Fishing is something most Christians understand in principle at least because Jesus told His disciples that He would make them fishers of men.
Luke’s account is a good starting point.
One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there.
I am sure it will reveal some profound truths based on a humble little fishing line or net and I am confident that these stories and personal anecdotes will bless and encourage you.
This is a lengthy story, so I have broken it down into different portions. This should make it easy for you to follow and return to key points that interest you at any time. We start with a fishing fleet
Jesus had been preaching in the synagogues around Galilee and stood on the shore at Genessaret where He saw boats moored beside the lake. I once thought that those ships were not much larger than small rowing boats with a sail in the middle, but this might not be true. The Greek describes small boats as Ploiarion, but the word used in the gospel account is Ploion that is the same word used in Acts 27 to define the ship that conveyed Paul to Rome. They may not be small boats at all, but relatively larger vessels that may be capable of ocean travel. Both kinds of craft are mentioned in John 21, when the disciples had been fishing unsuccessfully all night and had an encounter with Jesus. We shall see more of this later.
It seems that Peter was no small time fisherman after all, but had a shipping business with partners and had more than one boat. Perhaps the larger kind was the actual fishing vessel and the smaller was a utility dinghy or tender.
Peter and his partners had been fishing all night without success and, tired, wet and cold, were about to go home for a meal, a bath and rest, when Jesus got into Peter’s empty boat and sat down. It almost seems as if He did that without asking, but I now doubt that. Peter was washing nets and a crowd of people may have gathered around for curiosity and the chance of buying fresh fish at a cheap market price.
Many people think that this was the first time Peter met Jesus but that is not so when we investigate more. Luke’s account in chapter four states that Jesus commenced His ministry after being baptized by John and receiving the Holy Spirit.
He spent forty days in the wilderness, defeated the devil’s temptations and returned in the power of the Spirit to Nazareth and preached His inaugural sermon based on the anointing of the Holy Spirit! That too should be how we preach.
He then went to Capernaum, teaching on the Sabbath Days (plural) implying that He was there for at least one week or more especially on certain occasions during one of the Hebrew Feasts, there was more than one Sabbath. His teaching astonished everyone. People would have talked, especially when He cast an evil spirit out of a man when they were in the synagogue, amazing those who witnessed it. They acknowledged the authority and power He exercised. Luke said that the report about Him went into every place in the surrounding region.
If every place means just that—every place, surely Peter would have heard of Him in some way.
He was a Jew, so may have gone to the Synagogue at least once whilst Jesus was there, even if only out of curiosity alone, but I am sure he went to worship. I say that, because he was so steeped in the Jewish religion that Jesus had to deal with his attitude later.
The conversion of Cornelius and those in his home in Acts chapter ten is an example.
It therefore stands to reason that Peter would have already known of Jesus beforehend.
He may have listened at least once to His preaching.
Luke said that Jesus left the Synagogue and went to Peter’s home and it makes me wonder if Peter invited Him to stay?
Peter’s mother-in-law was sick and Jesus rebuked the fever that immediately left her and she arose to minister to them.
This is a more important function than we often think. She was functioning in the areas of ministries of helps, which are important.
The Greek words used are Diakoneō, Diakonos and Diakonia, from which we derive the word Deacon.
Deacons in the church are those who help and serve—not rule. Paul explained in1 Timothy 3 that the office of a deacon was like that of an attendant, a host, a friend or a waiter. A good example is found in Acts 6, where a practical need arose leading to the choice of suitably qualified men to look after the daily needs and requirements of the people in the church. This freed the pastors to focus on their ministry. They appointed seven men, one of whom was Stephen and another was Philip who became an evangelist.
Deacons’ tasks are practical. Their hands-on work may include teaching and pastoral ministry, but ruling and governing in the literal sense as often happens today does not really seem to apply, when in many modern churches, boards of deacons dictate terms. They choose the pastor and tell him what to do, but I thought that God chose, anointed and appointed leaders!
Under certain situations, that may be acceptable but I seriously doubt if this really is the New Testament Church pattern.
The ideal is when God gives a legitimate vision to a man, others catch the vision, want to be part of it and help.
Habakkuk 2:1-2 is an example. Boards of advisors can give balance and stability and assistance, advise and counsel, but controlling a pastor by a deacon or board of deacons in my opinion is not scriptural. Having said that, the pastor should however never become a dictator, or what is often dubbed a one man band!
Luke said that as the sun was setting, sick people were brought to Jesus whilst He was in Peter’s house and He healed everyone. No one missed out. Do not allow religious teaching say that not everyone receives healing. If you look at His ministry, no one left disappointed. Jesus has not changed and His word has not changed, therefore if we really believe Him, everyone is capable of being touched by the Master. Perhaps Peter was one of those who was healed. Jesus probably stayed at least that night in Peter’s home before going into the desert where people found Him and asked Him to minister to them. They did not want Him to leave, but He told them that He had to go to other cities because He had to complete His assignment.
Peter must have left his home to go fishing in the night time whilst Jesus was probably sleeping. He said that they had fished all night without success and the following morning, Jesus went to the lake where Peter and his partners were washing nets, which was their last task before going to their homes.
If they had never met before, Peter may have sworn or rudely told Jesus to get out of his boat, but he did not. After all, he was a rather volatile man who was not yet born again. Something about this man in Peter’s boat was different.
His stride was confident; his carriage erect. His voice sounded soft and gentle, but had a ring of authority about it that seemed to grab your attention. As he looked into Jesus’ eyes, there was something about them that seemed to bore right through him.
The whole feeling was pleasantly strange. On one hand it was relaxing and soothing, yet on the other, he was feeling disturbed and uncomfortable. Almost without realizing it, they pushed out from shore and threw out the anchor. “This is crazy”, he thought and then Jesus started speaking. The people came close to the waters edge and hung on every word He said and what words they were! He spoke gently and authoritatively at the same time. There was a ring of confidence in His words that had a depth of knowledge—profound truth that was calming, yet challenging, intense, but simple to understand. He taught things about the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven as if He knew all about it all. The priests did not talk like that. The Scribes and Pharisees did not speak like that. Do we speak like that? We can and we should.
