The fifth chapter of Luke’s gospel recounts Jesus teaching a large crowd on the shore of a lake as he sits in Simon Peter’s fishing boat. After he finishes addressing the crowd Jesus tells Simon to put the boat out into the deeper water and let down his nets for a catch. Peter tells Jesus that he and his crew have been out all night and haven’t caught any fish. But Peter does as he is told. To his surprise a great shoal of fish is caught, enough to fill his boat and another. Peter and James and John are so impressed that they leave everything and follow Jesus as his disciples.
So much of life is focused on results. What is the right decision? Did that job get done the way I expected it to be done? How can I make the relationship better? How can I win the case? How can enough money be generated to accomplish the purpose? How can I get more of what I want out of life? What is working well? What needs improving? Certainly if there was no attention paid to results, nothing much would get done.
But the story of the catch of fish is more about obedience than results. Jesus is asking for the fisherman to follow him. Perhaps he gives them the great number of fish to encourage them but he asks them for obedience and faithfulness. Follow me, not for what I can give you, but because you believe in me. Soon after he calls his disciples, Jesus begins to tell them not what they will get but the cost that will be required of them.
Much of our Christian journey is focused more on results than obedience. We usually begin our journey out of some need, a need for healing or peace or clarity, a need to be filled or loved. And usually we find good results pretty quickly. Feeling an emptiness or a yearning for something more with God, we spend time in prayer and worship and the emptiness is filled. We experience something deep and joyous and we want that to continue and increase. And then what we have gained often becomes our primary motivation for continuing faithfulness in our spiritual discipline. When the result of our faithfulness becomes our main focus, above obedience to the Lord itself, that result eventually fails. Sooner or later what we have gained disappears and the question is gently presented: Will you be faithful and obedient to me even now? Will you follow me when there is no great shoal of fish given to you? Will you love me more than you love what I have given you?
Devoting daily time to the Lord produces amazing results. We find peace, clarity, tremendous energy and focus. Deepening our spiritual lives allows more productivity in our worldly lives. As we grow, as we allow the Lord to enter our lives more completely, we will be invited to be faithful more for the Lord than for ourselves. We will come to places in life where emptiness and fear strike again and we are asked to be faithful and obedient even when it seems we are being overtaken. We’re not being punished in those times but we are being purified. There we learn that the relationship with our Savior is not the means to an end; it is the very end itself.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. This same Simon Peter Jesus will visit after the resurrection and his question to him will be: Simon Peter, do you love me more than these?
Do I love the Lord more than these fish he gives me, more than the peace he affords me, more than what I get out of the relationship? Do I love the Lord more than anything? Am I willing to be obedient and faithful this day with less thought of results? Lord, come to us and make us wholly thine.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.