“As a follower of Jesus Christ, he expects you to obey whatever he tells you to do – even if it appears foolish to other people, even if it doesn’t make sense financially, even if you don’t understand it and you’re scared to death.” – Rick Warren
“I have found that unselfishness pays because it tends to engender unselfishness.” – J. C. Penney
“One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.” – Luke 5:1-7
Perhaps THE most overlooked watershed moment in the life of Peter came on the heels of one of the most frustrating and fruitless nights of fishing imaginable. Luke chapter 5 informs us that despite years of experience and fishing savvy, four pros who made their living at fishing couldn’t even manage to catch one fish. No doubt Simon, Andrew, James and John were beyond exasperation . . their bodies were tired, their patience was stretched . . and their nets were empty.
Have you been there?
- Pride. You don’t want anybody to think you can’t handle it. You’re in charge. You’ve got it all together. You think you can handle everything by yourself, even if it means working 12 hours a day.
- Stubbornness. You’re unwilling to change the way you’re doing things. Did you know the greatest enemy of tomorrow’s success is yesterday’s success?
- Fear. You can’t admit you’ve fished all night and caught nothing. You’re afraid that people will think less of you. You’re afraid to get Jesus into your boat because he’ll steer it in a direction you don’t want to go.
Yet despite his fears, insecurities and unbending spirit, it is Simon . . who refuses a refusal . . who declines a declination . . who retires the idea of retreat . . and obliges the request of Jesus . . making available a fishing boat first that would become a floating pulpit . . and second a fishing boat that would become . . a catching boat.
At the outset of the Great Depression, Penney, one of America’s foremost businessmen, encountered a personal depression of his own. Having eclipsed the age of 50, he had already established a successful chain of dry goods stores, governed and operated by the principle of the Golden Rule. After the 1929 stock market crash, Penney lost virtually all his personal wealth, borrowed against his life insurance policies to help the company meet its payroll and began to lose his own physical health (including a battle with tuberculosis, the very disease that had killed his dad).
In Penney’s own words . .
“I was at the end of my rope. My business had crumbled, my communications with colleagues had faltered, and even my . . . wife and our children were estranged from me. It was all my fault.” It was learned years later that Penney was even contemplating suicide.
In the face of being a “self-made” man who was, like Simon Peter, certainly subject to pride, stubbornness and fear, a longtime trusted friend advised Penney to acknowledge that what he was dong wasn’t working and to get help, including checking into a sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan. It would be the “watershed moment” of Penney’s life. Rest and medical attention were paying dividends, but much-needed spiritual restoration began on a morning when he awoke too early for breakfast, was wandering the corridors and overheard a hymn which he recalled from his childhood being sung in the chapel by doctors and nurses . . “God Will Take Care of You”.
Then someone read from Matthew 11:28 . .
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
As one historian put it, it was a moment of clarity for the hard-working entrepreneur. Penney had been striving in his own strength and ingenuity all his life to honor God with his business, but now it was time to rest in the Lord’s grace. In Penney’s own words . .
“At that time something happened to me which I cannot explain. It was a life-changing miracle, and I’ve been a different person ever since. Suddenly I cried inwardly, ‘Lord, will you take care of me? I can do nothing for myself!’ . . I felt I was passing out of darkness into light”.
It was no longer about Penney’s own efforts, but God’s . . “In the midst of failure to believe, I was being helped back to believing.”
Nothing To Show For It Opportunities
Opportunity #2 – Don’t Fix Your Failure First Not only could have Simon Peter resisted Jesus intentions, but he could have insisted that Jesus wait until they get a couple of full loads of fish and sell them at market. In fact, he could have asked Jesus to bless his fishing business . . like never before . . reversing all the “empty net” nights . . promising to give the Master whatever He needs once success has arrived. But Jesus is asking if you will give your most dismal business days, weeks and quarters . . and all the office space and equipment and business plans attached to them . . to Him. Simon Peter resisted the fleshly temptation to fix his own failure on his own terms first.
Opportunity #3 – Get Ears To Hear Keeping a brave countenance, concealing any hint of failure, keeping the “pedal to the metal” . . these are the marks of business success . . right? Sometimes we are so busy to doing business . . including God’s business . . we fail to hear God’s voice. If we can fill our days with drive and determination, maybe we won’t have to slow down long enough to admit where we are failing, where we are hitting a wall . . or even worse, sinking into an uncontrollable tailspin. Simon Peter was not so preoccupied with “the speed of success” on his own terms and at his own time that he would somehow miss Jesus’s invitation to go fishing in the Sea of Galilee after he had finished teaching the crowd. To truly have “ears to hear” the invitation of the Master on an “empty net” day requires humility and an admission . . “What I’m doing Lord . . isn’t working . . at all.”
Penney’s favorite life verse? . .
“I have trusted in the Lord without wavering. Prove me, O Lord, and try me. Test my heart and my mind. For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I will walk in faithfulness to you.” -Psalms 26:1-2
Not a bad anchor to have . . especially when your life is pulling up nothing from the bottom . . but empty nets.
David “JB” Miller
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