When calling us to a place of increased fruitfulness, often God first bring us to the very place we failed. Will we courageously step forward into all He has for us, or will past disappointments keep us stuck?
I’ve stood with my feet anchored in cement, but I’ve also experienced the joy and freedom, and incredible intimacy with Christ, that comes from following His lead. And with every obedience choice, I’m learning to lift my gaze off of my weakness and lack and onto his strength and abundance.
Perhaps most importantly, I’m learning to trust that His ways truly are best and that He has the power to lead me to His best. That in fact that is precisely where He is leading me, with every step He asks me to take.
When my daughter was young, I sensed God calling me to launch a children’s ministry, and so I did. Almost without thinking. In many ways, my yeses came a lot easier back then, primarily because I hadn’t been serving long enough to experience much failure.
Initially, everything seemed great, and the ministry grew far beyond what I’d anticipated or envisioned. Initially, everything went well, and I received such joy and fulfillment from every moment, even those that brought fatigue. But then, problems hit, one after the other after the other, and all in areas I felt ill-equipped and ill-prepared for. A year, maybe two, later, I quit, confused and hurt that God would call me into something only to let me fail.
Over time, I grieved and moved on, and I began to find ways to serve once again. Fulfilling, joy-giving ways, but I carried that first failed experience with me wherever I went. As a result, I was reluctant to take significant risks. I told myself I was merely holding all things, ministry included, loosely, but really, I was self-protecting. Insulating my heart so that it wouldn’t sting so deeply, should God decide this next venture wasn’t to last.
Had I been Simon Peter, the day Jesus called him to push out into the deep, I suspect I would’ve needed a lot more persuading and cajoling. You might be familiar with the story. We find it in Luke chapter 5, which tells us of a day when Jesus was standing by the Sea of Galilee. As usual, a crowd surrounded Him. Upon seeing an Simon’s empty boat, he got in and began to teach the people from there. At some point, Simon, who had been cleaning his empty nets, got in the boat as well.
Verse 4 tells us, “When [Jesus] had finished speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch” (NIV). Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.”
In other words, he and his partners had done everything they knew to do. They’d given it their best effort and likely had exhausted themselves trying, only to find their nets clogged with algae and plant life. From a human perspective, going for another round would only dirty the nets they’d likely just cleaned. And yet, Simon responded, “But because You say so, I will let down the nets.”
“When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.”
Jesus called Simon right back to his place of failure. In this, the God of abundance filled his nets to overflowing—just to prove He could, so that they could follow Him without fear. And that’s precisely what occurred. You see, the power wasn’t in the miraculous number of fish but in the God who commanded them. Simon was able to shift his focus off of himself, his efforts or abilities or resources, and even God’s provision and center it firmly on Jesus, His Provider and Sustainer. That was what gave him to courage to leave his now filled nets, the equivalent of a thriving 401K, to follow however Christ led.
And it all began when Simon allowed God to lead him back to the very place in which he had failed.
Let's talk about this! When has a past failure hindered your actions? When God calls you to something, do you ever hear a nagging voice that says, "Remember last time you tried that ..." What are some ways you gain courage to push out into the deep, so to speak? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, and connect with me on Facebook and Instagram. I invite those who struggle with fear to join my private Faith Over Fear Facebook community found HERE.
Speaking of stepping out into potentially deep waters, I also encourage you to check out the latest Faith Over Fear episode on finding the courage to embrace our calling. You can find that episode HERE.
For those following the chronological New Testament Bible reading plan:
Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who hosts the Faith Over Fear podcast. She’s addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Building a Family and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com.
As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she’s passionate about helping women experience Christ’s freedom in all areas of their lives. Visit her online to learn more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter HERE and make sure to connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.