Jesus sat in the boat and taught the people. Teaching is an important part of His ministry and should be part of our ministries. I like teaching. I like poring over scriptures, turning to the original languages and researching the meanings of words and the manners and customs of the times. I really enjoy using my imagination and picture the scene the scene whilst asking the Lord many questions as to how He did things, why, to whom, or under what circumstances.
He has given some wonderful truths like this and as a minister of the Gospel, I am accountable for what I share with others. I often tell people to check things out and not take a thing for granted. Be like the people in Acts 17:11 and check the veracity of things.
He was sitting down to teach and this gives me the impression that He was totally relaxed and composed, ministering without pressure and with no need to perform. We often think otherwise. He does not labour and toil. His yoke is easy and His burden is light and even in the pressures of ministry, we can have His peace and relax or rest in God even whilst we are working.
We often think that we must labour for the Lord, almost as if the more we do the better we are, but that is not so.
A degree of work is involved of course, but His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Our hard labour is to enter into His Rest (see Hebrews 4:11). Although the word used relates more to diligent study, there is an effort required on our part and this is where our labouring comes in. Paul told Timothy to study which requires effort for a purpose- Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15.
If we can rightly dissect the word, we can unrightly or err in it. This is like making one quick, sharp, precise, accurate incision, rather than hacking at it. The Greek word is Orthomeo from which the word orthopaedic (a doctor) is derived. It means to analyze and interpret correctly and to do this, we need to tap into the resources of the best teacher anyone could have, namely the Holy Spirit as Jesus said in John chapters 14 to 17.
We make things difficult for ourselves when we deny His work in our lives and when we do that, it becomes purely intellectual and mere religion. I prefer to function as a joint labourer with God as we see in 1 Corinthians 3:9. The word of God does what God designed it to do and although the vehicle by which we carry it might change, the message does not. We should be able to thoroughly enjoy it when we preach and allow the Holy Spirit to do what is necessary to achieve God’s desires. “Getting a sermon” should be easy, if we receive inspiration from Him and what we then share is truth and is anointed, thus achieving the results He desires.
Jesus taught. He often spoke about the Kingdom of God which is the way God does things and other things, some of which were about genuine faith and the laws of sowing and reaping and the like. He knew that they would catch so many fish, it would be overwhelming, because in a sense, Peter had “sowed” into His ministry—by doing as He requested.
After Jesus had finished speaking to the crowds, He turned to Peter and told him to launch out into the deep. That was no request, but a command! He did not tell Peter to try it, but to do it. He had a specific objective in mind—it was to catch a draught of fish.
The Lord never minces words. He means what He says and says what He means. As far as He was concerned, those fish had already been caught.
He also told Peter to go to a specific place. This is important, because we can be attempting things for God that He never asked us to do and fail, or we can be doing the right thing, but at the wrong time or in the wrong place. The results can then be uncertain and we can become discouraged. My counsel is to do nothing until God speaks clearly, but when He does, act on it—just do it. He will not ask you to do something that you cannot do, even if the task seems impossible, because God gives us the ability. He told Moses to build the Tabernacle in the wilderness and that required abilities and talents long forgotten over 430 years of slavery. All they knew to do was make mud bricks, but God wanted craftsmanship that required artistic talents beyond their natural abilities. He anointed Bezaleel and Aholiab by the Holy Spirit to do the job!
If He tells us to do it, then do it!
Well, they were expert fishermen who knew how to read the tides and the phases of the moon and when the fish were normally there to be caught and told him so. “Look”, Peter said, “We have been at it all night and there’s just nothing there. I’m the fisherman. That’s what I know. You’re a preacher so you stick to your preaching and let me stick to my fishing.” This is the kind of attitude many people have today, even professing Christians. Jesus just smiled at him, saying, “Just do it” and they let down the net but Jesus told them nets! When Jesus met them they had been washing nets (the word their does not appear in the original).
Washing nets was the last thing to do before going home. Washing nets prepares them for the next day of fishing. The nets are inspected and repaired if necessary and then folded and stored ready for another fishing trip. They were prepared and this should be a lesson to us. We should be prepared for anything and this should be regarded as if it were a command: I give you a command in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, the One who will judge the living and the dead, and by his coming and his kingdom: Preach the Good News. Be ready at all times, and tell people what they need to do. Tell them when they are wrong. Encourage them with great patience and careful teaching, because the time will come when people will not listen to the true teaching but will find many more teachers who please them by saying the things they want to hear.
They will stop listening to the truth and will begin to follow false stories. But you should control yourself at all times, accept troubles, do the work of telling the Good News, and complete all the duties of a servant of God. 2 Timothy 4:1-5
Sometimes in life, we may have finished a task and engaged in other things (often legitimate) when God intervenes and upsets our equilibrium by asking us to break the mould, or to do something totally different or something that defies human logic. We need to be prepared for the next thing God asks us. It is not wise to rest on our laurels. Many preachers fall into that trap. They might have started well, but developed well-worn techniques and became creatures of habit, doing the same things they once did and are in essence living in the past.
It is not good to remain in the past, because our past never has a future.
Denominations and many large ministries are built on what God did once, but God moves and as He moves, we need to move with Him in the same manner that the Israelites had to move when the cloud of glory moved on. If we do not, we risk falling into a (religious) rut and a rut is merely a grave without ends. A classic example is the time when Israel was wandering in the wilderness. The day arrived when they walked around the corner and ran into a den of poisonous snakes. People started to die of snakebite and Moses called on God for help. God told him to make a brass serpent and erect it on a pole, instructing the people if they were bitten to stand beneath that pole and gaze upon it.
It worked! That was the tool God used then for that job—then! God moved on and the people moved with Him—and left those snakes behind! The only problem was that they took that brass snake with them and 400 years later were worshiping it!
Hezekiah ground that thing to dust calling it a Nehushtan. God’s people started to worship something that God once used as a tool but was no longer using. Many denominations are now worshiping or continuing to do what God did once but is no longer doing, or used something once as a mere tool, but is no longer using it.
Do what the prophet did and burn the thing! See 2 Kings 18:1-8 and Numbers 21:4-9.
They are afraid to try something different or break the mould. They are afraid of excess, or losing control.
