TEXT: Luke 5:1-11
During our time together today I want us to examine Christ’s invitation to Peter to follow Him, and the five responses he went through to accept that invitation. Not everyone goes through all five of these responses, but many do, and today, like Peter, you may find yourself at the end of one of those invitations to follow the Lord Jesus Christ into some deeper place of service, only to be teetering on the edge of what to do. As I share them, imagine yourself running down the baseline of life. Will you too be one of the gutsy who throws caution to the wind and abandons all? Think about the verse that we have just read in Luke 5:1-11 and then work through these five responses.
Response 1: DISINTEREST
According to the gospel of John, Peter met Jesus the day after Jesus was baptized, but there little indication that he stayed with Him for any length of time. I am of the opinion that after Peter met Jesus and spent some time with Him, he went back home and went back to work.
Now however, Jesus has come back into Peter’s life. Luke wrote that as Jesus taught the people, they crowded Him to the point where He was teaching from the banks of the Sea of Galilee. The Bible doesn’t say how large this crowd was, but it was large enough to press upon Jesus.
As He is teaching though, what are the fishermen doing? They’re out in the water by the boats washing their nets. They didn’t drop them and come listen to the teaching. They didn’t put them up and do them later. They kept on working.
I don’t think Peter and the others were any different from many people today who aren’t necessarily hostile to Christ or church, but they’re disinterested. They’ve got work to do; bills to pay; food to buy and money to make: more important things to do in other words.
Disinterest has many faces, but it always reveals itself in the same way. There’s always something more important to do: always something better to do. We are always having that feeling of being hurried. When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything else—we are the busiest people in the world. Well, I’m not talking about coming to church necessarily, but about following Christ; doing what He says; accepting the invitation to follow Him – to live for the glory of God!
“Busy” is the hallmark of our times. I don’t know how many times I ask people, “How are you doing?” and the answer, more commonly than not, is “Busy.” It has become somewhat of a ‘badge of honour’ to wear, it seems. I’m not asking people how busy they are…I genuinely want to know ‘how’ they are doing. That doesn’t have a lot to do with how busy they are, really. This obsession with being ‘busy’ is, actually, one convenient way to keep from relationships. If someone says to you that they are busy, you’ll back away from trying to take any of their time; I’ll back away from you if that is the answer. What is being said is often, really, “I’m too busy to stop and form a relationship with you.”
Many live lives that are out-of-control, where circumstances, including work, run them around. Without question, we all have a lot to do. Just think of some of the activities that fill our lives:
- work- about 9 hours/day
- travel- to and from work- maybe 2 hours/day for some/many
- sleep- hopefully 8 hours/day,
- eating- hopefully a couple of hours/day
- time with family
- church- for us, that’s about 4 hours/week or so- maybe a bit more depending on travel time involved
- Quiet time
- Transporting children to school and other activities
- Keeping vehicles clean and maintained
There are many other activities. How are we to get control of our lives? This is a big question for many. Work runs many. Family runs others. As Christians, we’re no different. In fact, we can have a worse time, because we have spiritual needs and obligations added to all the rest, so our lot can be, actually, worse than that of others, unless we get some things straight. How are we to order our lives, or prioritize our lives? How can we get everything done that we need to get done in our lives? We need to understand our priorities, and work around them. And the greatest priority that we must be having in our lives is put to GOD FIRST IN OUR LIVES…Amen!
Though the crowd pressed upon Jesus, were they really interested? Jesus knows the hearts of all men. Why didn’t He call any of them? Perhaps because though they crowded Him, they really weren’t interested in signing up for anything more than a free wine and lunch. Would you say that the multitudes filling churches today are really that interested in following Christ? A lot of people are coming to church, with just a thinking of I want to be blessed, I want this and that…But Jesus is looking for people who will abandon all for the sake of following Him, and evidently He didn’t find any in that crowd. We may press into our buildings and enjoy the teaching and preaching and singing, but are we really ready to abandon all to follow Him? The answer is no: most are not – they: perhaps even you are just not that interested.
