Gone Fishing

When I find myself worn out by the press of life I often retreat to a familiar place. I seek a place where I feel safe and comfortable. The first place is bed . . . there’s nothing quite like taking a nap to refresh someone. (I’m sure that’s the reason some of you sleep in church!) Sometimes I like to curl up with a good book, or ramble through a bookstore or visit a computer store. At times, I enjoy sitting down and watching a program on TV or putting the headphones on and listening to music. This is where I go when I need to “clear my head.”

But other people have different kinds of things they do to find peace and refreshment. Some go to the gym. Others go for a walk. Some play golf, or work out in the shop. Still others like to go camping and others enjoy fishing. We all have, and need, these havens of rest. It is usually in these special places that we regain our perspective and are renewed and refreshed.

In our Biblical account in John 21 we see the disciples in need of a haven of rest. We aren’t told how long it has been since they last saw the Lord but we are led to believe it has been several days, at least. During this time their heads must have been spinning. Perhaps due to all the things that had been happening they found it difficult to quiet their mind enough to sleep. They knew the Lord wanted them to go into the world with the gospel . . . but they didn’t really know what they meant or how to start. They needed to “get away” for a little while. Their solution . . . a good night of fishing.

I suspect it was a long night. Though certainly the peace of being out on the lake was helpful . . . they weren’t catching any fish! It had happened before but it was never a pleasant experience. Good fishermen (and these were “professional fishermen”) are supposed to bring home fish! It was in this very circumstance that God taught his disciples (then and now) some important truths.

God’s Wisdom is Superior

As these men row toward shore Jesus calls to them. He asks the dreaded question, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” I suppose it was the equivalent of asking, “Did you catch anything?” The text says they answered with a simple “No”. Wouldn’t you like to know the tone of voice that accompanied that “No”? Was there a hint of exhaustion? An edge of irritation? A trace of embarrassment? Did they shout, whisper, or speak in a normal tone? We don’t know.

What we do know is that Jesus responds to their “No” by telling them to “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” The text tells us that they did not recognize the Lord. The amazing thing to me is that they actually did what the man on the shore suggested. One would think experienced fishermen would be resent advice from a bystander (kind of like how men resist asking for navigational help). They had labored all night. They had the nets in and perhaps had begun cleaning them. I can hear the grumbles. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they had ignored the stranger all together and wrote him off as one who “didn’t know what He was talking about.” But, they did what He told them to do.

And were they ever rewarded for their trust! As soon as they drop their nets into the water the fish seem to be jumping in. We are told that the net was so full they couldn’t haul the net into the boat. In verse 11 we read, “It was full of large fish, 153.” These were not the kind of fish you throw back. . . they were keepers!

It seems odd that John would take pains to tell us that there were 153 fish. It may have simply been that he was a typical fisherman and eager to tell of their magnificent catch. (It is somewhat like what happens in deer season. It is not enough to say one “got” a deer . . .they have to report how many “points” the deer had.) There are all kinds of theories as to the significance of the 153 fish . . . but the end result is that we don’t know if there is ANY significance.

His wisdom is superior to our areas of expertise

I had an interesting experience with this message. I was in my office here at the church and I was struggling with the message. I had some points but things weren’t fitting together. I tried coming up with points that kind of sounded like they went together. I consulted the scholars. I racked my brain for some good illustrations. Then something I wrote made me realize that the one thing I hadn’t tried was simply being quiet before the Lord. Duh!

Guess what? I turned off the lights and just talked to the Father and I saw what I hadn’t seen before. I saw that there was a message for me in this fish story. The message was simple . . . even at my best, I still need His guidance.

We want to be self-sufficient. We feel this compulsion to “make it on our own”. It’s almost as if the Lord is saying to us . . .”why are you making this so difficult?” Whatever your area of “expertise” is probably the place where you are most likely to rely more on yourself than on the Lord. This story reminds us that such practice is a mistake. The best of our wisdom does not come close to the wisdom of God.

His wisdom is superior in times of distress

We have all had times in our life when we just “didn’t know what to do”

  • when people criticize unjustly
  • when we feel spiritually dry
  • when people make unreasonable demands
  • when the workload is more than we can bear
  • when we feel poor physically
  • when everything seems to be going wrong.

At these times we are tempted to retreat to our own little corner and lick our wounds. We feel that our efforts to be faithful have been met with bane rather than blessing. The last thing we want to hear is the Savior saying, “Don’t give up”, “Try again”, “Keep doing what is right”. “Throw the net on the right side of the boat.” But that is what He tells us. You can’t go wrong by following the directions.

The Lord gives us many directions that seem silly.

  • Do you really think we’re going to catch fish after catching nothing all night?
  • can a person really be sexually pure in this day and age?
  • how can you compete in business when everyone seems to be engaging in deceptive practices?
  • how do you tithe of your income when there are so many expenses?
  • how can I forgive after they have wounded me so deeply?
  • how can I rejoice in the Lord, when my heart is in pieces?

We must learn this lesson about God’s wisdom because there will be times when we must do what He tells us . . . not because it makes sense or is popular; but just because we trust His wisdom.

The Old Testament is filled with stories of men called to do strange things: Noah built a boat; Abraham went up on Mount Moriah to sacrifice his son; Moses talked to Pharoah; Gideon went to war with a rag-tag army of 300; Hosea re-married his unfaithful wife; a poor woman collected empty jars to give to Elijah; Ezekiel did all kinds of weird stuff; Jeremiah testified of God’s faithfulness as he walked among the ruins of Jerusalem; Daniel prayed even when it meant facing the lions. The stories could go on and on. But in each case these people did what God said even though they didn’t understand . . . and they proved His wisdom.