Sometimes we have to stand aside and allow the Holy Spirit to have His way. Trust Him! Please cast aside any prejudices you might have and see if what I say is correct.
Folding nets is important as it permits them to be cast out easily without tangling and Jesus was asking them to undo their efforts. Please notice also that Jesus said nets. This meant that He intended them to use more than one. Simple maths tells me that one net cannot catch as many as several, so Jesus intended beforehand to reward them with a net-breaking, boat swamping haul. This reminds me of another time Peter went fishing. In Matthew 17, certain people asked Peter why Jesus did not pay tribute money. When he spoke with Jesus about it, the Lord told him to go fishing, saying that the First fish he caught would have the coin in its mouth, implying that there was more than one fish. It makes me wonder if every fish had a coin in its mouth.
God is not a God of merely making do, or a God of just enough, but a God of the overflow who provides exceeding abundantly more than we can imagine (see Ephesians 3:20).
When Jesus had been speaking, He had been talking to the crowds and Peter obviously would have heard him. Apparently, the geographical location has excellent natural acoustics and His words would have easily carried to everyone who was present, but Jesus then turned to Peter and told him to let down his nets. Jesus made it personal. He spoke directly to one individual.
He often singles one person out of a crowd, although He loves everyone, talks to everyone and wants everyone to come into blessing, relationship and more, there are often times when one single individual seems to stand out in the crowd—and you could be that one.
Jesus told Peter to let down his nets, not any old net—but the nets that were prepared for the next fishing trip! If we do not prepare to receive we my never receive. Blessed are they who expect nothing, for they shall not be disappointed.
You have something that is uniquely yours and it could be precisely what He wants! You may not think that you as an individual are important or have anything special to offer, but God knows it and wants That—not any old thing!
His intention was very clear and it was not a simple matter of trying one more time, but doing it and to put some more effort into it without quitting because there was a haul of fish waiting out there. All you need to do is follow instructions.
Peter’s reply is true to life. Some people can labor in life to the point of becoming so tired and weary that they become faint from exhaustion and to want to give up. Peter was like that. He had heard Jesus preach before. He had been there when Jesus healed his mother in law and he had just heard Jesus teach the people, but he was tired and frustrated.
Jesus fully intended to bless Peter, but in order to do that, He had to break through an attitude of his heart.
Perhaps out of his frustration and disappointment, or perhaps Peter had become so tired, he was merely living in survival mode, he immediately replied, “We have toiled all night and caught nothing, but it seems that Jesus had spoken only to Peter, for no other mention was made about other people. Peter revealed what was in his heart by giving that answer and he didn’t even give the others time to speak. It seems that his nature was to blurt something out before thinking things through, which was revealed later in the Gospels until Jesus changed him.
The word toiled comes from the Greek word Kopiao that means, to labor, to feel fatigue, or be wearied.
If you have ever labored so hard for something to the point of exhaustion, Peter’s comment makes sense. It is easy to become weary from putting much effort into things and not immediately see the benefit of your labor.
Imagine how Noah would have felt. After all those years, building that boat whilst preaching righteousness about something unheard of before and not having one conversion would discourage anyone. Modern day preachers would dub him a failure, but He remained faithful to the task God gave him and never deviated from that one single task.
We can become tired and weary from what we consider to be a lack of results and become so discouraged that we would like to abandon our boats. They represent our perceived source of income, or the thing that carries us across the seas of life. They could represent anything that wearies us, which is why we need to allow the burden bearer to do what He promised. If we embark on a project that He did not ask us to do, He is not obliged to assist, but when we obey His specific instructions, all the resources and assistance we need are there. It would be wise to stop and check if God really asked that task to be done and avoid much trauma.
When Jesus arrived, Peter and his partners had already left their boats and were at a point of exhaustion. They worked, worked, worked, until they became weary and discouraged because of the lack of expected results.
Many people are like that. They may have started on some project with much zeal and enthusiasm, but became discouraged from the perceived lack of fruit or results in our time-frame. God’s timetable is vastly different to ours and usually takes a much longer time. Remember, that the best is often left until last!
The secret to success is to recognize who and where we are and allow Jesus to get into our boat. When Jesus steps into our boat and we permit Him to apply the Word of God to our lives, things can take a dramatic change from lack to abundance—from despair to hope and from sickness to health. When the storms of life assail us and we stay in the boat, all we see are other disciples, but when we get out of the boat as Peter once did we too can walk on water—but keep your eyes on the Lord.
Jesus told him to launch out into the deep.
We correctly think of going away from the shore and out into deeper water but this means much more than that. One of the meanings of that word is return.
Peter had failed. When we fail in something it is easy to give up. Sometimes this is necessary as we could be trying the wrong thing. If we have attempted something and it did not work, we should ask God if we should be doing it. If it is OK, then we may be doing it the wrong way, or trying it at the wrong time.
When we make the effort that He authorizes, don’t quit!
If we do, then get back onto course again. Return to what He asked you to do. Launch out into the deep!
Jesus’ command was like saying, “Get back on course. Return to your task”, coming from the Greek word Epanagō It means to launch out to lead, to thrust out and to return.
This is of particular interest to those who have tried and tried to do something unsuccessfully and have grown weary. Do not quit! Get back to the task at hand. Cast out again! The master fisherman knows where the fish are and He will tell you where and when to catch your haul.
Working in partnerships and unity can produce much greater results than trying to do things alone, but remember that unity is not the same as unison. We can and do differ in many ways at times which is OK and is wonderful, but when we get alongside each other for the common good, we get better results.
I believe that the only way to obtain the same results as Simon Peter and His partners obtained that day is to call upon partners to help pull in the net that has been cast.
Jesus had told him to let down his nets, but Peter said that he would let down the net (singular)! Peter Said, “I will let down the net”, but we see that They let down the net. Who are They? Jesus had been speaking to Peter, but when Peter answered, They let down the net. They enclosed a great multitude of fishes and Their net started to break. They called for the assistance of their partners who were in the other ship. They came to help them and Both ships were filled so much that they started to sink. Why can’t churches work like that?
