What is more real: your circumstances or the Word?
Last week we looked at the power of the Word and our need to trust it. I want to continue that thought this week by looking at a story in Luke. Jesus was teaching the multitudes from a boat, and when He finished He turned to Simon Peter and said, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4). It’s interesting to note that the word deep (bathos) describes something more than depth of water. One expositor says that this word indicates a profound depth in the things of God. In other words, Jesus was inviting Simon into deeper things spiritually. He wanted Simon to experience a depth of God that he wasn’t aware of at the moment. Let me suggest that obedience to the Word always brings us into deeper experiences with God. Of course, in the context of the story obeying Jesus’ Word meant moving from where they were to deeper waters, and letting down every net available.
The beginning of verse 5 is humorous to me, “Simon answered.” Jesus wasn’t asking a question! He made a statement and expected instant obedience. I’m amazed at how often we turn Jesus’ statements into questions and then we try to reason with Him. Obedience to the Word is our only option in a love relationship with Jesus. Anyways, Simon went on to explain to Jesus that they had been toiling all night and caught nothing. In other words, Simon was responding from his limited experience; he wanted Jesus to realize that from his perspective, launching out into the deep to catch fish would be of no benefit. Allow me to insert the following: I’ve prayed about that before; I’ve put my faith in that and it didn’t work; I’ve sought God about that situation and got no response; or, I’ve asked for healing and it didn’t happen. Each of these statements reflects our tendency to place trust in our experience over and above what Christ might be asking us to do. In reality we’re manifesting our unbelief in His Word by putting confidence in our failed circumstances.
I have had people explain to me that they’ve gone to the altar during an invitation seeking to be healed and nothing happened to them. So they reduced God’s Word on the subject of healing and redefined it to match their limited situation. Bob Sorge said belief in God’s Word to heal gives him the incentive and momentum to continue pursuing God. Sorge has been waiting and trusting God for his own healing but refuses to quit pursuing God on the matter because of what the Bible says. My friend Craig Rench told me about a woman who went forward to be healed fifty times and nothing happened to her, but on the fifty-first time she was instantly healed. What would have happened if she placed greater faith in her circumstances than in the Word of God? My guess is she would have quit pressing into God after about three or four times, and she probably wouldn’t have been healed. We must always trust God’s Word over our circumstances no matter how long we have labored.
Simon Peter conceded tossing the net overboard and it was filled with more fish than it could hold. Simon fell at Jesus’ feet in repentance realizing that he could have missed the blessing if he had failed to obey Jesus. There is an interesting bit of insight to this story that some scholars underscore. Some translations state that Jesus told Simon Peter to let down the “nets” (diktua) which is a plural, yet Simon only cast out one “net” (diktoun), a singular noun. It would appear that Simon, in his reluctance to trust Jesus’ Word, only partially obeyed Jesus and he adjusted Jesus’ words to fit his lack of faith. In that case, Simon really missed a blessing. We can only imagine the amount of fish he would have caught had there been three or four nets in the water. If we allow our experiences to define what is possible, then we’ll miss what God might want to do in and through our lives. We must not reduce the Word or redefine it to fit our context. The Word of God will always trump our experiences if we trust Him.
The context of this story, however, is about reaching people; Jesus was commissioning Simon to catch people instead of fish. How will we ever reach people for God if we can’t place total faith in what He says? I was prompted by the Holy Spirit one time while at a restaurant to speak to someone about the Lord, that initial prompting was met with a bit of questioning and resistance because of a failed attempt a time before. I was shut down and told that they were not interested in what I was “peddling.” That has rarely happened to me, but the memory was still fresh in my mind when I sensed the leading of the Lord. Yet, not only does the Bible tell us to announce the good news to the world (see Mark 16:15), but I was hearing the living Word commissioning me. Following the voice I threw the net out and this person made a profession of faith right in the middle of a busy restaurant. I’m not advocating that we’re to be obnoxious, pushy, and insensitive. Quite the contrary; I’m advocating that we always listen to the written and living Word of God. I believe that there are people to be caught for the Lord, but it will only happen if we venture into deeper waters with Jesus and throw every net into the world. Don’t let circumstances dictate your lifestyle or failed attempts at serving God hinder your obedience. Trust the Word at all times.
“Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men” (Luke 5:10).