When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch." (NIV)
Last week, I wrote about the need to put aside our easy distractions and make a point of living up to our purpose. We have to stop always swimming in the shallows and let God help us swim into the deep waters where we can do the most good for Him and for ourselves. But I can already hear the objections you’re having: “I’m ready to swim, I’m putting the distractions aside, I’m ready to dive wherever God tells me to dive, but where am I going? Where exactly am I swimming to?”
That’s a good question. When we’re ready to take that dive, we can sometimes find ourselves confused. We all know we have a purpose, and we all know we are loved by God. “For I am the Lord your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you” (Isaiah 41:13). God’s there ready to take our hand, but where is He leading us? Where does He want us to go? Where exactly are these deep waters?
The truth is, these waters are all around us. How many of us walk by a homeless person every day without looking for purpose from him? How many of us see a family struggling in our community and fail to see purpose on their doorstep? How many of us see a child in need or a friend or a mentor and see no purpose there either?
The truth is, purpose can be found in every direction, and when we think about it that way, the only answer is to “put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
Fishing is a favorite metaphor for our Lord. He lived in a culture that survived partly on the trade. And while we might think we can understand that connection when we sit on the banks of the river on a Saturday and cast a line in to see what bites, the truth is, few of us know the dedication it takes to really live by fishing. Those like Simon Peter, who Jesus was talking with in Luke, knew that to fish is to live; fishing takes purpose. In other words, it takes dedication, focus, and commitment.
When Jesus said these words to Peter, it was after a night of fishing when he had caught nothing despite his best efforts. It wasn’t that Peter was lazy—he wasn’t procrastinating in his trade and sticking to the shallows—but something was still missing from his purpose.
In the next verse he says, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
That is the key. “Because you say so.” When we decide to cast out into deep waters, we need to be looking for God there to help us. We need to take our purpose and combine it with God’s purpose in order to start making a difference.
Of course, Peter soon found that his boat was full of fish, that Jesus had taken Peter’s purpose in his context—fishing—and given him success when he merged it with God’s purpose, which was showing faith in the Lord and helping to convert James and John. The result was so miraculous and overwhelmed Peter so much, he protested he didn’t deserve it. The Lord had to remind him that none of us are worthy and none of us deserve our blessings, but God in His love delivers them anyway, especially when we search in the deep waters.
When we consider such miracles, it seems obvious that purpose is never too much and the water is never too deep. Though we may struggle to catch a single fish on our own, God is there to bring a great catch in for us.
Our part is simply to keep fishing, to return to the deep waters even after an unproductive night out. We have to pursue purpose with purpose. We must keep casting our nets out in our community and allow God to fill them with purpose. We must remember what Jesus said to Peter when he felt so unworthy.
“Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”