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This is a multipart story about fishing

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. Luke 5:1-3.

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

Fishing fleet Peter, Deacons & Ministry Nets Partnership Follow me

A personal anecdote:

I was once 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 flyfishing 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 would buy 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 endeavour in God, we much determine the best way to go about it, which of course necessitates our getting 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 you as an individual to do

We now turn to the second part of our story that goes as follows-

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, sabotage and extremists committed assassination and sabotage 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 the 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 biting, 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 it 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, seemingly without any prior preparation, as this was 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. 

Use your nets and put them 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. Their whole lives were in turmoil.  They were 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 and he simply quit!

I say that because of the words used to describe his saying, “I am going fishing”.

The Greek word used is Hypagō and it has several meanings relating to departing, going, going away, get thee hence and to withdraw or retire as if sinking out of sight.  He wanted to sink out of sight and return to what he knew best, which was fishing. Peter had quit! 

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.

When John said that they entered that ship immediately, they were all quick to respond and 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. 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 PloiarionThis refers to a much smaller boat. 

That makes sense, considering that Peter had a fishing fleet with partners.  I think therefore that the ship from which they tried fishing belonged to Peter.

I believe that he still owned his business. After all, he was a married man who still owned a home that was where Jesus healed his mother-in-law.  We are quick to leap to conclusions at times 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. That 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. Surely they kept the business operational. 

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 means 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 standing on the shore beside a warm fire while they were out there 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. 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. It was not the only fish. Jesus was being very specific. 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 favoured position. Jesus sits at the Father’s right hand.  He was telling theme to cast out onto the favoured 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.

There is a prescribed portion or allotment reserved for you.

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 mine doesn’t!

Object lessons:

There are some object lessons that the Lord taught me several years ago when Marge and I once spending 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. 

Marge and I would pack some food and drive 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 and go to one of those places and pray, watch the sunrise and walk on the beach. 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! 

Lesson number one:
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 as usual, very clear and the fish were quite visible. 

As with the dolphins, the fish were not there the following day.

Lesson number two:
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 to this spot 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 simple 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, or read the waves.

An error of judgement and timing can be detrimental, perhaps harmful. 

Lesson number three:
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. I did and saw nothing. He said, Keep looking and as I did a small fish only about six inches long swam out from under a rock. It was the kind of fish one would expect to see in an aquarium I guess. It was very pretty with purple and yellow bands on its body. 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?” He continued, “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. 

The implications:
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 now 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 now 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 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 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!

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.

It 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 may not then 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?

In conclusion, 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.

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 period of time, I am getting the fishing bug again!

I had not been out for a long time, but suddenly got the urge again and purchased new rods, reels and tackle.

Several days later a friend invited me to go fishing with him in his boat.

It was a wonderful day together. We have been out again since and I can proudly say that we dined well on my catch!

What I am doing is getting ready for something new. 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. This requires change on my part.

A vision: 
I want to now share a vision the Lord gave me some time ago.

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 caught many fish. He was then successful.

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.

In this vision, 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 they all had in common was that no one had 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 fishing ship. It was a huge 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 suit, white shirt with tie, 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 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 everyone of them were together in that one net.

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!

Jesus told Peter (and us), “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” He—will Make Us fishers of men!

Perhaps you are hungry, or have started to think that you have been labouring all night. You 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!”

Changes may be required and you may also have to start letting your nets down on the right side of the boat this time—based on a specific Word of the Lord to you. Jesus had been speaking to everyone, but He turned to one man and gave a specific word to that man and no one else, “Peter, you let down your nets and you will receive your blessing and experience your life changing miracle.”

Jesus wants you to catch a net breaking, boat swamping haul!

Do you want to come fishing with me?

Blessings,

Robert.

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