July 26, 2014
Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“God grabbed me by the shoulder and said, ‘Get up. Go out on the plain. I want to talk with you.’ So I got up and went out on the plain. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The glory of God. Right there!”
Ezekiel 3: 22
The Message Bible
“Did you ever hear of anyone being much used for Christ who did not have some special waiting time, some complete upset of all his or her plans first…In my own case…I thought the door was flung open for me to go with a bound into literary work…but the doctor stepped in and said, simply, ‘Never! She must choose between writing and living, she can’t do both.’ That was in 1860. Then I came out of the shell with Ministry of Song in 1869, and saw the evident wisdom of being kept waiting nine years in the shade. God’s love being unchangeable, He is just as loving when we do not see or feel His love.”
Frances Ridley Havergal
Today’s Study Text:
“They went out and got in the boat. They caught nothing that night.”
John 21: 3
The Message Bible
“They Caught Nothing”
“A visit to the desert is a letting go of all things that occupy one; therefore the desert represents a ‘no-thing.’ Or a nothingness experience.”
Have I ever been in a specific situation where I planned on having a certain result from my hard work but in the end, I came up very short – I had nothing to show for the labor I undertook?
“In those disappointments which to us are very grievous, God has often designs that are very gracious.”
“Our real blessings often appear to us in the shape of pains, losses and disappointments; but let us have patience, and we soon shall see them in their proper figures.”
(1672 – 1719)
If you happen to be an individual who loves to fish – my blessings are upon you. However, fishing has never been a pastime which held any great allure for me. When my dad was alive, our family did a lot of camping in Oak Creek Canyon and high in the pines in Greer, Arizona. Inevitably, I would wander down to the beautiful creek area and see, mostly men, lined up on the shore, casting their lines into the water. What always amazed me is that I could come back to the water’s edge, hours later, only to find the same people were there – maybe with two or three small fish attached to a basket which held all their “gear.” I’m sorry to say, my view of “gone fishin’” is one of sheer boredom.
My husband Jim, on the other hand, has quite a different view of the fishing experience for he’s gone out to sea on a commercial vessel. I won’t share with you all the details of Jim’s experiences in boats – but he jokes that his name should have really been Jonah because he could entertain you with a litany of horror stories about his experience with boats, water and fish. To say that we do much on the sea anymore would be a flat out lie and the irony of this information is that guess where Jim and I met? At the beach.
The only thing that I think could be worse than going fishing is coming back empty-handed. Especially if you had spent the entire night with your nets deep in the water waiting for them to fill with fish. The great Bible commentator Matthew Henry gives us wonderful insight into the disciples’ nighttime excursion onto the sea:
“Rather than do nothing the disciples decided they would go fishing; not for recreation, but for business…It is an instance of their industry and bespeaks them good husbands of their time. While they were waiting, they would not be idling.”
However, even with all their hard-work, John records that they caught “nothing.” After working their fingers to the bone, they came up empty. Professor Thomas H. Troeger, in his terrific comments on John 21, makes a very important point when he notes that “the disciples never caught a fish in any of the Gospels without the help of Christ.”
Just for a minute put yourself out in that boat in the dark in the middle of the night. Here’s how the conversation may have gone:
1. John: Peter is there anything in the net yet?
2. Peter: No John. And keep quiet. Don’t scare the fish away by your talking.
3. Thomas: (Muttering under his breath) What fish? Haven’t we had this problem before?
4. Peter: Not you too Thomas!
5. John: Hey Peter, did you try putting the net on the right side of the boat?
6. Peter: You bet I did! These nets have been all around this boat – and there’s nothing I tell you!
It is interesting that the disciple John who wrote in such fantastic detail in the book of Revelation has so few words to say about this night on the sea. Just three words: “We caught nothing.” I sense some frustration, even disappointment in that statement. It certainly conveys how sometimes you and I feel when we go out to labor with all our human might and we end up with nothing in our hands…nothing in the bank…nothing in our lives. As Matthew Henry so accurately observes, “Their disappointment in their fishing is that all night they caught nothing. See the vanity of the world; the hand of the diligent often returns empty. Even good women and men may come short of desired success in their honest undertakings. We may be in the way of duty, and yet not prosper.”
But thank God He doesn’t just walk off on His children saying, “Good try. Better luck next time. If you only try a little harder maybe you’ll do better.” No, our gracious Father treats His children in a most amazing way for as Matthew Henry continues, “Providence so ordered it that all that night they should catch nothing, that the miraculous draught of fishes in the morning might be the more wonderful.”
I want to share with you an experience from our family which has been going on for the last 7 ½ years. Last night I called my niece Bethanie and asked her permission to share this with you. Thankfully she agreed, so I want to tell you about what I call “Bethanie’s Fishing Folly.” Eight years ago Bethanie graduated from college and had to enter the job market like many young people today - little experience and few job offers. After several short-term, part-time experiences, she hired on with a temporary job search company who placed her as an administrative assistant in a local business with many branch stores. It certain wasn’t the job she wanted when she finished college and the pay wasn’t much. However, it was a job and she could live in her own apartment with a roommate. As time has passed, it became obvious that this position was a road to nowhere. So Bethanie asked me to add her name to our Prayer for Jobs list which I gladly did. In fact, many of you have been praying for her even though you didn’t have any idea who she was.
Over the last year, Bethanie’s original boss was able to work out of the office and the individual who replaced him internally was not a kind man by all accounts. His demeaning verbal assaults on Bethanie, when no one else was around, became very disturbing and our family was frankly concerned about the toll this behavior was taking on Bethanie’s self-esteem. But with such a tough job market, it became easy to stay with the familiar or at least not rock the boat. So her family did all we could do – we prayed. It’s been years of praying and in the last year, my mom, sister and I have stormed our Father’s throne. And then, after long nights of fishing, going on job interviews repeatedly, sending out multiple resumes, light broke. In just nine days, Bethanie starts a new job that as we call it, is a career not just a job. But here’s the thing, there are so many skills Bethanie needed for this new job that she had been perfecting during the dark night on the sea. There were computer classes she took after working hours that gave her experience which impressed the people at the new company because as they said, “we needed someone who has your skills on certain software programs.” Author Susie Larson makes this terrific point when she states, “Disappointment can take our breath away, but in due time and at the right time, God will restore our breath, redirect us, and put wind in our sails.” And I’ll add one more thing, when you feel as though you are all alone in a dark sea with an empty net, keep your eye on the beach for in the daylight, you’ll see that Jesus was right there with you all along.
“That you may have pleasure in everything
Seek your own pleasure in nothing…
That you may possess all things
Seek to possess nothing
That you may be everything
Seek to be nothing.”
John of the Cross
(1542 – 1591)
In The Presence of the Lord
“When doubts and demons assail me,
in the dead of the night and at noon,
telling me the promise is broken,
that this world has only its wounds.
Oh how I long for those times of refreshing
that come from the presence of the Lord.
When I cannot make sense of the Word,
when I feel a hostage to fate,
when I cannot be real with my God,
fearing judgment and knowledge too great.
O how I long for those times of refreshing
that come from the presence of the Lord.
I can give you my heart once again,
though poor and unworthy it seems,
for I know if I hold to my visions
You promise me more than false dreams.”
Fire and Bread
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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