5 And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.
I have been thinking about a little story I read sometime ago about this man who went to the doctor for a checkup. “I have bad news for you,” the doctor said. “You are going to have to change the way you are living or you will be dead in three months. You need more rest. You need more nutritious meals. Your wife is going to have to cook better. And more than that, you have got to have more peace and quiet. She has got to get those kids off of your back. And I am serious—you have got to change your ways or you won’t be around in 90 days.” The man said, “Doc, would you call my wife and tell her that? I think it would have more authority if it came from you.” He said, “I will do that.” The man got home and his wife met him at the door and said, “You poor dear. The doctor just called and said you have only three months to live. I don’t know how much longer we have together, but I hope it will be a good time.”
In Luke 5:5, “And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.”
Jesus was in the midst of a busy preaching and teaching day. The press of the crowd was so great that he could not find any place to stand to speak to them, so he came upon two boats. The owners of the boats were not there and so Jesus climbed aboard, looked around, and found out they belonged to Simon Peter and James and John, and he asked Peter if he would launch out from the shore a little bit and let him use the bow of the boat as a pulpit.
Simon accommodated him and Jesus sat on the front of that ship with the crowd in front of him, a great host of people, and he began to preach and teach to them. After he had finished he said to these fisherman who were washing their nets, “Why don’t you launch out into the deep and cast your nets down again and you will catch some fish?”
Simon was hesitant. He said, “Master, we have toiled all night long and we have caught nothing. Nevertheless, because you say so, because you tell me to, we will do it.”
They cast their nets into the sea and caught such a huge catch of fish that they were about to tear their nets and they called for help. The other ship came out and James and John along with Peter and Andrew were able to lift those nets full of fish up and they filled up both boats. When Simon saw this he realized that he was in the presence of the living Lord and he fell down before the Lord, he cried out to him and said, “Lord, I am a sinful man.” And Jesus said to him, “Hereafter, henceforth, you shall catch men.”
This was another one of those times when Jesus called Simon to his basic task and to our basic task. We are more familiar with the time when Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee and he found these men washing their nets and he said to them, “You come and follow me and I will make you to become fishers of men.” Now he is making that same call in a different way, on a different occasion, saying, “Hereafter, you shall catch men.”
There is in this experience, at least to me, a great challenge for us to stay faithful to the call and to the command of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ when he bids us to do something, to stay at it in spite of everything. And when you pause to recount the circumstances of this experience, there were a lot of reasons why Simon Peter and his brother Andrew should not have launched out into the deep, should not have cast their nets into the water once again. There are a lot of reasons why they shouldn’t have obeyed Jesus. Nevertheless, they said, “At your word we will do it.” And in spite of all of the obstacles and all of the reasons we can think of for not obeying Jesus, for not doing what he wants us to do, if we will obey him, if we will answer his command, we will more likely succeed in our life and in our ministry together, than in any other way.
I want you to notice that in this experience Simon said, “Lord, we will do what you say in spite of failure. We will do what you say in spite of fatigue. We will do what you say in spite of the seemingly foolishness of it.” For all of those factors are involved in this experience and they could very well have been used as excuses for not doing what Jesus wanted them to do.
“Lord, we have toiled all night long and we have caught nothing. We have failed. But in spite of our failure, we will do what you said. Lord, we are tired, we are weary. We have toiled all night long. But in spite of our fatigue we will do what you say. And Lord, the nighttime is the best time to catch fish. And we fished all night long. We caught nothing. If we didn’t catch anything in the night and that is the best time to fish, how in the world can you expect us to catch anything in the daytime? It is utter foolishness for us to launch out and try again. We missed the best time for fishing. But in spite of the foolishness of it, we shall do it.”
You put it all together and it says to you and to me, that in spite of failure, in spite of fatigue, in spite of the seeming foolishness of it, we ought to ever and always do what Jesus tells us to do. And we need to make the response of Simon Peter: “Nevertheless, at your word, at your command, we will let down the nets. We will do what you tell us to do.” When we have that kind of obedience, we are destined to see God do great and mighty things.
1. We must never give up.
We are to obey him, we are to stay at the work, we are to remain faithful to him in spite of failure. I want you to notice the response of Simon Peter: “Lord, we have caught nothing. We have toiled all night long and we have caught nothing.” That is a picture of abject failure. Failure is a part of life. And the only person who has not failed is the person who has not tried to do anything and that within itself is a failure.
I think about the preacher who was preaching alone one night on the subject of failure and he asked, “Is there anyone in this building who is perfect, has not failed at anything, is perfect in everything?”
And one man stood up. The preacher said to him, “Sir, you don’t understand. I said, is there anybody here who is perfect?” He said, “Preacher, [[you]] don’t understand. I’m standing up for my wife’s first husband.” Now, the person who has not failed, the person who has measure of perfection is an imaginary person who does not exist in reality.
Failure is a part of life and if we are going to do anything successful in life, if we are going to do anything for God, then we must do it in spite of failure. And we must not let our failure discourage us.
