What we can learn from the stories of Peter and the other disciples
There is no such thing as a Christ follower who isn’t actively engaged in God’s mission on earth to make his name known among every nation.
After Jesus spoke to the crowds from a fishing boat in Luke 5, Jesus told Peter to go into deeper water and let down the nets to catch some fish. But that’s what Peter had been doing all night: casting and picking up, casting and picking up—with no fish to show for it. Peter is a professional, and he knows when the fish aren’t biting, and Jesus telling him to give it just one more toss is a little insulting. (Plus, Jesus is a carpenter, not a fisherman, and Peter must have thought, “Listen, if I’ve got a wobbly chair, I’ll call you, but don’t be giving me advice about fishing.”)
I’m sure he replied respectfully but with a little irritation:
“Master, we’ve worked hard all night long and caught nothing.”
“But if you say so, I’ll let down the nets.”
This is the pause with eternal significance—when Peter’s heart is filled with doubt, but he decides to obey anyway. Peter’s life is transformed because of that pause. Then, they catch a boatload of fish, so much that they needed reinforcements to bring it all into the boats.
“When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’s knees and said, ‘Go away from me, because I’m a sinful man, Lord!’”
“‘Don’t be afraid,’ Jesus told Simon. ‘From now on you will be catching people.’ Then they brought the boats to land, left everything, and followed him.” —Luke 5:8–11
Peter and the disciples show us the three characteristics necessary to become a disciple-making disciple and be part of the unstoppable movement of the gospel around the world.
Peter was so overwhelmed by Jesus’ display of power that he tells him, “Get away from me!” This strange reaction is actually what we should experience when we are in awe of God’s greatness: We should be attracted to it, but it will also probably make us want to run away.
When Jesus calls people to follow him, he often begins with an overwhelming vision of terror. God called the Old Testament prophet Isaiah to be his messenger first by giving him a glimpse of his glory, so much so that Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me!” which means, “Let me be cursed. Let me be damned because I’m a man of unspeakable filth and a dirty mouth” (Isaiah 6).
When Jesus called the Apostle John to prepare his church for what was ahead, he gave to John a glimpse of his glory (Rev. 1). John, who had been a friend of Jesus in his earthly life, was so overwhelmed at what he saw that he fell on his face, sure he was going to die!
When God called me to his service, he did it by first giving me a glimpse of how long eternity is and how terrible it would be as his forever enemy. It kept me up late many nights as a teenager, scared to death of dying and meeting God.
Jesus sometimes terrifies you when he calls you because only awe compels obedience. Until God is big to you, you’ll never have the strength to obey him. If you have an obedience problem, it begins as an awe problem.
2. Commitment to Multiply
Jesus not only commanded Peter to follow; he also commanded him to go. Jesus is like a spiritual tornado; he never pulls you in without also hurling you back out.
What do you think the purpose of your life is? To make lots of money? To retire wealthy? To have kids and play with your grandkids? To make a name for yourself in your work? Jesus intends for you to impact eternity. He wants to take the net you’ve been fishing with and fill it with things of eternal value.
If you think you can’t do that because you’re not a pastor or you’ve never been to seminary, remember that Peter didn’t seem primed for God’s mission, either. His theological training happened as he followed Jesus and learned from him.
All Jesus wants from you is your willingness to follow him. He doesn’t need your ability; he needs your availability. Jesus says of the moment where we need to testify:
“Don’t worry about how you should defend yourselves or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what must be said.” —Luke 12:11–12
When you’re willing to obey, God will do the impossible through you. Obedience often isn’t some huge dramatic event. It’s more often small, seemingly mundane acts of following Jesus step-by-step, day by day.
3. Total Surrender
When Jesus called them, the disciples left everything and followed him.
The requirement to be used by Jesus as his follower is total surrender. You have to let it all go. And that’s where many people falter. They are religious.
They try to do the right thing. But they have never taken their hands fully off of their lives and said, “Jesus, it’s all yours!”
Have you ever spread your net out and said, “God, let this represent my talents, my dreams, my hopes, my decisions. What do you want from them? I’m putting it here on the ground before you. Fill it with what you want.”
Jesus will fill it with things of eternal significance. Isn’t that what you want from life? A life that matters? A life that makes a difference? There’s more to life than making money, having kids, and retiring with a beach house.
It’s a bold move to take on vulnerability and give up the things you once trusted in. But when you see how tender and trustworthy Jesus is, you’ll trust him with your life and your needs. You’ll lay your nets down as an act of surrender. Then, you’ll see him fill your nets as you become a disciple-making disciple.
This article originally appeared on JDGreear.com and is reposted here by permission.