Speaking from John 21:1-14, Ruth began her sermon by telling us the story of the two men fishing. They had been fishing all night, and had not caught any fish. Then, a man spoke to them from the shore, and told them to haul in their net, and to throw it from the other side of the boat. The curious thing here, is that they just did what this man said, without question. These were professional fisherman. They knew what they were doing, but they didn’t question this man, who, for all they knew, was a complete novice at fishing, and might have known nothing at all. However, when they were obedient and did this, they found their net so full of fish that their boat began to sink.
This story says something about our lives. Often, we can feel like we are banging our heads against a brick wall. We can feel empty, fearful, angry, frustrated, tired, and as if nothing ever seems to go right. We see things happening for other people, but not for us. Maybe we just need to throw our net out on the other side, without asking why.
Sometimes, if we just make a few small adjustments, we can reap huge rewards. It says in Ephesians 3, God can do anything, far more than you could ever imagine of guess of request in your wildest dreams! Quite often, when we read scripture like this, we wonder why He isn’t doing this in our lives, when often, the answer is that we simply need to make some adjustments to our personal ‘net’.
Ruth then talked of three adjustments that we may need to make in our lives if we are to “fill our net”.
Firstly, we must do it His way. The truth is that if must have been incredibly difficult for the fishermen to pay attention to this unknown man. This was their profession and they knew all about fishing, and this man’s suggestion must have seemed ludicrous to them; what difference would it make, which side of the boat the net was lowered on?
But sometimes, God puts us in positions where we can’t find the answer. It is in these circumstances that we must look to Him. We can look at this scripture and ask any number of questions, like “Why didn’t Jesus just make the fish swim around to the other side of the boat?” or even, “Why didn’t He make the fish jump into the boat?” The simple answer to this is OBEDIENCE. God wants us to be in a place of surrender, where we can do nothing more than to just be obedient to Him, and let Him take control.
The point of Jesus making them move the net was a test. All too often, we can keep doing the same thing, and expecting different results. Luke 11 says “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it”.
Ruth went on to tell a story of a weak and sickly man who lived in a cabin in the woods, and who had no money to go to a doctor. In a vision, God came to him and told him to go and push a massive rock in front of his house. Every day he did this, for eight months. Then, he started to doubt, and when he measured the distance, the rock had not moved at all. He was so disappointed and sat down and wept because all of his hard work had been for nothing. That night, Jesus came to him and asked why he was so sad. When the man explained, Jesus said that the man was not told to move the rock, but simply to push it. He then told the man to step in front of the mirror and the man was amazed, because instead of his weak and sickly form, he was strong and muscular.
The truth is that God was not trying to get him to move the rock. That was not the objective, but his obedience in listening to God and pushing the rock, actually gave him the result he wanted and he didn’t even realise it because he was so focused on what he thought was the goal.
The thing is, maybe whatever we’re waiting for isn’t happening because we’re just not willing to push the rock. We can become so caught up in needing to be strong and do things on our own. We see asking for help as weakness, but obeying God doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us stronger as we realise that with Him, all things are possible, and that our obedience to God changes us.
Secondly, Ruth said that we need to follow an attitude of “Less of me”. The disciples had been fishing all night. They had been working hard, but to no avail. They were at the end of what they could do, and it is then that God showed up. In reality, we need to remember that God is always there, we just don’t necessarily see him as we are so focused on what we perceive to be our intended goal, and it is only at the point where we give up that we finally look to Him and He shows us exactly what He can do.
It says in John 3:30, “He must become greater; I must become less.” and this is so true. We need to give God the proper place in our hearts, and if we do than we will truly see the amazing things that He can do.
The truth is that in this story, Jesus showed what the fishermen could do without Him, and then when they had reached the end of themselves, He showed them what He could do without them. In Proverbs 3, we are told not to try and work things out by ourselves. The story of the fishermen shows quite clearly this scripture.
For us to get our answer, we must give God the wheel and listen to Him.
The third adjustment that Ruth suggested was that we need to fish a bit closer. We often want something miraculous, but what we don’t realise is that those miracles can be closer than we thought. The fish were not at the other side of the lake, but simply on the other side of the boat.
Often, we pray for an answer, but when it comes, we don’t like it. The truth is that trust works both ways. We can’t expect God to trust us with the big things, if He can’t trust us with the small things (like obedience).
We all know people who have prayed and prayed for an answer to a problem, but when that answer comes, it’s not what they want because they already have it fixed in their head what God should do.
Ruth told us that our full net may be closer than we think, if we only adjust our view of things.
The fourth adjustment Ruth gave is that we must recognise who’s calling us. The fishermen had no idea who the man was. They may have been thinking “Why not?” and “What have we got to lose?”, but what would they have thought if they’d known who the man was? How much more confident would they have been if they’d know who was speaking to them?
The truth is that once we realise who it is that’s calling to us, we can have confidence in what He is telling us to do. Jesus has done it before, (Luke 5) and He can do it again. We must realise that miracles and breakthroughs are what God does. He can make something out of nothing. God goes before us and prepares the way. He gives us so many positive changes, where there were only negatives, if only we will actually let Him, and what He does, He does in abundance!
Finally, Ruth continued the story of the fishermen to when they came ashore to find that Jesus had already prepared breakfast for them. They had not needed to catch any fish at all, because Jesus had already done it, but it is in their act of obedience that they were able to see the beauty of this miracle.
In Deuteronomy 31:8, it says that “The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.
So, if we are not sure where we’re at, or where we’re going. If we find ourselves on the cusp of some big decisions, maybe what we need to do is not give up, but to just adjust our net and to see what God can do.
Scriptures: John 21:1-14, Ephesians 3, Luke 11, John 3:30, 2 Kings 5, Luke 5, Deuteronomy 31:8.