Peter knelt in the water, intent on washing his nets. Unaware of the crowd of people thronging Jesus, he, along with James and John, continued the task of rinsing grime from the Galilean Sea off their empty nets. The night had been long and fruitless. They had not a single fish to show for their efforts.
Suddenly, Peter heard his name. “Simon, may I use your ship?”
Willing to assist Jesus, Peter left his net and resumed his seat in the fishing boat. He nudged it away from the shore and listened as Jesus’ voice now projected across the Galilean Sea to the multitude on the bank.
Jesus finished His message and turned once again to Peter. His request this time was astounding: “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a drought” (Luke 5:4).
It was a well-known fact that in the Sea of Galilee, fishermen caught fish at night in the shallow water—not in full daylight in deep water. Peter could obey Jesus and launch out, or he could follow his senses and decline. Peter didn’t know it, but his choice in that moment would be the pivotal point for the rest of his life.
Peter’s decision and the resulting miracle reveal that a single act of obedience to Christ’s command can change the course of an entire life. When Peter chose to place his faith in the powerful word of God, his life would never be the same.
You and I likewise have the opportunity to experience the miraculous power of God. We serve the same Jesus who spoke to Peter two thousand years ago. We have access to His written Word, and we have the promises of His faithfulness to back us. Why then do we experience a lack of fruit in ministry? Why could we echo Peter’s comment, “Master, we have toiled all the night [by our methods, with the means we know] and have taken nothing”?
Lack of resources is not our problem—we have the boat and net. There is no shortage of souls that need Christ—the sea is wide open and ready. But we sit on the dock attempting to catch fish in shallow waters.
Before anything great will be accomplished for Christ, we must make the decision to “launch out” at His command. Like Peter, our response to God’s Word will either invite His blessing and power, or it will hinder it.
Great things will happen only as we launch forward in our service to Christ. Without Spirit-led, Spirit-filled action, our lives and ministries will become spiritually stagnant. Like Peter’s disappointing night of fishing, our attempts to serve the Lord in our strength will yield empty nets every time. As we heed Christ’s commands, however, we will experience miracles made possible only by the hand of God.
Are you ready to launch out?
Get Out of the Shallows
Perhaps our greatest obstacle in seeing the miraculous power of God is our own apathy. We generally do what we want to do. And most of us don’t want to leave our comfort zone.
In today’s accommodating culture, we are willing to dabble in service for the Lord—we may even wade out a bit further than the Christian next to us—but we insist on staying near the shore. It’s one thing to receive Jesus as your Saviour; it’s another thing to wholeheartedly follow Him as a disciple.
Moving into deep water requires a full commitment. It means you weigh anchor and set your sails to catch the wind. It means you leave the shallows behind— fully surrendered to the directions of the Captain.
In the murky waters of shallow Christianity, we lose focus; we forget the very purpose of ministry is to preach the gospel.
In the shallows, we’re often busy, and we generate a full array of programs. But we don’t catch fish! Our ministries become more about service than about reaching lost men and women with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
According to the Barna Group, a nationwide research organization, three out of four Christians in the United States(74%)1 will share their faith only through “lifestyle evangelism”—an approach void of direct, verbal witness to the lost around them. Only 30 percent (less than one-third)2 said they personally share the plan of salvation with someone else on a regular basis. With statistics like these, is it any wonder that American Christians are stagnant and cold, with little spark of revival?
A similar survey examining a spiritually stagnant America tracked a decade of declining statistics in American Christians’ Bible reading, prayer, and church attendance. From the 45 percent in 1991 who stated they read their Bible outside church to 37 percent in 2001, these numbers should serve as a splash of cold water to some fast-asleep Christians.3
Content with the status quo, some will sit on the dock and look out over the water, offering only complaints when our nation turns from God.
We can lament the state of our nation and the multitudes of lost people around us, or we can roll up our sleeves, hoist the sails, and launch out into the deep.
Cross the Threshold of Humility
When Christ saw a need, He acted. He was willing not only to condescend to come to Earth, but also to interact with sinful, flawed humanity. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Peter’s boat wasn’t freshly scoured. It was slimy and smelly. Peter himself had been working with filthy fishing equipment all night as well. But Jesus cared about people more than He cared about comfort.
Jesus’ ministry didn’t target the upper class—those who would cause Him the least discomfort. He reached out to the needy. God in the flesh now entered the environment of a common fisherman.
No real ministry will take place in your life or mine, until we, too, are willing to cross the threshold of humility. We must obey the instruction of Philippians 2:3 to “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).
The greatest opportunities for ministry often are, humanly speaking, the most distasteful. Serving in inner cities, seeking out wounded souls, and ministering to shattered lives isn’t always easy, nor is it comfortable. But it is fruitful.
James 4:10 directs us to, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” Jesus condescended to our low estate so every person might have an opportunity to be saved. May gratitude for His unspeakable gift compel us to likewise serve with humility.
Set Aside Human Reasoning
Initially, Peter responded to Jesus’ command like you and I would have done—with logic. “Master, we have toiled all the night and have taken nothing.”
I can imagine Peter’s thoughts behind those words. Jesus, really? You’re great at carpentry, and you’re a marvelous preacher, but how about we leave the fishing decisions to me? This is my specialty.
Peter had already toiled all night. He knew his work—he was a master fisherman. What Jesus had just asked Peter to do was contrary to all of Peter’s training and experience.
Even so, Peter made a watershed decision: “Nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.”
