The Call of Christ
“You learn more from failing than you ever learn from winning” Ellis said to our son Ezra as we walked away from his soccer game this weekend.
“Quit while you are ahead” was more my motto growing up, I thought to myself. I never allowed myself to fail. Never failed a test, never failed a task, never lost a game. To this day, I mostly avoid things where the risk of failure is high. It’s the reason I don’t play sports, don’t love board games, and avoid things I’m not already good at. Typically I give up before I fail, or to put it more positively “I quit while I’m ahead”.
We’ve been engaging in an initiative we are calling “For The One”. An encouragement to actively pray for, invest in, and invite one person to explore faith with us. But I want to ask, how can we be for the one, when our fear of failure is greater than our faith?! If you are like me and have a hard time with failure, then you are probably also like me in recognizing that sharing faith with people who don’t know Jesus is a high-risk activity. There’s a high risk of failure! We are going to have to wrestle through our fear of failure if we want to be successful in following Jesus in this area of our lives. Thankfully our text today has something to say about how to do that.
My name is Rachel, and I’m the Pastor of Alpha and LifeGroups. Today we are going to look at Luke 5 where we find Jesus in a boat with some cynical fisherman who have already failed in their fishing efforts that night and are not interested in failing again!
On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:1-11, ESV)
At the beginning of this account, Peter, also known as Simon or Simon Peter, is a failed fisherman, frustrated by his lack of success in his own efforts. His catch of fish has come back empty despite working so hard, all night long. When Jesus tells him to let down the nets again, his initial response to Jesus is “We toiled all night and took nothing!…”
In other words “Jesus you don’t know what you are talking about! We know what we are doing and we failed!” You see Peter was an experienced fisherman, Jesus was a carpenter! What did Jesus know! Peter’s team had been out all night in the best possible conditions and they had failed. If you study the fishing practices of this time, you can discover the reason these boats were on the shore in the morning was not only to wash their nets but to switch out the nets from bulky, visible nets that worked well for night time fishing in the deep waters, for ones better suited to shallow waters in the day. So when Jesus tells Peter and his fishing partners to try fishing again, Jesus is telling them to fish with the wrong nets, at the wrong time of day, in the wrong part of the lake to catch anything. This request is ridiculous! Is it any wonder that Peter is afraid of failing again?!
When we consider the challenge to share our faith with those outside the church I wonder how many of us feel like Peter. The challenge to be “For the One”, or in the words of this passage to “be fishers of men” seems like somewhat of an outrageous request. For most of us it’s not that we don’t know the Bible teaches us to share our faith. But we see the unlikely conditions of the people in front of our noses. And we’ve tried before. And failed. Or at least we’ve heard of others who have failed and we certainly don’t want to experience that same failure. And many of us, like Peter, are cynical that if we try again, it will make any difference.
I’ve experienced my fair share of failure in sharing my faith…When I was a teenager my faith came to life and I was immediately a zealous evangelist. I had discovered that God spoke to me through the Bible…