A TV program on the History Channel featured the world’s most extreme airports. The one that caught my attention is no longer open, Hong Kong’s Kai Tak Airport, and it was definitely a thrill ride for passengers and surely a challenge for pilots. If you came in from one direction, you had to fly over skyscrapers and then hope the plane stopped before it plunged into the sea. If you came in the other way, it seemed as if you were going to smack into a mountain.
I found it surprising that a pilot who used to take planeloads of people into Kai Tak said, “I miss flying into that airport.” But I think I know what he meant. As a pilot, he relished the challenge. He had a confidence based on his ability and his reliance on those who guided him into the airport from the Tower.
In life – too often, we run from challenges. Yet the people we love to read about in the Bible are impressive because they battled challenges. Consider Paul. With the confidence of God’s help, he faced troubles head-on—and conquered them. Christ’s promise to Paul and to us is: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).
Like Paul’s example, in the confidence of God’s care we can say to the next challenge: Bring it on!
In Luke 5:1-11, Jesus was teaching a crowd of people by the water’s edge. As Jesus looks over he sees two old boats used for fishing, he goes over to the boats and asked one of the fishermen to take him out on the boat a little ways from the shore. And the fisherman, named Simon, did just that. Jesus sat down in the boat and continued to teach the people from there.
Jesus could still address the people, maybe more effectively since they could all see him better now and the shore functioned better acoustically like an amphitheater.
But I believe there was clearly another reason why Jesus wanted to speak from the boat. He wanted to talk to the owner of the boat, Simon.
I think its important to see that Jesus is not only interested in crowds, he is also interested in you individually.
Jesus is never too busy to meet with just you! Jesus could relate to the crowds as a classroom teacher, but he also wanted to relate to a person named Simon as an individual tutor. Jesus is not only interested in us as a congregation gathered to worship him, but he is also personally interested in meeting with each of us one on one.
He may do that through something that the minister says that relates directly to you. God may do that through someone else that will speak to you. God may have done that this week in some time alone with him, for prayer and for silent meditation or for reading the word of God.
Maybe the question we need to ask now is: why would Jesus change his focus from the group to a single person?
Answer: When Jesus meets us, it is to take us from shallow faith to deeper faith. This is what happened to Simon. He had been washing the nets while keeping one ear listening to Jesus. He had to fish to make a living. Simon was working hard at his job, like many of you are, in making a living for your family.
So he thought he couldn’t give up what he was doing and just spend the whole day with Jesus. But Jesus was going to do something special in his life.
Notice that when Jesus asked Simon to sit in his boat, he asked Simon to put out a little from the shore. Then after he had finished teaching the people, he told Simon to put out into the deep water to go for a catch of fish.
This movement from shallow water into deeper water I take as an analogy of what Jesus was going to do in Simon’s faith life. Jesus was going to take Simon from his superficial, half-hearted and casual attention to him and turn that into a deeper, more personal and real commitment to Jesus.
Simon protested mildly, saying, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything…. But because you say so, I will let down the nets” (vs. 5). In other words, “I’ve already been there and nothing happened. But, oh well, since it is you, I will give it one more try.”
And how does Jesus take us from where we are to where he wants us to be?
By pushing us, that’s how. Jesus pushes us, ever gently, sometimes with words, sometimes with actions, away from one level of stability, as symbolized by the shallow water near the shore, to a place where we are more dependent on God, as symbolized by the deeper water.
And we might also mildly argue with him, saying, “Lord, I’ve already been there and done that.” “I’ve already tried reading the Bible, I’ve already prayed, and it hasn’t worked. I’ve already…” But hopefully we won’t stop there, but will continue to say, “But if this is what you want me to do, to go once again from where I am now, then so be it.”
What happens in the deeper water? It is more scary. It is more unstable, at least more unfamiliar. But it is also where there are more fish. Fishermen never catch many fish from the shore; they have to go out into the deep water to catch larger fish and more fish.
Likewise, Jesus wants to take you from your comfortable shoreline to a deeper place where you will find more food for your soul and more dependence on him.
This can come, for example, in the form of an illness, or other crisis, either to you or to someone you know, and all of a sudden, you are drifting away from predictability and one kind of stability to a place that is more mysterious and where you can’t see the bottom. But God is taking you there. He is not abandoning you in that illness or crisis. He is actually using that situation like a boat to take you further out into a relationship with Him.
And the journey to the deeper water is always to help us to know God better.
As we begin 2009, I want to also begin teaching you a Course on Miracles. I’ve asked God to make 2009 a Year of Miracles. I’ve always wanted God to do something unexplainable and uncontrollable and uncontainable in me and in Life Church. I think we’re on the verge of that.
Luke 5 gives us a picture of what God wants to do in all of our lives. The disciples had been fishing all night and hadn’t caught a thing. Jesus told them to move the boats and try again. I’m sure the professional fisherman really love Jesus give them fishing tips! But Peter was obedient. He said, “Because you say so.” They let down their nets and “caught such a large number of fish that the nets began to break.” They actually had to signal another boat to help them haul in the fish. And both boats were so full they began to sink.
Here is my take on that passage: Jesus did something uncontainable. They hadn’t caught a single fish all night. And then they caught more fish than their boats could contain! That is a picture and that is a promise of what I believe the Lord wants to do in our lives! He wants to bless us beyond our ability to contain it. Read the rest of this entry