Jesus had called one man and they were in only one boat that belonged to that man, but suddenly others were involved, making me wonder if Peter told his partners what Jesus said, or if they had overheard Jesus and decided to join in. It opens up a whole range of possibilities, but one thing that is glaringly obvious to me is that the work of the Lord requires people working together as a team to get the job done.
The benefits are enormous. Firstly, a joint effort can bring bigger or better results. Teamwork lightens the load on the individual. There is protection with numbers. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 states- Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their work. And if one has a fall, the other will give him a hand; but unhappy is the man who is by himself, because he has no helper.
So again, if two are sleeping together they are warm, but how may one be warm by himself? And two attacked by one would be safe, and three cords twisted together are not quickly broken.
See also Proverbs 11:14, 15:22 and 24:6.
I used my speedboat for water sports and fishing. It was mine! I owned it! I drove it and enjoyed it, catching many a fish from it, but I never used it alone for several reasons, one being the safety factor and the other was practical—I could not drive my car, launch and retrieve the boat by myself. I needed someone else to help me.
The pictures here shw me in my PFD (Sea Rescue jacket ) and on board one of teh rescue boats. When we are called out in all kinds of weather to conduct search and rescue events as directed by the water police, we follow strict protocols. Training is extremely important and demands discipline. One qualified skipper is assigned on each boat and he is in charge, even though we are all licensed and experienced operators. One man mans the radio and assists the skipper in watching the instruments like radar, depth sounders, infrared cameras and more. Other crew members perform tasks—as allocated by the skipper. They do nothing else, but can fit into any role if necessary.
We do not make up our own rules as we go along but follow procedures. When for example I am a crew member looking for someone in the water and see that person, I must issue a special message three times and, keeping my eye on that person at all times and point towards that person so the skipper knows and I never take my eyes off that person.
The lesson to us is to stay focused on our objective—as directed by the Lord.
Sometimes we are searching for a corpse! Sometimes we have assisted air force, navy and the coast watch in catching smugglers.
We follow precise protocols in communication at all times, especially on the radio, using international standards so that there can be no confusion. A “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday” message is universal, but the church does not function like this, often using “Christianese” languages that unchurched people do not understand and often dislike.
If we do this in the natural realm, how much more should we become trained as disciples, in the business of helping save peoples’ lives for eternity?
Discipleship is vital yet largely overlooked in most churches, but Jesus told us to make disciples.
Everyone in sea rescue is involved and in Peter’s story, other people got involved somehow and that is a wonderful thing because although Jesus had only called one man, many other people were blessed.
Oh, how I wish more pastors would see this and train their people to do the work of the ministry and allow the Lord to do His thing.
They suddenly discovered that their net was full and started to pull it in, but the net started to break with the weight. “Hey, come over here and help us” they called out to their partners in the other boat. They came over and by combining their efforts, they managed to bring in the haul.
It was as if all the fish came from miles around and just begged to get caught, saying, “Take me, take me”. They were in danger of now getting swamped and as Simon looked up, his eyes caught the intent gaze of the Lord.
It was as if He was looking right through him, as if he knew his innermost thoughts. He did!
Peter suddenly felt very uncomfortable. Somehow, he felt unclean and dirty in a way he’d not felt before. That was just too much. He couldn’t handle that any more and almost begged, “Please leave me alone”.
I’ve had such an experience and it is awesome! We can have a divine encounter and suddenly realize our frail humanity, but I am so glad that He is gracious and kind and very patient with us.
When they reached the shore, Jesus started to walk away and, momentarily pausing, turned back towards them and said, “Follow me”.
That is all He said. That is all we need.
What was it about this fellow? They had the best catch of all in their lives and He was asking them to follow him? It did not seem logical. They had their boats to pull up onto the beach. Their nets needed washing and folding again. They had all those fish to clean and take to the market and the crowd of people were watching all this, some even waiting to buy a fish and pay cash on the spot. You can’t turn down an opportunity like that. That’s crazy! It was a cash-in-hand deal and you just don’t walk away from an opportunity like that. Their families were waiting at home for their return, so the legitimate pressures and demands of life we all face from time to time were very real.
You and I are not immune from the affairs of life. If a problem arises, that is not the most important issue. What matters is not what happens, but how we respond. What would you or I do in a situation? How do you cope? What do you do when you seem to have done everything right, and that problem seems to rear up and hit you? It is how you respond that really counts.
It is what you do when things seem to go wrong that makes the mettle of a man.
What to do is to find out what God says about the thing and start saying it too. Start speaking God’s unfailing word into that thing and then do what it says to do.
Strangely, it seemed as if it was the right thing to do, as if it was—natural. They looked at each other wordlessly and then turned back towards him. In a few paces, they were standing there before him as he said, “I’m going to make you fishers of men”.
God had crossed their paths. He had intervened in their daily routine and changed their whole future and destiny.
This same prophet—this same man, this very same Jesus could cross your path today. His call has not changed. His eyes still see the same things. His ears are still listening for the same sounds. His voice is still the same.
What He said then, He is still saying today. “Follow me. You and I are going fishing”.
Getting His word out requires dedication and commitment. He needs our help to do this just as much as we need His help.
The message never changes but the way we present it can. God’s word works—and it does not need props. The anointing is real and that anointing is the only way to do the work of the Lord correctly and obtain the right results. It too does not need props.
We must never lose sight of the work of the Holy Ghost in the equation and He, who is the Spirit of truth who always points to Jesus, leads us and guides us and reproves the world of sin and righteousness and judgment will do what Jesus said He would do. Read Jesus’ account in John Chapters fourteen to seventeen.
Oh, yes, the message never changes and it will work for you and me just as it did for the Lord, if we do not filter it in any way.
At this point, we should remember that there are differnt techniques involved when fishing.
This is equally as true in ministry. If we are to be truly successful, we should allow God to direct us in the way He wants us to go and not try to do something that He has not authorized. We can also be attempting to do the right thing, but in the wrong manner or at the wrong time.
