I love the story in Luke 5:1–11 where Jesus made some hapless fisherman happy. It is a wonderful story about believing God; a wonderfully encouraging reminder that, even though our prospects of success may at times seem bleak, there remain plenty of fish in the sea. We simply need to obey the Lord’s Word, let down our nets, and trust God to fill them.
Shortly after the Lord called Peter and others to be His disciples, we see Him teaching on the coast of the Sea of Galilee. Meanwhile, Peter, James and John, having just fished all night (catching nothing), were busy washing their nets, presumably preparing for the next time they would launch out. Surprisingly, that time had come sooner than they had planned.
The crowds began to press in upon Jesus as He taught. The Lord saw the boats belonging to His disciples and requisitioned them for use as a “floating pulpit.” After the Lord finished His teaching, He commanded Peter to launch out into the deep, to cast his net, and to expect a great haul of fish. Peter appeared a bit sceptical. After all, he had just fished all night with nothing to show for his efforts. Why should things be any different now? Perhaps he was thinking, “With all due respect, though Jesus is my newfound master and rabbi, what does this preacher know about fishing?” Well, Peter was about to find out.
Though Peter appears to have been doubtful, we should respect his obedience as expressed with his words, “Nevertheless at Your word, I will let down the net” (v. 5). Of course, the rest is both history and one of the most remarkable fishing stories of all time! The haul was so great that the net began to tear and Peter had to ask for assistance from those on the other boat. In the first of what would be several such situations, the Lord rewarded obedience with gracious blessings, to full and overflowing. Not only on the sea, but on dry land also, the Lord would supply His provision to those who would trust and obey. Those who believe God, manifested by obedience, will experience God’s marvellously gracious works. More to the point, they will experience God.
There is much in this account that provides wonderful takeaways for us (in addition to what presumably was a large portion of fish and chips!).
For one thing, doubt and faith apparently can exist at the same time.
Recently, I was in a discussion with someone about this matter of doubt. The statement was made that doubts in the life of a Christian will decrease as he or she matures in the faith. I’m not so sure. It seems that doubt is actually a necessary part of faith. After all, walking by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7) implies an element of uncertainty. But the point is that we keep walking because we choose to believe God’s Word in the face of otherwise doubtful stimuli and circumstances. In this account, Peter’s response—“Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing” (v. 5)—does seem to display an element of doubt in response to the Lord’s command. But the rest of his reply reveals faith: “Nevertheless … I will.” Doubt was overcome by faith; a bit of scepticism conquered by obedience. We see the same combination when the father brought his demonised son to Jesus: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). Doubt was confessed and conquered by faith.
Many Christians wrestle with assurance of their salvation. They doubt that they are securely saved. This is not always the consequence of spiritual immaturity; at issue is how we respond to such doubts. If we use these doubts to drive us to look to Jesus and to cast ourselves upon Him and Him alone as our Saviour, then such faith, such obedience, may indicate spiritual growth and maturity. When we experience times of doubt concerning what God has revealed in His Word, we are in a wonderful positon to exercise faith and obedience to the glory of God. “Nevertheless” is a wonderful, God-honouring response to the voice of doubt.
The fundamental, most vital lesson from this passage is the importance of simply believing God. Peter chose to believe God, expressed in obedience to His Word, and this resulted in a greater understanding of who Jesus is. We see this in vv. 7–8.
Peter and his partners were astounded at the great haul of fish. As they loaded their boats, they began to sink. Of course, a sinking boat can be frightening. But it appears that Peter was struck with a greater fear: the fear of the Lord. He fell to his knees and cried, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” The Lord graciously responded as He informs Peter that he was going to be a successful “fisher of men” (v. 10). The result was that Peter finally forsook all and followed the Lord (v. 11). Interesting. Peter did not ask for more miracles from the Lord; rather, he sought for a closer relationship with the Lord. Faith-filled obedience always bears such fruit.
As we obey the Lord’s Word, fuelled by a growing trust in Him, we put ourselves in a position to know Him better. As we experience God’s faithfulness, we reciprocate faithfulness to Him. As we increasingly let down our nets in obedience to God’s Word, we will enjoy His blessings of provision, power, peace, or whatever. But most importantly, we will experience a greater perception of His person. Such knowledge of God equips us to be faithful and fruitful witnesses; and there are few blessings greater than that. So, in the face of doubts, let’s believe God and let down our nets, knowing that there are plenty of fish in His sea.