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.
I want to be a man of great faith – someone who goes beyond living in that quickly dying “cultural christianity” and walks a kind of life that would fit in the middle of the book of Acts or alongside Jesus as one of his disciples.
In his seminal business leadership book Good to Great, Jim Collins delves into six key factors that help organizations shift from average to great. The pivot point of the move from good to great sits on the action that he calls “confront the brutal facts (yet never lose faith)”. I believe this is a critical part to growing a true and great faith. We see it at work at the outset of Simon’s interaction with Jesus in this passage in Luke 5. This scene is the seed of what grows into a powerful faith that leads Peter into leadership among both the disciples and the entirety of the early church.
We’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything
Regardless of what modern skeptics crow, the Christian faith is no blind faith. In the midst of pain and difficulty it acknowledges the hard truths and brutal facts. It is not unaware of the harshness of reality. It is Simon, answering Jesus’ command to cast the nets out again with the reality-acknowledging “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.”
The man of faith doesn’t float through life in a glistening cloud of comfort and fairy dust. Quite the opposite. Scan the scriptures and the history of Christ’s people throughout the millennia; those who follow him most closely confront most frequently the harsh and often violent sting of reality. Bear witness the Apostle Paul’s scarred back and oft-broken bones, Hudson Taylor’s loss of child after child and the loss of his wife during his time in China, Stephen’s stoning, thousands of Christians thrown to lions in the Roman empire, dozens of Christians executed by ISIS, and countless more. The man of faith knows well how to confront the brutal facts, however, he never stops there.
But because you say so
Instead, faith goes through the brutal facts to the transcendent truth that the God who spoke the earth into existence still speaks. His word overrides any appearance of something contrary to his word. God’s – Jesus’ – word creates the reality that it declares and gives what it commands. His authority overrides reality because his word is what creates reality. When he speaks to Simon and tells him to let down the nets on the other side of the boat, it is “because you say so” that Simon obeys. It’s not a blind step to obey someone who has all authority.
Faith faces the brutal facts and embraces them, knowing that if the Father, Spirit, and Son have given word then no manner of facts can stand in the way.
I will let down the nets
Has God declared a truth about you that your situation makes seem impossible? Has God declared truth about your future that the current reality makes almost nonsensical? Acknowledge that. Face it. List those brutal facts, but don’t stop there. Side by side with them list the character, power, and provenness of your King. Let the authority of Christ be the bridge across your river of impossibility.
When Jesus calls, let down your nets, even though your years of experience and common sense says nothing will be there to catch. How different would Simon’s life have been if he had kept his nets in the boat that morning? His submission to Christ’s authority – his faith – was a step through a doorway into a life that would radically impact the trajectory of the entire world and shape him into a rock for the foundation of the early church.
Jesus has the same call for you today, in tiny things that don’t seem to be important and in great things that don’t seem to make sense. Jim Collins tapped into a key truth in Good to Great. Confront the facts and don’t lose faith. Doing so will lead you into encounters with Jesus that carry you into spiritual depths that you have yet to delve.
It doesn’t matter what reality says. When Jesus calls, let down the nets my friends. Pretty soon you’re going to be calling others in to help you celebrate and carry all that He will bless you with.