I am an avid amateur fisherman and enjoyed an assortment of fishing activities that ranged from fishing on the Great Barrier Reef of Australia to the small rivers and estuaries and an occasional trip to some of our lakes. Each place was different. The fish were different. Fishing techniques therefore had to be different. Trout were caught in fresh water, using fly tackle, but out at the reef, heavy tackle was the order of the day and a line of one hundred pound breaking strain was common, whereas fly fishing for trout required very fine equipment. In the rivers and estuaries where I spent most time, the techniques differed again and even more so, depending on the desired species. Some fish fed on the bottom and others on or near the surface.
Some species fed on diets of weeds, whereas others required the use of various baits, live or otherwise, or lures.
Sometimes I bought bait but preferred to catch my own and there again, the techniques greatly varied, depending on what kind of fishing I intended doing.
Fishing at night was different to fishing during the day and no two excursions were ever the same.
I preferred incoming tides, so liked to be fishing when the tide was either at its low point, or close to it.
At the ebb, the water was absolutely still, almost lifeless, but as the tide started to turn and run in, the fish started feeding.
The spiritual lesson I learned is that for every endeavor in God, we must determine the best way to go about it—and how to go about it, which of course requires us to obtain the mind and will of God on that particular occasion.
Jesus applied this principle. He used great variety in His ministry and I will use healing blindness as an illustration.
He touched blind people and they were healed. He cast evil spirits out of people and they received their sight. He spat on the ground and made clay with which He placed on the blind person’s eyes with a command to wash and the blindness was healed. He spoke to blind Bartimæus and he was healed. He laid His hands on one man twice to restore full vision.
For us to do what He told us to do, we have to follow His example. There are no set formulae. Every situation and circumstance differs, so we must find out from the Holy Spirit what to do on that occasion.
What this incident tells me is that Jesus clearly wants us to catch so much that we cannot contain it. It also tells me that we cannot do it alone and it also reveals that we need a specific word from the Lord because it is at His word, we receive the authority and the ability to do whatever it is that He has asked us as an individual to do. Peter had received a word from Jesus and responded to that particular word and it worked!
It defied logic. It did not make sense.
What we are to do never makes sense but it does make faith!
We now turn to the second part of our story that goes as follows-
I'm goin fishin
The small group of men sat discontentedly in a huddle, carefully watching the door of the small room. They spoke with quiet hushed voices, jumping at the occasional noises outside wondering if the door would be suddenly kicked open and soldiers swarm inside to take them. Would they be arrested, beaten and tortured or—executed?
Their leader had been betrayed, arrested and publicly executed, leaving them in disarray and wondering what to do next. Were they to be betrayed also?
Who was going to lead them now? Their cause seemed lost and it appeared to be a hopeless situation. The enemy always seemed to have the upper hand.
The community had grown accustomed to the alien’s inflexible demands and some of the prominent businessmen and civil leaders had joined sides with them, with a select few appointed to positions of authority. They exercised their powers ruthlessly and mercilessly, becoming just as bad as the conquerors, exacting taxes and claiming property belonging to the people as their own.
They had bribed the police force and the remnant of their army were either scattered into the hills and disbanded, or forced to become vagabonds and members of underground movements.
Some guerrilla groups engaged in subterfuge and sabotage and extremists committed assassination and a few of their leaders had also been caught. There seemed to be no end to the enemy victory and occupation of their beloved homeland.
Allies could not, or would not help them.
Their nation was being pillaged and raped. Their children were becoming brainwashed by propaganda or taken as slaves with some of the womenfolk and their beloved traditions and culture were being slowly eroded away by the infidels. They seemed to now be totally alone and naked, with their dreams shattered.
Does anything sound slightly familiar?
One man slowly stood up and walked to the door, saying, “Well, I’m goin’ fishin” and slipped out into the cold darkness of the night and a few others decided to join him. After all, there was nothing else to do and they could not stay cooped up in their quarters forever, despite the curfew and the trauma of recent events. They had to do something, no matter what, to take their minds off things, but it didn’t seem to be the same as at other times.
It was dark, cold and miserable and the fish simply weren’t there, but they stayed there as most fishermen do, waiting for as long as possible before the inevitable return to normal life (if there ever would be such a thing again).
Sitting on the banks of a river, or inside a boat, listening to the steady lap, lap, lap of the waves can be therapeutic. It helps one to relax and unwind and sometimes bonds people together. It enables one to escape from the pressures and problems that come in life.
What else could they do anyhow?
The darkness of the evening gradually made way for that pre-dawn glow. The morning mist began to dissipate as the sun’s warming rays came up from behind the distant hillside and features of the landscape started to come into focus. As it often does, the orange ball of the sun suddenly popped up into the sky, the shadows disappeared and the previously hidden features of the night landscape came into view. A man was standing on the distant shoreline. They could not make out his features as he was too far away. He called out. “Have you caught anything?” Well, what a dumb thing to ask under the circumstances. Of course they hadn’t. It was a spur of the moment decision to go fishing.
Everything was wrong. The tide wasn’t right and they had gone out on a spur of the moment decision.
Where did they get those boats? Who was the owner? Did they have to ask for permission to use them?
I believe that they were Peter’s boats!
Religious attitudes imply that Peter was as poor as a church mouse, but he was a married man with a home, a fishing business, partners and a father. Think about it!
They weren’t in the mood for pleasantries with strangers. For all they knew he could have been a spy and setting a trap for soldiers who may be laying in wait behind the sand dunes. “Tell him to get lost”, someone said. “Ignore him”, said another. Someone called back and said in a heavy voice, “No”, wondering what this stranger wanted and wishing he would go away and leave them alone.
The man walked to the waters edge and said, “You’re doing it wrong. Put your nets out on the other side of the boat.” “Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained I guess. We’ll give it another half hour and go”, said one, so they dropped the net over the side. Suddenly the water seemed to churn beneath them and they felt a series of jolts and bumps as the boat began to shudder. “What’s going on?” someone called out in alarm. “We’ve snagged our net. That stupid busybody there! We shouldn’t have listened to him. As if we haven’t got enough problems. Quick. Stop the boat and get that net freed before it gets wrecked. C’mon, hurry up.”
As it turned out, the boat was not in any danger after all. The net was not caught fast on the reef or submerged rocks. “It’s full of fish” someone exclaimed. “I’ve never seen so many before. What’s going on?” Another suddenly said, “It’s the boss. I thought he was dead. What on earth—?”