There is a pattern I see repeated throughout Scripture: God often doesn’t intervene until the task is humanly impossible. God loves impossible odds.
Remember Gideon? “And the Lord said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me” (Judges 7:2). Gideon experienced the truth that faith does not operate in the realm of the possible.
George Müller said it well: “There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends.”
Would you like to launch out? Recognize that what Jesus calls us to do—whether it is in witnessing, giving, serving, forgiving, or emptying self—is usually in exact opposition to human reasoning. Discipleship is not a life of logic or reasoning. It is a life of faith.
When we are willing to follow Christ into deep, unfamiliar waters, we will have closer fellowship with Him. This comes simply out of the complete reliance upon Him to meet our every need and guide us in our way. When the only answer to a problem is dependence on God, we tend to listen to Him more closely and spend time with Him more often. As we launch out in sharing the gospel, giving of our time and resources, and humbling ourselves to serve others, our growth becomes deeper than that of a Christian who insists upon sitting on the dock. Out in the deep water, we learn how to trust and how to pray. Those who launch out learn quickly that God accomplishes great things with a life wholly lived by faith, for “without faith it is impossible to please him” (Hebrews 11:6).
The Lord knows our limitations. He knew Peter’s fatigue, his doubt, and his needs. John 2:24–25 tells us: “But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, and…he knew what was in man.” Before we argue with Christ, we should try trusting Him! As the omniscient God, He knows us better than we know ourselves.
Heed Christ’s Command
The phrase in this passage that grabs me every time I read it is Peter’s statement, “At thy word, I will.”
Peter knew every reason—and they were good ones—not to obey Jesus. But under the direct command of Jesus, Peter turned from his logic and staked everything on Jesus’ word.
Peter’s obedience to Christ wasn’t the reckless abandon our culture lauds. It wasn’t the result of throwing logic to the wind and following his inner dreams.
Peter’s decision to launch out was purposed obedience. It was the result of a man who had unmistakably heard Christ’s command and calculated that God’s power was greater than his limitations.
How do we develop this level of faith? How do we know when and where to launch out? Romans 10:17 provides a clear answer: “So then, faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”
Do you hear God’s Word? Do you read it, study it, memorize it, listen to it as it’s preached?
A casual observer might conclude that ministry in the twenty-first century has advanced beyond the Word of God. We give such attention to social media, critics, the Internet, talk shows, popular opinion, and best-selling books that we sometimes neglect the only source we really need—the Word of God.
“At thy word”—it was the stake on which Peter hung his decision to launch out. We must come to a place where we believe and put into practice the knowledge that our God can do anything, but fail. This knowledge will enable us to stay the course, no matter the circumstances or distractions swirling about us.
Prepare for a Miracle
When Peter launched out, he didn’t leave his half-washed nets on the shore. He let them down into the water “for a draught.” Launching out into the deep was only the first half of Jesus’ command. Letting down the nets was just as important.
We can go through motions of obedience, but if we don’t believe that “He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6), we don’t have real faith.
Even after the initial launch, our faith may falter. Satan has two primary tactics for neutralizing our obedience to Christ— discouragement and fear. If he can snag us by either method, we forsake faith and return to human reasoning.
Christians who set out for the deep but then lose their forward momentum for Christ become confused in their walk with God. They don’t realize it, but their navigation system is only programed to work by faith; it freezes when consulted by fear.
In such times, we do well to remember the words of Jesus to a troubled father, “Be not afraid, only believe” (Mark 5:36).
It’s Not about More Boats
If you didn’t already know this story, you might guess that when Peter saw the “great multitude of fishes” in his net, he would let out a great shout and eagerly calculate his new wealth.
On the contrary, Peter’s response was startling: “He fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was astonished.”
Peter was overwhelmed that God would use him. Warren Wiersbe says of this moment, “Peter was humbled, not by his night of failure but by his astounding success; this is a mark of real character. If success humbles you, then failure will build you up.” As Peter bowed in the presence of Jesus, the Lord brought it all together for Peter, “Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.”
In that moment, something clicked in Peter’s mind. If he was unsure about his life purpose before, he wasn’t now. No longer would he focus on business expansion. He wouldn’t be pricing new boats or scouting out more partners. From this moment forward, he would be a fisher of men. On the behalf of Christ Himself, Peter would call people to their Saviour.
This is why we launch out! It is not for our glory or to fulfill our quest for adventure. We launch out to catch men—to connect hearts with the invitation of Christ. We launch out to preach the gospel—to tell broken, shattered people that there is salvation through the blood of Jesus.
Launching out isn’t about expanding our reputation or filling our ego. It is a decision to live fully for the glory of God by leading lost souls to Christ.
Will You Catch Men?
Many Christians are eager to launch a new business, career, hobby, or relationship. But few are surrendered to launch out in response to Jesus’ command, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).
Many Christians see the spiritual need surrounding them. Few have the faith to take action. Many have access to God’s Word and sense the Holy Spirit’s prompting. Not so many launch out at His word.
Jesus is still calling His disciples to launch out and let down their nets for a draught. It is still possible to be part of a great work of God. It is still plausible that the Holy Spirit could bring revival to our spiritually darkened nation. It is still God’s will to use you in the salvation of others.
But you can only be a fisher of men if you will follow Christ with unrestrained obedience—if you will pull up your anchor and untie your rope from the dock.
Would you like to catch a draught of fish? Do you wonder how God might bless your obedience? The moment you launch out at His word, the possibilities become as endless as the horizon.