Homeschooling Encouragement, Christian Homeschoolers

Toiling for Nothing

  • Timothy Palla Contributing Writer
  • Published Nov 21, 2005
Toiling for Nothing

"And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless, at thy word I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes. For he was a astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of fishes which they had taken." Luke 5:5, 6, 9

Peter was no stranger to the sea. He was one of those guys who puts his heart and soul into his work. He knew the latest trends in fishing, had custom-made equipment, understood the ways of the sea, and worked quite well with his fishing partners. Everything a person could need for the successful life of a fisherman was part of the equation So what happened? How could they spend an entire night out on the sea and come home without a single solitary fish?

As he and his fishing buddies towed their nets to the shallow water for cleaning, the analysis paralysis began. With every rhythmic dunk and swish, each of them pondered the events of the previous night: "Maybe we were too loud . . .  I told them we needed to go further out to sea . . . not enough moonlight . . . too much moonlight . . . too windy . . . not enough wind . . . "

Sometimes a man fails in spite of all his knowledge and experience. When this happens, he never takes it lightly although he wants you to think he does. He replays each scene in his mind over and over and over again looking for patterns, clues, and minute details that escaped his eye--anything that may uncover the root of his real or perceived failure. I suppose this is why so many men are glued to Monday night football; we thrive on replays because it's part of our make up.

Jesus "just happened" to be passing by that morning. The crowds were soon gathering and multitudes surrounded him. So many souls to teach, edify, and exhort; and yet, how could they all hear him? Surely a seated platform and some kind of a barrier would keep the people at a distance where everyone could see and hear Him clearly.

Peter and his men apparently had given up. They were tired and hungry and ready to go home. That's when he noticed the solitary figure climbing into his boat. It was Jesus. "Hey friend," He said, "can you push me out a little way into the water?" The fisherman obliged and Jesus continued teaching the multitudes from the stern of Peter's boat.

If I had been Peter, my mind would have been thinking of the hot breakfast waiting for me back home, a soft bed, and a pillow with my name on it. Doesn't it seem like Jesus requests our involvement when we have other things we'd rather be doing? He wants us to expend a little more of our energy when we're already tired, and weary. Often it seems that He pushes our last button when we are frustrated the most. Have you ever wondered why?

Knowing the wonderful grace of Jesus personally, it makes me smile when I read Jesus' words, "Launch out into the deep and let your nets down for a catch." The Lord always rewards those who heed His calling. Peter wasn't thinking of a reward, though. He was replaying the time and effort which was wasted during the long night's excursion. "Launch out into the deep? Let the nets down for a catch? Who are you kidding?" he thought to himself.

Peter collected his thoughts and then tactfully stated, "Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing." I imagine that an uncomfortably long period of silence followed his statement. Peter wanted the weight of his words to sink down deep into Jesus' ears--"toiled . . . all night . . caught nothing . . . toiled . . . ALL night . . . caught NOTHING . ." The Master sat quietly and waited for Peter to respond. In His Divine wisdom, Jesus knew that obedience is always rewarded, and there was an amazing reward waiting for Peter.

"Nevertheless, at your word, I'll let down the net," Peter conceded. Remember this phrase when you can't sleep at night because your son has difficulty remembering his multiplication tables. Think about it when your daughter fails her spelling test after you helped her study for days on end. Replay Peter's answer when you, too, have felt like all your labor has been in vain and you have toiled--really toiled--for nothing. "At your word, I'll let down the net--because you've asked, Lord, I'll do it again."

Peter wearily tossed the net back into the water just as he had done dozens of times the night before; only this time, a multitude of fish swam directly into it. He summoned for his partners and soon they joined him in the draw. An instant replay took place in Peter's mind, "At thy word, I'll let down the net . . . of course, Lord . . . I'll gladly let down the net . . ." One moment he's "toiling all night for nothing" and the next he's "filling all the boats." Faithful obedience makes a difference.

You believed in your heart that the Lord called you to homeschool your children. You have toiled over curriculum, library books, schedules, routines, responsibilities, devotions, grades, record-keeping, tests, study habits, and work space. Some days you will think it has all been for nothing. Have faith and be encouraged, my comrade. The one who called you to "launch out into the deep" and then said, "let down your net, again" will reward your faithfulness with a catch that will astound you. When you're weary and the results seem predictably negative, take a deep breath and go at it one more time. Your faithful obedience to His word will transform your seemingly wasted toil into a major miracle.


Timothy Palla is the pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in the Lucasville/Minford area of southern Ohio. He and his lovely wife, Jennifer, homeschool their five children; Drew, Dane, Aidan, Ethan, and Meghan. You may contact him at

This article was originally published in the Nov/Dec '05 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. For more information, visit To request a free sample copy, visit