I guess that you have now recognized a familiar story, even though it may have been told in a different fashion with some poetic license. The factual account is as follows and it is taken from John chapter twenty-one-
Later Jesus appeared again to the disciples beside the Lake of Galilee. This is how it happened:
A group of us were there—Simon Peter, Thomas, “The Twin,” Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, my brother James and I and two other disciples. Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” “We’ll come too,” we all said. We did, but caught nothing all night. At dawn we saw a man standing on the beach but couldn’t see who he was. He called, “Any fish, boys?” “No,” we replied.
Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get plenty of them!” So we did, and couldn’t draw in the net because of the weight of the fish, there were so many!
Then I said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” At that, Simon Peter put on his tunic (for he was stripped to the waist) and jumped into the water and swam ashore.
The rest of us stayed in the boat and pulled the loaded net to the beach, about 300 feet away. When we got there, we saw that a fire was kindled and fish were frying over it, and there was bread.
“Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus said.
So Simon Peter went out and dragged the net ashore. By his count there were 153 large fish; and yet the net hadn’t torn. “Now come and have some breakfast!” Jesus said; and none of us dared ask him if he really was the Lord, for we were quite sure of it. Then Jesus went around serving us the bread and fish.
Let us look at what happened. Jesus had been arrested and they all forsook Him. He was crucified and the tomb was later found to be empty. Jesus had appeared to them, but their whole lives were in turmoil and they were still emotionally distraught.
They were confused and most likely afraid of what may happen next. Peter denied Him and was plagued by guilt and his feelings of guilt and remorse over his denial could have been too much for him so he simply quit!
Peter had quit
We must always remember that God uses ordinary people like you and me. He can turn failures into success stories, cowards into brave men and unskilled people into master craftsmen. There are many examples in scripture and Peter is one.
He was just like you and me—no one special. He had actually given up at this point.
Peter said I go a fishing. If we look at the phrase the word Hypagō is used. It describes how someone can influence others and lead them away. It has several meanings relating to departing, going, get thee hence, going away and to withdraw or hide from sight. Peter had quit! The problem from this meaning is that when someone gives up, it is possible to adversely influence other people. The other disciples who heard him joined him. John said that they went forth immediately to enter a ship. The phrase went forth lines up with what I just mentioned as its meanings include come, depart, going forth and the like, but also relate to departing out of something, to escape, to get out, to go abroad or away. The Greek word used is Exerchomai.
John said that they entered that ship immediately. They were all quick to respond so this makes me wonder about their feelings and emotions. It also makes me wonder where they got that ship in such a short time. As I previously discussed, I ask, “Where did they get the ships?” It appears that there was more than one, because John said that they entered a ship that in the Greek was a Ploion—a vessel capable of ocean voyage. It was not a small vessel as I once thought.
We see later that when they realized that Jesus was on the shore and they had caught all those fish, Peter dived overboard to swim to shore, but the others rowed ashore in a little boat.
The name given to this boat is Ploiarion.
This refers to a much smaller boat. That makes sense, considering that Peter had a fishing fleet with partners.
I think that the ship from which they tried fishing belonged to Peter and I believe that he still owned his business. After all, he was a married man who still owned a home where Jesus healed his mother-in-law.
We are sometimes quick to leap to conclusions and when the bible says that he forsook all to follow Jesus, we assume he walked away from everything and became a homeless, penniless follower of Christ, but that may not be correct.
Such an attitude suits the opinions of those who advocate poverty as a necessity to being a Christian. Peter may have left his father in charge of everything and he did after all, have partners. Did they keep the business operational? The more I ponder over this, the act of forsaking all to follow Jesus does not necessarily mean giving everything away, but placing the things God knows we need and desire on a lower priority. It means to put or Him first. Paul told us in 1 Timothy 5:8 that if we do not take proper care of our families, we are worse than an infidel who has denied the faith.
God expects us to get our priorities right and this is revealed in the tithe that is designed to care for the widow, the orphan, the stranger and the Levite. It is primarily food not money in the sense most churches advocate! Check it out!
Peter was a professional fisherman yet despite his experience and local knowledge they caught nothing all night—no fish, no signs of a fish and not even a smell of a fish. John’s account states that they had caught nothing and one of the meanings of this word included people. In evangelistic terms they had toiled all night and they never had a single soul affected or saved!
When morning came, Jesus was waiting on shore for them. I think this is significant.
They were out there toiling, wasting time and effort, probably talking all sorts of negative things, feeling lower in spirit by the minute—but Jesus was not out there with them! He was not raising a sweat! He was standing on the shore beside a warm fire while they were out there wet, cold and miserable. Sure He never leaves us or forsakes us, but He is not in the stuff we can get ourselves into. He does not come down to our level but calls us up to His level.
He bids us to come out to where He is.
When they were in a boat in the middle of the storm, Jesus was walking on the waves untouched by the waves and the account indicates that He was going to bypass them! When Peter called to Him, Jesus told him to get out of the boat and come to Him. Sometimes we have to get our feet wet by getting out of the boat of our present condition and get to dry shore where He is. If we stay in the boat all we see is other disciples, but if we are out there we see Jesus!
Jesus asked them if they had caught anything. He knew they hadn’t. He told them to cast the net (singular). They had several nets, but He wanted them to cast one only. Previously He asked Peter to let down his nets (plural). When He has something lined up for us, we do not necessarily have to try this and that and the other thing because that is not what He asked.
If He said to do one task—do it! He is specific.
When Peter was asked about the tribute money, Jesus told him to take his fishing rod and cast out to catch a fish that had a special coin in its mouth. Jesus was being very specific. It was not the only fish. See Matthew 17:24-27.
He told them to cast it out on the right side. Again, Jesus was very specific.
Anyone knows that there are two sides to a ship and out there, it probably doesn’t matter which side you cast from because the fish are under the boat. Why the right side?
The right side or right hand is the favored position.
