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Tuesday 23 June 2015

For A Smaller And Greater Prize

Last week (exactly a week ago today) I went to a prayer and Bible study session where I was hit by a powerful revelation from the scripture we were reading in Luke 5. However, I was struggling to work out how to phrase this revelation in blog format. That is until today, after something my wonderful and insightful girlfriend Jeanille said to me last night about how we can look back at previous heartbreak and realise that they help us to appreciate the true riches that God might have in store for us in later years. So this is a blog post about giving up. It's a blog post about giving up the bigger prize for the smaller, yet greater prize ahead.

So the section of Luke 5 I want to focus on is from verses 4-11 here in the ESV: "4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, 'Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.' 5 And Simon answered, 'Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.' 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, 'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.' 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, 'Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.'11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him."

So let me break that down: first of all Jesus is hopping into this boat owned by fishermen, people who have this whole trade of fishing for their livelihood and food. Jesus then tells the fishermen (particularly Simon Peter) to go out into deeper water and start fishing again. He tells the fishermen how to do their job after they have had one unsuccessful whole night of catching nothing (reminds me of Pastor Ken's message about the long dark night on Sunday but more on that later). But here's where the start of faith begins. Peter has the faith to say that, 'Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.' The start of faith (active powerful faith) is when we look at the circumstances and say, "Lord it doesn't matter what has happened before, if you tell me to do this then I will!"

So Peter and the other fishermen follow Jesus' instructions, and they catch so many fish that they have to get help from the other boat. They went from nothing to a monopoly of fish - all because they trusted Jesus' commands. This leads Simon to recognise that Jesus is not just some ordinary man, there's more power and authority to what Jesus is doing. So Peter falls before Jesus and confesses what a sinful individual he is. And here is where I had my interesting revelation about faith and the smaller but greater prize: these first disciples marvelled at the catch they had taken, I imagine for them it was a jackpot of fish - something to thrive on for days, maybe weeks or months to come. And you know how they respond to this mega catch? It's verse 11: "And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him." 

That's right, they left everything to follow Jesus. That includes the mega catch of fish. Now imagine you win one million dollars thanks to Jesus in a similar situation. Would you be so keen to leave that all behind and follow Him? I mean that's something you could bank, invest and live off! Yet these men up and followed Jesus because of the promise of something greater. They had a powerful encounter with Christ and their lives were changed. What was that promise that Jesus gave them as an alternative prize then? It's this: "'Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.'"

It's a call to eternity, a promise that sometimes that giant catch that we can see staring us in the face is actually not for us. This was not a miracle for those first disciples to enjoy the physical fruits of. But it was a miracle to encourage those who are witnesses of what Jesus did through such a miracle. If you ever find yourself starring at a miraculous provision from Him but it is taken away from you, or you realise that you have to give it up, remember that the God we serve - the three in one, mighty to save, redeeming God - is a God who provides eternally a far greater reward. In the natural, fishing for men - that call to discipleship - might seem like a small reward (What about my mega catch of blessing Jesus? You might ask) but it is ultimately a reward which leads people to Christ and brings us eternal family and wholeness. In following Christ you may give up one bigger physical prize but you will never lose sight of that smaller, greater prize.

I want to stop there to briefly encourage anyone who doesn't know Christ to begin the journey of coming to know Him as Lord. While there is a cost and it may feel like you are giving up a jackpot for something smaller, ultimately there is a far greater reward ahead. All you need to do is take that first step of faith and row out your boat like Peter did. If you do know Christ (and yes I know a mixed bunch of people read my blog posts) then this should serve as an encouragement to you if you feel like you have left behind heartbreak and disappointments in your life. If you have regret over leaving behind the big catch then just remind yourself that God always has bigger and better plans ahead, even if they don't always seem that way. And that one day you can look back and realise that every piece of your life was preparing you for the life God has for you today and in eternity.

Let's push on together for that smaller, but greater prize. The choice today is ours!

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