Anyone can fish. All one needs is a pole, a string, a bobber, and a hook of some type. The correct bait helps. And some knowledge of how fish operate might yield a greater degree of success. My brother, Jeff, was an excellent fisherman with trout being his primary target. He loved trout fishing, and he excelled at it.
On a trip through one of West Virginia’s many backsides we stopped at a general store sited above a fast-flowing stream. Jeff pointed out the likely spots where one might catch a trout. He grew tired of waiting for the women-folk who were shopping and retrieved his fly rod from the trunk. In five short minutes Jeff had caught a trout at each of the three spots he had pointed out. After the catch Jeff gently removed his hook and set each fish free.
Jeff’s knowledge of where a trout would position itself to allow the current to wash edible morsels toward it as well as his awareness of which insects appealed to the fish at each season gave him an edge over other fishermen. His custom flies reflected years of experimentation and hard-gained wisdom.
I am not a fisherman. I struggle to net the goldfish in my garden pond. Imagine my arrogance if I had attempted to correct Jeff’s stance, his chosen fly, or his technique of dropping the fly at just the correct spot to catch the current. He knew what he was about. My fishing input was not needed.
Luke 5:1-11 records a fishing tale. Peter and his companions toiled the night through only to return with empty boats. As Peter washed his nets in preparation for the next night’s work a stranger asked to use one of the boats as a teaching platform. A crowd had gathered to hear this teacher who used the natural amplification of the water and shore to broadcast his message to the large crowd. Peter listened as he worked.
As the session ended the teacher approached Peter and offered fishing advice (v4), “Go out into the deep water, and let your nets down.” Many of us tend to do an eye roll, respond with a snort, or reply with a shake of the head when unsolicited advice is dispensed. And should that advice cover an area where we consider ourselves as experts these responses become more likely. Imagine someone giving Peter fishing advice!
Peter earned his living as a fisherman, and he knew his business. He knew that fish trolled close to the shore at night making nets the idea tool for the catch. In the daylight the fish retreated to deeper waters where nets were not as effective.
Perhaps he had heard something in the stranger’s teaching, a message that stirred the fisherman’s heart. Peter’s reply demonstrated respect for the stranger (v5), “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” The word master might be rendered as commander or boss. Peter stated the facts but recognized the authority in the stranger’s manner and message. In the King James Version Peter’s response is given as, “nevertheless at thy word.”
Arrogance at the moment would have guaranteed that Peter miss a life-changing miracle. The catch was so great that Peter needed help from his partners, James and John, to haul it in. The load nearly sank both boats. Peter never returned the next night to continue fishing. He had a new catch and a new career to pursue.
From our perspective it may seem as though God works in odd ways at times. He asks us to follow an unfamiliar path or to take actions outside our comfort zones. He pushes us into arenas where our knowledge and experience tell us success is unreachable. We can roll our eyes and dismiss the moment but in doing so we may miss the miracle, the blessing, or the purpose for which we were created.