Jesus sits at the Father’s right hand. He was telling theme to cast out onto the favored position for a special purpose and it was to receive what was due them. The right side does indeed means the literal right hand side, but there is more to it. The Greek word Meros that was used, refers to receiving a prescribed section or allotment, a division or a share of something. There is a prescribed portion or allotment reserved for you and Jesus knows where it is and how to get it to you. You might be casting your net out the wrong side, doing it prematurely, or leaving it too late and the fish you seek have either swum away or have not yet arrived! Think about it. I will speak more on this later.
Whilst they were doing their own thing, Jesus was having a BBQ.
As soon as they reached where He was, they noticed what He had already done! One thing we must understand is the fact that whatever it is that concerns us, we are trusting God to do or are expecting to happen, is already done as far as He is concerned.
We may be out there somewhere toiling away trying to make it come together for us, but He has already done it. All we have to do is get to where He is and where His provision and answer is located. The difficulty we face is in knowing what to do about it. I wish I could tell you how in a simple way, but I too sometimes felt like those men in that boat, so now that I have hopefully learned a thing or two, I listen to the voice of the Lord and do what He says. His way works, but your way and my way doesn’t!
Please always remember that Jesus said that He could not do anything of His own. He spoke of Himself- Truly I say to you, The Son is not able to do anything himself; he is able to do only what he sees the Father doing; whatever the Father does the Son does it in the same way. John 5:19.
He did not say that He would not but that He could not! I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. John 5:30
Learn to read the waves
There are some object lessons that the Lord taught me several years ago when my wife and I once spent some time on the Gold Coast.
I should point out that Surfers Paradise on Australia’s Gold Coast is truly one of the great surfing beaches in the world, with the combination of great weather, squeaky clean white sand and of course the beautiful Pacific Ocean to complement it all.
We often packed some food and drove to a place we had chosen to spend the day with the Lord. We found several places that we really liked and returned to them often. Sometimes we would rise at 4am for what we called our fourth watch and go to one of those spots and pray, watch the sunrise and walk on the beach. Interestingly several years later, the Lord told me to stop having 4th watch and the monthly all night prayers we once had, telling us that we were wasting time and that He is not impressed with such prayer meetings. When we did as He told us, we have since found out that our communication with Him is constant and vastly improved.
Nevertheless, we really enjoyed such times and on one such morning, I felt the Lord’s presence so powerfully, I fully expected to turn and see His footsteps in the sand beside mine! He spoke to me about the time Enoch walked with God and I expected to be taken up!
One morning, I saw a large group of whales not very far off the beach. It was a wonderful and amazing sight and they were there for most of the morning, frolicking and slapping the waves with their tails. We returned the next day to see them, but they were not there.
The following day, we went to another beach saw and about twenty or so dolphins swimming off the shoreline. They were so close, I felt that I could throw a stone and hit them (not that I would). A few hours later, they turned and sped off down the coast. They were not there the following day.
On another occasion, as I was strolling down the beach, I could see a school of large fish swimming parallel to the shore in the midst of breaking waves. The water was very clear and the fish were quite visible, but they were not there the following day.
One place we often visited had a small hill whose rocks extended into the water. On either side are two of those perfect sandy beaches I described. I sometimes went there and walked out on the rocks to the waters edge and sat there with the Lord.
A man walked past me and stood on a rock staring out at the ocean. He suddenly picked up his surfboard and dived headlong into the water with the board underneath and slightly in front of him and simply paddled out into the deep.
A few other men did likewise and I learned something from them. They were reading the waves.
They stood there observing the wave direction, motion and speed, before jumping in. If they dived in too early, the breaking wave would sweep them backwards to crash on the rocks and injure them. If they hesitated too long, the wave would have receded and they would have dived in only to land on rocks that had been exposed.
The Lord spoke to me then. He told me, “Robert, learn to read the waves”.
Before attempting something in God, we need to know His timing and the other factors that determine success. In other words, read the waves. An error of judgment and timing can be detrimental, perhaps harmful.
I will use one final illustration, which is very important and continue with our story. In one place, there was a small natural rock pool that was fed by the tide. I was standing on the rocks surrounding this pool, when the Lord told me to look down.
I did and saw nothing. He told me to keep looking and as I did a small fish only about six inches long swam out from under a rock. It was very pretty with purple and yellow bands on its body like the kind of fish one would expect to see in an aquarium.
The Lord asked me, “You couldn’t see it before, but it was there all the time, wasn’t it?” I had to admit that and He told me to keep watching. A breeze suddenly gently disturbed the surface of the water and when calmed, that fish had gone.
The Lord told me to keep watching and as I did, another fish, but a different type to the first swam out from under another rock.
My! It was a pretty little thing.
The Lord then said, “You couldn’t see that one before either could you? It was there all the time, but you could not see it.”
What He showed me that day is that there are times when we cannot see everything that is happening.
Just because you can’t see it, does not mean that it is not there or is not happening.
He told me that we cannot go fishing today for fish that will not be there until tomorrow or that we cannot expect to catch fish today when they were there yesterday.
He also taught me that we have to know what kind of fish are present at that particular time and to know what to do in that particular situation.
This is why we really do need to rely on the leading of the Holy Spirit if we truly want to do God’s work God’s way and get God’s results. Sadly, far too many churches are doing all sorts of things to attract people and I believe that we should use every means possible, but not if He did not ask us to do that—and definitely not at the expense of the anointing!
Smoke machines and strobe lights might work well in a nightclub, but in worship… every time… in every meeting…with what is often a version of head-banging music non-stop without variety? God is a God of variety and we need to be able to reach out to people in every way we can, but are people coming for entertainment or to meet with God? I know that God is not afraid of noise. He is noisy at times also, but not all the time! The same things apply for silence in the church. There are times when silence is not required and might not be Godly! Reverential silence, “silent prayer” and solemn worship could be inappropriate.
Great joy and exuberance in the church is just as valid as the sometimes funeral parlor solemnity. Why not conduct your own biblical research into worship? One Hebrew description is to spin around as if under violent emotion. Solomon had a massive orchestra and choir for the dedication of the Temple and God visited it!
Ask the Spirit of the Lord to tell you what to do and allow Him to do what He wants to do. Be flexible. Be ready to change. Always apply the appropriate tool or technique in a given situation—at that particular time, because what worked last time might not ever work again, or the conditions may never be the same again.
