John 21 (Casting The Nets On The Other Side)1 After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”
They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately[a] got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. 4 But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?”
They answered Him, “No.”
6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.
In their own strength, the disciples caught nothing. Even though they tried hard, and toiled through the night, hours of effort produced an empty net! Remember, these guys were pros! They weren't just out on a weekend fishing trip trying their hand at netting some fish! They had lived on the sea! Their livelihood before they met Jesus was FISHING!
I'm reminded of some of my early evangelistic efforts. When I was around eighteen years old, my friends and I decided to go witnessing at a rock concert. We took Gospel tracts, our favorite Bibles, and a resolve to change the world! One by one the rock fans passed by as we shouted, "Jesus loves you!" One particular fan, dressed in black and covered in tattoos approached me with a sinister look that was mixed with visceral hate, and anger. "Jesus loves you" I said, holding out a Gospel tract. He took the tract, threw it back at me, and began to say horribly perverse things about my Jesus, and consequently...me. I tried to maintain a spirit of love for this blasphemous man, hoping to persuade him to listen, instead, he inched ever closer to my face with his hate spewing mouth, baring his teeth as if they were the fangs of a rabid wolf. He told me that God didn't exist, and implied that he was going to see to it that I didn't exist if I didn't shut up and leave. I told him, "The Bible says, that the fool has said in his heart there is no God." As you might guess, he didn't like that! He erupted like a volcano, spewing his blasphemous diatribe at the top of his lungs.
I remember thinking, "Why isn't it working? I'm spreading the Gospel. I am speaking the Truth in love. I'm casting the net!" Looking in the man's eyes as he shouted, "666, and hail Satan!", I heard a small still voice in my spirit. That voice said, "Leave now, or you're going to be murdered." At that point, I left quickly, saying one last time, "Jesus still loves you!" He replied with a resounding curse against our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ever feel ineffective? Does it sometimes seem that no matter what you do to share Jesus, you come up empty? I can tell you that as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I have many times come up empty! Or so it seems. You see, I don't know what happened to that hateful rock fan. All I saw was the ugly mask of sin upon him. I never got to see the person God created him to be. Is it possible that the Holy Spirit touched his heart that night, despite what I saw? It is VERY POSSIBLE! In Corinthians 3:6 (NKJV) apostle Paul wrote, "I planted, Apollos watered, and God gave the increase." I scattered some seed in the rock concert scenario. Though it felt empty, and the evidence pointed to the same...it was not empty. "God's Word will not return void...or empty. It always has substance, and will always produce substance in the lives of those who hear it, and consequently, do it.
Emptiness is the result of casting the net without the wisdom and power of Jesus. Emptiness is NOT necessarily the lack of effort. And it isn't the lack of experience. From what I can see in the Bible, emptiness is the lack of true focus on Jesus...on God's will. Think with me for a moment about the champions of the Bible. Joseph was focused on God. At times he seemingly came up empty. In the end he was rewarded! Abraham was focused on God. He wandered in the desert. His wife's womb was seemingly empty. God filled it with Isaac! God fulfilled His promises to Abraham! Mary focused her best on Jesus. She emptied the alabaster box. Judas derided her gift. Jesus filled her with the Truth of His everlasting promise!
I believe TRUST is the prelude to obedience. I believe OBEDIENCE is the assurance of INCREASE. The disciples had fished ALL NIGHT! They had done a professional job of casting the net. Their BEST efforts came up EMPTY! Jesus arrived on the scene. He told them to cast their net on the right side of the boat. They trusted and obeyed. The net was filled! Think about it. Once the net left their hands, it went into the water. They couldn't see the fish filling the net...but they were! The fish were swimming into their net...why?! Because Jesus was rewarding the faith of the disciples! Each time they had pulled in the net during the night, they had caught nothing. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon wrote that pretty much every thing in life that doesn't focus on God is "vanity, and grasping at the air." In order for something to be worthwhile, it must have a valid purpose. The fishing that Peter and the others did in the night was in vain. They were doing something to either occupy their time, or merely make money. When Jesus had them cast the net, it was for a purpose! It was to bolster their faith, and to identify increase with the power of God!
What is YOUR purpose today? Why do you live? Are you merely doing things to occupy the time you have graciously been given by God? Are you just trying to make a living? Has your life become focused on a paycheck? God has a better focus for you! While you are earning money at work, to put food on the table, why not sling some seed? While taking part in a hobby, sport, or some activity, why not cast the net? Jesus knew what would happen when the disciples cast the net under His influence. He knows what will happen when YOU CAST THE NET UNDER HIS INFLUENCE TOO! Don't just go through the motions of Christianity! Don't allow yourself to be lulled into a spiritual stupor that closely resembles the lifestyle of the world! Make a choice to challenge logic with FAITH! Net what Jesus has planned for you to net, by TRUSTING HIM COMPLETELY!