“Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught” (Luke 5:4)
A preacher placed a small, empty cardboard box on the floor. He said, “I believe with all my heart this box will hold my weight.” Then he raised his leg and began to stand upon the box – which immediately began to collapse. He said, “You see, it doesn’t matter what I believe, if my faith is misplaced. People place a great deal of faith in all kinds of things, but that doesn’t mean those things have any substance. The only thing that matters is the strength of the object in which I place my faith.”
In Luke 5:1-11, Peter and his companions had fished all night with no results. They were weary and ready to go home. But Jesus saw them and asked to borrow one of their boats to teach some folks who had gathered on the lake shore. Afterwards, he instructed Peter to shove off into deeper water and let down his nets for a catch.
The resulting situation gives us a number of insights into the nature of biblical faith, and why it is different from the usual wishes and hopes that we often call “faith.”
- Biblical faith always involves the word of God. Peter (along with Andrew, James and John) were fishermen – they knew the waters, the marine life, the signs of the weather, the trade, the gear. It was probably like this for generations in their families (Luke 5:10). When they called it a day (or a night, Luke 5:5a), it was not because they were lazy or indifferent, it was because there really was nothing to be caught.
Who was Jesus? He was a carpenter (Mark 6:3) – a general designation for a skilled laborer who could do everything from cutting stones to making household furniture. Should a fishermen listen to a carpenter? Only if he was (to borrow the book title) more than a carpenter.
Peter said, “…nevertheless, at thy word I will let down the net.” Certainly it wasn’t Jesus’ authority as a carpenter to which Peter made reference.
Biblical faith stands upon the substance of God’s character (Romans 10:17). Faith is only a wish, unless the object of our faith is substantive. God is faithful and true. If God says something is so, then it is so (see: Hebrews 11; Titus 1:2).
- Biblical faith requires action on our part. Peter shoved off “a little from the land” (Luke 5:3) so Jesus could speak. Then, he “launch[ed] out into the deep” of the Galilee to receive the blessing. He also had to “let down” the nets once they reached the chosen spot. We might also note that Peter and those with him also had to reign in the nets, which were so full they began to break (Luke 5:6), and the catch so heavy the boat began to sink (Luke 5:7). There is no doubt that all the power for the miracle was in Christ, but biblical faith requires our participation.
But participate how? To put it simply: that’s up to God. Whether it is building an ark, pushing a boat out into the sea, or confessing our faith in Christ (Matthew 10:32-33) and being baptized for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16), our action/response must come from God’s design, or the blessings cannot follow.
- Biblical faith does involve some uncertainty. God is faithful. That is certain. But there are always uncertainties. “Where is Jesus taking us? What exactly is going to happen when we get there?” Those things weren’t revealed. Just as I struggle with this with my heavenly Father, my children struggle with this with me. Just last week I told them to go get in the car. I didn’t tell them where we were going or what exactly we were doing. Some responded, some demanded to know. I refused to tell them. I did that on purpose, for their long-term benefit. In our relationship with God, what’s important to remember is that God knows all things, and only wants what’s best for us, so what he has chosen to say is enough.
This is difficult for us because even in our certainty about God, we sometimes find ourselves seeking to know that which we simply cannot know. For example, what will we look like in heaven? God hasn’t revealed that to us in any detail, but what he has revealed assures us that heaven and hell are real, and that heaven will be perfect.
Perhaps Peter had in mind that Jesus would help him find some fish, but he never imagined it would be enough to sink the ship! God surprises us. Sometimes it is a blessing that overwhelms us. Sometimes the nets are breaking and we find ourselves desperately calling out for help. No matter what, and as difficult as it can be to tread the waters of the unknown, there is nothing to fear (Psalm 23:4): God is always in control.
- Biblical faith implies total commitment. Up to this point, Peter, Andrew, James and John were only casually acquainted with Christ. They were impressed, but not committed. A lot of people are impressed by Jesus for whatever reasons, but they are not committed to him. After this miracle, these four men simply left their boats on the Galilean shore, “forsook all, and followed him” (Luke 5:11).
In one sense, I can identify. Before entering ministry as a vocation, I was being offered a significant promotion. I remember the date my training was to begin: October 6, 2002. The circumstance was so cliché: I walked in the door and my wife had something to say to me, and vise-versa. I planned to tell her that I was going to accept the position, but I requested she speak first. She said, “I think you should go to school” (specifically, West Virginia School of Preaching, in Moundsville, WV).
I turned down the most significant financial opportunity we had ever had up to that point. We shoved off from the shore and let down our nets. We left one life for another.
Not everyone can give themselves to the vocation of ministry, nor do they have to. However, disciples will “forsake all” and follow Christ, doing all things “heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24). Faith implies our full commitment to Christ in all things.