His Wisdom is Superior for Reaching the Lost

Who would have thought of sending fishermen out with the gospel message? You would have thought scholars and orators would have been a better choice. But you would have been wrong. God took the simple of the world and used them to show the wonders of His love. He made them the “fishers of men”.

His command is simple: “go into all the world and preach the gospel.” It’s not complicated. We are to share what we know, with the people we come in contact with, using the resources and abilities we have been given.

God did not need entertainers, production numbers, popular music, big buildings, satellites, million dollar budgets, fancy programs, political action groups, weekend seminars. He just needed people who were willing to do what He said. I wonder if the shallowness of today’s commitment isn’t the result of our attempting to convert people by our gimmicks rather than by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. The aforementioned things may have a place . . . but they aren’t necessary and sometimes are a barrier to the gospel.

God’s wisdom is Superior to our wisdom and the wisdom of the world in which we live. But that’s not all we learn.

God’s Provision is Sufficient

The Lord provided for the needs of the disciples. In fact, He provided abundantly for them. John was so impressed by the Lord’s provision that he tells us the exact number of fish. That’s almost twenty fish per man!

His provision is sufficient for our daily needs

We spend so much of our lives running after stuff yet Jesus makes this promise:

Matthew 6:25-33 “”Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

It’s a good question. Why do we worry so much about stuff that God has promised to provide for us?

I spend a good portion of my life fretting about paying bills. The rest of the time I seem to be feeling deprived at not having some trinket which someone else has. How foolish. God has promised to take care of me. And do you know what . . . any time I HAD to depend on Him . . .surprise! He was more than able to meet the challenge.

His provision is sufficient for the times of crisis

Who of us has not gone through a time where we knew we could not get through it unless God helped us. And when you are on the other side of the crisis you realized that God did indeed give us what we needed: strength, friends, patience, faith. If only we could remember those times when we were in the crisis.

His provision is sufficient for our salvation

Millions work feverishly in their lives hoping to earn what God has provided as a gift. They walk around loaded with guilt to show how sorry they are. They spend their lives working to prove their goodness. And when all is said and done . . . they still fall short. And deep down they know it.

Jesus did what we could not do for ourselves . . . He gave His life as a payment for our sin. He credited His righteousness to our account. God has done what was necessary . . . what we must do is rest in it.

God’s Love is Practical

The thing that jumps out at me from this passage from the first time I read it was this . . . Jesus made the disciples breakfast! He knew they were tired and hungry so he fed them. I find this somewhat astounding . . . and that’s the problem.

We have an image of God that makes Him somewhat detached from our day to day world. We know God is concerned about the big things of our lives but we seem to think He shouldn’t be “bothered” with the little things. If someone raised their hand during our prayer time and said “I’d like prayer because I’m going into surgery”, we’d think that was a noble request. If someone stood up and said “I’d like prayer because I can’t seem to find my keys” . . . we’d roll our eyes and think the person was some kind of fanatical kook. That’s why we need this lesson.

The Lord Cares About the Little Things

The great thing about this account is that it shows us that the disciples’ hunger mattered to our Lord. He cares when we are tired, frustrated, alone. He cares when we have heart problems and when we have a sinus headache. He cares when we are petrified because we are being mugged and when we are frightened to stand up and give a speech. He cares when we win a war and when we get a good grade on a quiz. He cares when we feel a sense of despair in our life and when we are bored. God cares about every aspect of our lives. Most of us are guilty of shutting God out of the majority of our lives.

At a time of crisis people often find out how many people really care about them. You appreciate all the people who come to help. However, the people you consider your best friends are the ones who are not only there in the crisis . . . they are there in all the other times as well. The Lord wants to have a close relationship with us. A close relationship is not a “Crisis Centered” relationship. It is one nurtured through everyday happenings of life. Think about it, what kind of a marriage would you have if you were only together in the times of crisis?

God cares about the little things. I bet there is a problem in your life that you have been struggling with and you haven’t even thought to talk to God about it. He’s waiting, friend.

The Little Things of Life is where Faith Grows

We believe God doesn’t care about the little things so it is a small step to concluding that the little things don’t matter. However, we couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s easier to be faithful in a crisis because we feel we don’t have any other choice. It’s in the day to day existence that the true nature of our faith comes to light. God cares about,

  • who you are when no one is looking
  • what responses you consider when someone cuts you off on the road
  • what you do when you don’t like someone
  • whether you misrepresent the truth to get what you want
  • how you respond when you are angry
  • what you choose to do when you can “get away with it”
  • how you treat your spouse and children in private
  • how you respond to juicy gossip

Yes, the Lord made the boys breakfast. I think He did it to show them that He wanted to be their true friend and their constant companion. He wanted them to know that He was not just concerned about their “work”, He was concerned about them.


Do you understand that this message is really not about you . . . it’s about Him? His Wisdom is Superior, His Provision is Sufficient, His Love is Practical and all-encompassing. I think these are some of the things He wanted to boys to learn. And these are things we need to remember,

  • When we are tempted to trust our own talents, resources and gimmicks
  • When we are tempted to worry and fret
  • When we are tempted to shut Him out from our daily living

Friends, the Lord who knew where the fish were . . . the Lord who met the needs of the disciples . . . the Lord who made breakfast for the fisherman…knows where you are and what you need too.

  • He knows what you are going through
  • He knows what you need to survive
  • He knows what you need to grow
  • He knows what you need to learn
  • He knows what is really important in life
  • He knows the way home

He waits for you, you know. He wants to help. He longs to guide you. He wants to be a real companion and friend. All you need to do is come to Him. He’ll take care of the rest.

So, the next time you need to get away, you’d do well to take a trip . . .a mental trip, to the Sea of Galilee and remember the day the boys went fishing.

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