Obedience When You Don’t Understand
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. Luke 5:5 (NIV)
I found out the hard way that if you have never been fishing, you shouldn’t tell a fisherman how to fish. This lesson came for me when I decided to go fishing with Howard. He loves fishing and it was an opportunity for me to get away and be with him. Besides, how hard could fishing be? Before long I noticed Howard throwing his lure near the bank of the river. Being the helping companion that I am, I suggested that maybe he would catch more fish if he put his lure deeper in the water. His facial expression let me know you don’t tell a fisherman how to fish if you have never been fishing!
This one fishing trip helped me imagine the tiredness and frustration Peter must have felt when Jesus suggested that he go fishing again after he had already been fishing all night and had not caught a single fish. Luke tells us that Peter was washing his nets when Jesus got onto Peter’s boat and began teaching the crowd that had gathered around Him. Knowing a few fishermen myself, I can’t help but wonder if Peter was listening to Jesus’ teaching or warily watching Jesus take his boat into the water. I do know that Jesus told Peter to go fishing, and in Peter’s mind it just did not make sense. He had just finished washing and putting his nets away. Peter was used to fishing on the Sea of Galilee, and he knew the best fishing came at night in the shallow water. And even if Peter was thinking, “Jesus, you stick to teaching and I will do the fishing,” he obeyed Jesus—even though it made no sense. I can’t help but believe that this event in Luke 5 is not about fishing at all but about obeying the teaching of Jesus even when you don’t understand.
What Peter did not know was that Jesus was about to give him the opportunity to see the power of God through a miracle for the entire crowd to witness. It is so easy to dwell on questions, past failures, and perhaps even a sense of hopelessness instead of the power of God. However, it is in our hopelessness that we must decide whether to trust Jesus or trust in what we think we know. We must be willing to lay down our nets, so to speak, and trust God by doing what He asks us to do.
When Jesus asked Peter to lay down his nets to catch fish, Peter had no idea it wasn’t about fishing but about Jesus offering him the opportunity to know the Son of God and His power. Peter said to Jesus, “Master, we have worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. BUT because you say so, I will let down the nets” (emphasis added). I love that Peter told Jesus how he felt but still obeyed Him. I believe God understands our questions and is not threatened by them; He just wants us to lay down our fear (or nets) and trust Him! As I think about this situation with Peter and Jesus, I understand that Peter would have missed seeing Jesus perform a miracle had he not obeyed Him. When I think back on the times in my life when God has asked me to trust Him even though my feelings said, “don’t”, I recognize that I, too, would have missed seeing God do a miracle in my life in I hadn’t obeyed Him.
I know the struggle of trying to decide whether God is talking or whether I am doing the talking. I have often told Him, “It’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s that I don’t trust me!” It can be difficult to discern between hearing the voice of God over my own selfish motives or what I think is best for me. I have noticed that when I’m determined to do a certain thing, it’s usually my own will I’m fighting; when my heart is totally set on God, I have never regretted trusting Him. It’s never a mistake to trust and obey God—even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else.
I feel like I need to remind you that God never tells you to do anything that is against Scripture because God does not contradict His Word. Not every decision we have to make can be found in Scripture but there will be a principle that you can apply to discern if God is speaking or you are leaning toward following your own desires. In James Chapter 1 we are told that we are tempted to do evil because of our own fleshly desires. Therefore, when we feel God asking us to do something, we need to search our own hearts and motives and make sure God is speaking versus our selfish desires. When we sift our motives and feel God is indeed speaking to our hearts, it’s safe to do whatever He asks. God is in the miracle business and He loves to show the world what He can do in a heart that is set on Him. After Peter obeyed Jesus and saw the miracle, Peter left the fishing business and became one of the greatest fishers of men our world has ever known. What is God asking you to do that will require complete trust in Him?
Further Reading James 1:12-18, Luke 5