Response 2: DOUBT
Looking around for a better vantage point, He decided to teach from the bow of Peter’s boat. Of course it was no accident that the Lord chose this boat. If Peter wasn’t that interested in Him then He would come to Peter, seeing in Him something that Peter didn’t even see. Putting up his clean nets, he thrusts out so the Lord might continue His teaching.
Verse 4 then says that Jesus told Peter to launch out into the deep water for a draught. The word draught literally means a haul of fish. That’s not just a mess of fish, but a big mess of fish!
I like Peter’s response: “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything…” Can you imagine what must have been going through his head? “What do you know about fishing? You’re a carpenter!”
If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s to go fishing with somebody who wants to tell me how to fish. That you know for a fact, that that guy or person has no knowledge in fishing…Do you honestly think Peter felt any differently? They’d been working at it all night. They knew that lake better than anyone and here’s a preacher telling them how to fish, so you can hear the doubt in Peter’s voice when he said, “nevertheless at your word I will let down the net.” “We’ve been working at this all night, but if you say so.”
Listen, this isn’t just about fish. How many times have we thought we knew better than God? We’ve been there, done that and have the t-shirt. I know it won’t work! Whether it’s marriage, raising kids, finance, work relationships, issues of integrity and honesty or a multitude of other things, we doubt what God says.
- “You can’t love your enemies! I tried that one time and I just got hurt worse.”
- “You can’t just forgive people that hurt you. They’ll take advantage of you.”
- “You can’t lay down your life for a woman. She’ll run right over you.”
- “I’m not going to claim that income on my tax return. They get enough of my money.”
- “You can’t be honest and make it in business. That’s a good way to starve.”
- “I can’t tithe off of what I make. Last time I tried that I came up short on my bills.”
- “I can’t surrender to God’s call on my life. I just don’t think it would work.”
I know. There’re a thousand ways we express our doubt, but just as the Lord engaged Peter that day by entering his boat and stretching him He is here today trying to engage you as well. Today He says to you, “Launch out into the deep!” Do the extra-ordinary, believe for the extra-ordinary, live a life that is extra-ordinary…And while everything in you wants to say that you’ve toiled all night and haven’t been successful yet, why not just say, “nevertheless, at your word I will let down the net?”
Response 3: BELIEF
Verse 6 is amazing! “When they had this done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.” They caught so many fish that they got the other boat to come help them, and then the catch nearly sank both boats!
There’s nothing like a great catch of fish. When Peter put that net down, he was thinking to himself that he was wasting his time and would rather have been getting rested for the next night, but it wasn’t long before he changed his mind! Whatever he thought about Jesus when they cast off was completely changed now.
What Peter exhibit is called Faith…He was not certain, but because Jesus say so, he followed and obeyed…And I want to tell you today that faith can rewrite your future: “The only thing that stands between a man and what he wants from life is often merely the will to try it and the faith to believe that it is possible” (Richard De Vos). Faith is like a flashlight – no matter how dark things seem to get, it will help you find your way.
“Every tomorrow has two handles; we can take hold by the handle of anxiety or by the handle of faith.” – Southern Baptist Brotherhood Journal
Regret looks back; worry looks around; faith looks up. Great leaders are almost always people of great faith. God has something for the man who keeps his faith in Him. Your life will shrink or expand in proportion to your faith.
Think like a man of action and act like a man of faith. Prayer is asking for rain; faith is carrying the umbrella. You must first be a believer if you want to be an achiever.
Paul Little said, “Faith in its very nature, demands action. Faith is action – never a passive attitude.”
Faith is not a pill you take but a muscle you use. Faith is when your hands and feet keep on working when your head and others say it can’t be done. Faith is necessary to victory.
