership or speaking or medicine or the arts or working with children. Those interesting gifts are not a hindrance to God's calling for your life. They are a part of God's unique calling for you. God uses our natural gifts and interests for his supernatural purposes.
Number three, genuine faith precedes abundant blessing. Genuine faith precedes abundant blessing. Now here's a simple truth of this story. Without faith, there would've been no fish, right? Without faith, if they had not put those nets into the water, there would have been no miracle of the fish. Genuine faith always precedes abundant blessings. And yet most of us that goes against our inclination. We want to play it safe. Let me ask you this morning. What is God calling you to do right now? Let's face it, launching out into the deep waters of uncertainty can be very challenging. They can be scary at times. It'd be much easier if God would show us first the results of our obedience before we obeyed, but it doesn't work that way. Genuine faith always precedes abundant blessing. And that leads to the final principle from this passage. And that is God's call is total, not partial.
When Jesus called these men to become fishers, catchers of men, they didn't say, now wait a minute Lord. We need to take care of the boats first and trust them to somebody in case this disciple-making thing doesn't work out. They didn't say, wait a minute, Lord. Let's prepare these fish and put them into a cooler and save them in case we come up needy at some point. No, verse 11 says, they left everything in order to follow Jesus. I really don't know for whom this message is designed today, but I have a feeling there are some of you here today, or some of you watching this broadcast.
You're thinking, how did pastor Jeffress know my situation? That's exactly where I am right now. You know exactly what it is that God is calling you to do. You know what that next step of obedience is. frankly, you want to play it safe. It'd be a lot easier if you could keep one foot on the dry ground before launching out into the deep. It doesn't work that way. James 1:8 says the double minded man is unstable in all of his ways. As long as you're trying to play it safe, but be obedient, it doesn't work. God commands us to total, not partial obedience. We don't want to be like those teddy Roosevelt described as those poor, timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. God's call on your life is total, not partial obedience so that you can experience his blessing he has for you that is beyond your imagination.