Think again about fishing. The outcome depends at times on the variety of fish one wants to catch. Certain species are only caught in nets and not by other means, whilst fishing lines are used for other species. There are countless variations and techniques. Some folk are better at reaching certain classes of people than others.
I have ridden a motorcycle but have never been a biker, so I might not know how to talk the talk or dress in the appropriate manner and so may not qualify to catch bikers!
An aviator talks aviation language but might not know the language of the medical profession; an artist may be fantastic at painting a beautiful piece of art, but unable to lay a brick. Find some common point if you need to.
Establish a bridge or point of connection and focus on that. Jesus did this when He spoke to the Woman at the well. He used water as the common point of reference and a whole community was saved.
After all, we are all in the business of catching fish—aren’t we?
You or I can legitimately say, “I’m goin fishin”, but please let it not be in the negative sense I described before.
If we do not catch any today, we can go fishing again. The conditions might not have been right.
The fish we sought may not have been there or they were not hungry, even though we used the correct techniques and equipment. Presentation of bait to a fish is of vital importance when fishing as I do.
That hunger element is very important. We can be very enthusiastic and want to win the lost, as we should, but we need to remember that the very people we want to reach just might not see the need (yet) or they are simply not hungry. In many instances, those same people might have had a poor experience, been hurt, witnessed financial mismanagement in churches, witnessed the various scandals like child abuse and more and think that we are no different.
They do not always understand or even be turned off by our Christian jargon, so avoid it.
We have to offer something that they want, but do it differently, rather than come down to their level.
There have been many times I returned home without a fish, but there have been many more times when I came home with a haul! There have been times when I preached and it seemed as if there was no response, but some time later, someone approached me with a testimony that the word of God that I had shared, had produced the required miracle in their life.
Right at this present time, I am getting the fishing bug again! I am getting ready for something new and this requires change on my part.
I am conducting much research into doing some things I have never done before because I am not content with the status quo. If things are not working as you think they should, perhaps it is time to break the mould and dare to follow the cloud that the Israelites did when they followed God.
I want fish! I am hungry for fish! I am preparing to catch fish like I have never caught before and different kinds of fish in different locations.
I am talking of people of course, but real fish is also on the wish list.
In closing, I want to share a vision the Lord gave me some time ago.
It may help explain things to you.
In this vision, I was standing on the shores of an ocean or sea and saw a man on the shore casting a net, but he was having problems. He called me, asking for help. I went to him and took the net from him, showed him how to cast it and he then caught many fish. I then saw a man in a canoe with a fly-fishing outfit but he too was in trouble and he also asked me to show him how to catch fish. I took the rod from him and showing him how to catch fish, demonstrated it by catching some. He too started to have success. I then went to another man in a larger boat and he was also fishing unsuccessfully. He asked me for help and I got aboard and showed him how to go about it and he started to catch fish.
I saw various groups of people all engaged in fishing of one form or another. Their techniques differed. Some were seeking shrimp in nets. Others were seeking trout in a running stream. Others were on the shore and casting into waves.
The fish differed in every instance, but one thing the fishermen had in common was that no one was having any success.
Every one of them called out to me requesting that I show them how to catch fish.
I finally saw myself on board a very large ocean going commercial vessel and many men were aboard, hauling in huge nets.
The diameter of the rope in the nets was almost too large to fit into the palm of my hand and the mesh (the gaps in the net between the ropes) was very large. They all called out to me, “Robert. Come and help us”.
I was dressed in a good suit, white shirt with tie and removed my coat, loosened my tie, rolled up my sleeves and stood beside them, helping them to haul in the nets that were now full of fish of every kind you can imagine.
The fish we caught together as a team were all excellent quality with no unwanted species!
Despite the large size of the mesh, we caught everything from calamari to prawns, fresh water lobbies, lobsters and crayfish, crabs and oysters, salmon and trout, large fish, small fish, fresh water species and saltwater species and they were all together in that one net. Something like that is impossible, but if we believe in the possibilities of the impossible all things are possible...
The significance to me is that each and every one of us, especially ministers, should work together in unity for the common purpose of fulfilling Jesus’ great commission. Instead, we seem to be competing with each other, or suspect others, compare ourselves with each other, mimic others and more. Part of my own commission is to offer assistance to other pastors, but the offer is often rejected. One person has talents and abilities, experiences and resources another may not have, but these things are not often shared openly and freely without conditions and the whole body of Christ is cheated. Psalm 13; Proverbs 15 (especially verse 23); Romans 10; 1 John 3:10-20 and Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 are some scriptural principles to adopt.
There are many people around the world who have diverse backgrounds and cultures, life experiences, needs and wants and so on, but all have one thing in common—they all need Jesus! You could be that one special person with a unique ability or personality to do one task and if you do not do it, that job may never be done—that one single person you could meet might never get to heaven. He or she could be another Billy Graham, or another Barnabus. It can be easy. I was conversing with someone many years ago who asked me why I was different and I said that I knew Jesus.
I asked him if he wanted to know the Lord and he said yes. It was so simple, I nearly missed it. The conversation was on the lines of “Do you know Jesus?” The answer was, “No”.
I replied, “Would you like to?” The answer was, “Yes”. That was it! There was no discussion about end time prophecy, the state of the world, politics or anything else we can so easily get caught up with and really achieve little.
We make things more difficult than they really are.
This story has a real and practical application. You can apply it to any area of life and I whilst have majored on the spiritual aspect, the principles can work anywhere.
Perhaps you are hungry, or have started to think that you have been labouring all night and may be thinking that nothing is working for you. You could even be on the verge of quitting.
If so, I have a word for you and it is, “Don’t quit!” “Cast out on the right side.”
You may have to change your attitude and the way you go about things, but that’s only a problem if we permit it to be one.
Just get a specific word from the Lord and do it.
Jesus had been speaking to everyone at that time, but He turned to one man to gave a specific word to him only, “Peter, you let down your nets and you will receive your blessing and experience your life changing miracle.”
Today however, that instruction now applies to us all.
Jesus wants you to catch a net breaking, boat swamping haul!
He said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” He—will Make Us fishers of men!
Do you want to come fishing with me?
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