By faith you can be decisive in the absence of certainty or in the presence of indecision. It is not daydreaming; it is decision-making. “Real faith is not the stuff dreams are made of; rather it is tough, practical, and altogether realistic. Faith sees the invisible but it does not see the nonexistent” (A.W. Tozer). The worlds says, “Seeing is believing.” Faith says, “Believing is seeing!” Faith is like a toothbrush. Everyone should have one and use it daily, but you shouldn’t try to use someone else’s.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”
Doubt is the great modern plague. Even so, faith can cure it. Real faith will refuse to see anything that is contrary to the Bible. It won’t look at the circumstances or conditions but the promise.
Now here is a dangerous and amazing thing. Some of you today may be thinking to yourselves that if the Lord would do some great thing like He did then in your life then you would believe. The worlds says, “Seeing is believing.” Faith says, “Believing is seeing!” In John 6:29, Jesus was speaking to the crowd when He implored them to put their faith in Him. In verse 30, the people said,
“What sign will you show us then, that we may see, and believe you? What will you work?”
Jesus basically told them that He was that work. He had come from heaven, was the bread of life and the living water. He told them about the sign of His coming resurrection, but they still wouldn’t believe. The words of John 12:35-37 are telling. “Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have the light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them. But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him.”
Listen to me: don’t wait around for Jesus to perform some great miracle in your life so you might believe. He’s already done all the miracles necessary for you to believe.
The question is whether you can place your faith in what He’s done. Some of you are on the edge. You know intellectually who Jesus is. You know He’s the Son of God, that He came to earth, that He died on the cross for you, that He rose from the dead for you, but you’ve never placed your faith in Him.
There’s a saying, “There is none so blind as he who will not see.” Satan wants to keep you from seeing the truth about Jesus. It’s not easy to believe without seeing, but that’s what faith is. Perhaps you are like millions of other people who would believe if they could see some reliable proof. Their motto is, “I’ll believe it when I see it!”
Okay, for all you skeptics, I’m going to give you visual proof God exists. “God, I want everyone to see with their eyes that you are real, so right now, lift the roof off this huge building and twirl it around three times and then gently place it back on top of the building as if it never moved. Okay, please God, do it now!”
Let’s just imagine for a moment God did it. I suspect everyone in this room would be converted to Christ. We couldn’t hold the crowd that would show up tonight, and as word would spread around the region, can you imagine how many people would be crowded in this building next Sunday? Talk about parking problems!
But to believe in God because you saw something like that is not faith–it’s simply sight. The Bible says, “We walk by faith, not by sight.”
None of us has ever seen Jesus with our physical eyes. But I’ve heard about Jesus, and I believe in Him. Faith is not just believing facts about Jesus, it is trusting Him with your life. (What you do know about Him, can actually happen or will surely happen in your life…or that’s what He is in your life.)…I don’t just believe He was born in Bethlehem and died on a cross 33 years later, I believe He has changed my life. I don’t just believe in the fact of the resurrection, I believe Jesus is alive and living in me!
He may be calling you to some place of service; to simply abandon all and follow Him, but you have your doubts about what will happen next. When will you see that He is trustworthy? When will you take an honest look at Him in the Scriptures and see Him for who and what He really is? If you’ll see Jesus like how Peter saw Him, you will follow Him…Peter moved right into the fourth stage, the stage of…
Response 4: REPENTANCE
Verse 8 says that Peter fell to his knees and what appears to have been an embracing of the legs of Jesus. “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” He repented! He saw Jesus Christ not as a carpenter, not as a teacher, not as an itinerant preacher, not as a smart rabbi, not as a wanna-be fisherman, but as the Lord that He is!
I want to tell you that when you see Jesus Christ for who He really is you’re going to see yourselves for who you really are, and what you’re going to see is not going to be something to be proud of. When you see Jesus Christ as Lord you’re going to be humbled in His presence.