Menachem Begin, who was at one time prime minister of Israel and one of the most influential men in the world, headed political parties that were out of power for the first 30 years of his political career. If he given up after those 30 years, think of what he would have missed and what the world would have missed. But because he refused to quit, because he refused to give up, because he refused to be discouraged by failure, he kept trying and made a measurable influence upon the world.
Booth Tarkington wrote short stores for five years before one was ever published. Robert Louis Stevenson’s first book was so criticized, so condemned by the critics that he even contemplated suicide. Every person who has ever done anything significant has done that in the face of failure and disappointment and heartache, but they refuse to allow those things to discourage them and to defeat them and they worked on in spite of failure. If you have failed in life, I want to remind you that we serve a God who gives people a second chance.
You can think about Jonah, that renegade prophet who was called by God to go to Nineveh and he rebelled against God and hopped a ship for Tarsus. And the Lord in a miraculously way sent a storm and then a great fish and caused that rebellious prophet to repent of his sin and turn back to God. And when he had made his heart right with God, the Bible says, “The word of the Lord came unto Jonah a second time” (Jonah 3:1). And in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, there is good news for failures if we will keep following him and serving him. In spite of failure, God can do great and wonderful things.
We have toiled all night long. We have caught nothing. Lord, we have failed. But nevertheless, at your word we will let down the nets. We will stay at the task. We will keep working in spite of failure.
2. We must not give into fatigue.
Second, we will keep working in spite of fatigue. Simon said, “Lord, we have toiled all night long. That word [[toiled]] literally means to work hard. It means to be weary. In the Greek it literally means “to feel fatigue.”
Any man who fishes for any period of time knows that it is hard work. It is fatiguing to fish. I remember the first time after I became a pastor that a man wanted to take me fishing. He said, “It is going to be fun. I will pick you up at three o’clock in the morning.” And I staggered out of bed at three o’clock in the morning and I kept thinking in my mind, “This is going to be fun.” We got in a car and he said, “We are not going to go to the lake here close to town. We are going to another one.”
We drove a 100 miles to get to that lake and all the while we were driving early in the morning I kept thinking, “This is going to be fun.” We got there and started to unload the boat and I was wading before you know it up to my knees in water trying to get that boat launched into the water.
My legs were wet, my shoes were wet, and I kept thinking, “This is going to be fun.” We got in the boat and he wanted to sail to the other side.
It amazes me that the fish are always on the other side of the lake. While you are driving over to the other side of the lake, there are boats coming for every direction to get to your side. Here I was early in the morning and my legs were wet, my shoes were wet and the wind was cold. I was freezing to death and I kept thinking, “This is going to be fun.” We got over there and dropped anchor and he handed me a pole with a string on the end of it and said, “Drop this in the water and something will get on it,” and I sat there for three hours and nothing happened. Finally, he said to me, “You ought to have been here last week.”
Listen, anybody that has ever been fishing knows something about that kind of labor and that kind of toil that oftentimes comes to nothing. It can be fatiguing. It can be wearing for a person to fish and oftentimes you fish and catch nothing.
It is oftentimes the same way in God’s work. Let me tell you, you get tired in God’s work. There is thrill and there is excitement, but there is also weariness in God’s service. There is glory in the ministry, but there is also grind to it. And our Lord Jesus calls us to follow him and to obey him in spite of, not only the failures of life, but the fatigue of life also. If you get tired in God’s service then you just work on in weariness.
It has been my experience that you can get tired in God’s work, but I have never gotten tired of God’s work, and the reminder of this experience is that we are to continue to labor for him and to work for him and to obey him not only in spite of failure, but also in spite of fatigue.
3. We must not be afraid to look foolish.
One other thing, we are to labor for him in spite of seeming foolishness. Jesus said, “Launch out into the deep and cast your nets into the water and you will catch a lot of fish.” And Simon said, “Wait a minute, Lord, we have toiled all night long.” I want you to remember that if you are fishing with a net, the nighttime is the best time to fish. You see in the nighttime, in the cool of the night, the fish come up to the top of the water to feed. And then in the heat of the day, they go down into the cool water in the deep part of the lake and it is almost impossible to catch fish with a net in the middle of the day. And here Jesus is saying to an experienced fisherman, at the worst possible time to fish, try it again. One more time, stay at it. It just didn’t make sense. Peter knew that this was not the best time to catch fish.
In spite of the seeming foolishness of Jesus’ command, he said, “Nevertheless, at your word, we will do it.” And when in spite of everything he did what Jesus said, a miracle catch took place. The challenge for you and me as the people of God is to ever and always do what Jesus says in spite of failure, in spite of fatigue, in spite of foolishness. John said, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). He didn’t say, “Be faithful until you are tired.” He didn’t say, “Be faithful until you are retired.” He said, “Be faithful until you are expired. Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life.” Lord, we have toiled all night long and caught nothing. Nevertheless, at your word, we will let down the net.