Sometimes I get to thinking I know something about the Bible, but when I get in the presence of someone who has been at it for years I can get awfully quiet. I think I do pretty good remodeling work, but to be in the room with a pro is an humbling experience. I like to work on cars and try to talk the lingo, but when I get around a real mechanic I realize I don’t know anything, but these are weak comparisons to the feeling of deep humility and abasement that ought to overwhelm us when we come into the presence of Almighty God! “Depart from me…whoa is me, for I am a sinful man!” You can literally say to God that you are not worthy…that you are nothing!
Can you recognize that today? I know you’re pretty good people, and we all like to think that we’ve really surrendered our lives, but have you? When was the last time you were at the feet of Jesus in shame and humility repenting of your sin? Repenting out of a deep sense of the holiness of a perfect God?
Response 5: SURRENDER
When the Lord finally had Peter where Peter needed to be, He extended the invitation, “Fear not; from now on you’re going to catch men. And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.”
I don’t care how many of the stages you have to go through, whether all of them or only the last three, surrender is the only proper response to the call of God on your life. You say today, “Preacher, I don’t know what God’s call on my life is.” Well I can tell you some very general things.
- You’ve been called to live for His honor and glory.
- You’ve been called into a personal relationship with Him.
- You’ve been called to witness to His work in your life.
- You’ve been called to be a godly husband or wife.
- You’ve been called to be godly parents, godly children, godly employees, godly employers and godly people in general.
That’s God’s call to live for His glory!
“I know all of that preacher, but I want to know God’s will more specifically. If I knew it I might surrender.” But I want to tell you that you’ve got it all backwards. Just surrender. A TRUE FOLLOWER OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST WILL NEVER ASK HIM OF WHAT HE’S GOING TO DO WITH HIS LIFE, HE WILL JUST SAY, “LORD, HAVE YOUR WAY IN ME…” “I’M YOURS COMPLETELY!” “TAKE ALL OF ME!” Jesus wants to be the Master and Commander of your life, of your heart, soul and might. I’m not asking you whether you’ll surrender to a thing or place of service, NOT TO A MINISTRY, but will you surrender to Him?
One writer rightly said that God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him. You surrender to God and He’ll take care of the details. Does that mean you have to quit your jobs and go into full time ministry? No! It means you keep your jobs and live in full time ministry!
Bruce Larson tells how he helped people struggling to surrender their lives to Christ. He said,
“For many years I worked in New York City and counseled at my office any number of people who were wrestling with this yes-or-no decision. Often I would suggest they walk with me from my office down to the RCA Building on Fifth Avenue. In the entrance of that building is a gigantic statue of Atlas, a beautifully proportioned man who, with all his muscles straining, is holding the world upon his shoulders. There he is, the most powerfully built man in the world, and he can barely stand up under this burden. ’Now that’s one way to live,’ I would point out to my companion, ’trying to carry the world on your shoulders. But now come across the street with me.’
“On the other side of Fifth Avenue is Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, and there behind the high altar is a little shrine of the boy Jesus, perhaps eight or nine years old, and with no effort he is holding the world in one hand. My point was illustrated graphically.
“We have a choice. We can carry the world on our shoulders, or we can say, ’I give up, Lord; here’s my life. I give you my world, the whole world.’” (Bruce Larson, Believe and Belong)
Are you ready to give up today? Are you ready to throw caution to the wind and dive headfirst into a life of surrender to Jesus Christ before you know what He wants from you? He’s not looking for partial surrender, but 100% commitment. You can’t serve Him with 110%, only 100. But He’s not satisfied with 70% or 80% either. He is looking for complete abandonment.
You may be tired and burnt out. Surrender anyway. You may find it inconvenient. Surrender anyway. It may not make sense to you. Surrender anyway. Got the wrong man or woman? Surrender anyway. What nets are you holding in your hands today that are keeping you from following? It’s time to drop them and follow Christ.
Jesus is passing by right now, what are you going to do? “I’ll catch Him next time I come to church.” What makes you think there will be a next time?
This encounter of Peter and others teaches us about the critical importance of seizing the opportunity. “Carpe diem” is a Latin term meaning “seize the day!” Today, you have the opportunity to make the right response to Jesus, will you do it?