Here's where we left off last week:
FAILURE AND DISCOURAGEMENT DO NOT MEAN THAT YOU HAVE LOST GOD'S PURPOSE FOR YOUR LIFE.
After Jesus' death and resurrection, Peter, along with six other disciples, didn't know what to do. Remember, Jesus had already appeared to them on two separate occasions. But right now they're aimless. They're in a holding pattern. As we have seen in our journey through the Gospel of John, Jesus had been preparing them for this moment. He was equipping them to bring his message of salvation to a hurting world. But they weren't there yet. They were weary and aimless. Have you ever felt like that?
How many of us have been there? Is life just a crap shoot or does God give my life plan and purpose? Sometimes it's hard to tell. I understand why the disciples did what they did.
Two things are going on with the disciples. First, most of them, led by Peter, decided to go fishing. When in doubt, fish, right? Second, they fished all night and came up empty. How's that for futility? They didn't catch anything. They failed. How could they be anything but discouraged? To get out from under a cloud of aimlessness, they tried something they were good at and failed at that, too. If you had asked them what their purpose for living was, I'm sure they would have given you blank stares. But Jesus had a purpose for their lives. Even if you've ever felt like a total failure, that you've let yourself or others or God down and you're feeling really discouraged, your feelings are wrong. We need to trust God's Word more than our feelings. As we're going to see here by the Sea of Tiberias, God has a purpose for our lives.
One word of caution before we proceed. Don't ever divorce discouragement from God's purpose. In other words, just because you're discouraged it doesn't mean you're outside of God's purpose for your life. Consider the stories of Abraham or Moses or Paul or Peter. They had periods of discouragement. But what did discouragement do? It did two huge things. It clarified God's purpose and it pushed them deeper into total reliance on God. Remember. God's purpose for your life isn't a short sprint to the finish line. It is a marathon. God's purpose is a grueling marathon worth running. If you set out to run a marathon, there's a place in the course where you hit a wall. You've pushed your body to its physical limit and it doesn't feel like you're going to make it. That's the moment you've trained for. You dig down for all the stamina and grit you can find. And in spite of your tiredness, you finish the race, because that's why you entered in the first place. There are the ups and downs of life. They are part of God's purpose.
Here's how Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 4:1-2:
Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God.
If you feel discouraged while you're pursuing God's purpose and you think there's something wrong with you because you're feeling discouraged, don't because there's not. Discouragement doesn't mean God's purpose is gone. It's not. Sometimes God uses discouragement to move you deeper into His purpose:
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen as transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
- 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
So far, we've seen that:
FAILURE AND DISCOURAGEMENT DO NOT MEAN THAT YOU HAVE LOST GOD'S PURPOSE FOR YOUR LIFE.
The next thing to remember about discouragement is that:
THE SECRET TO SUCCESS IS NOT TRYING HARDER.
They fished all night and caught nothing. They cast the net again and again and again with no results. Then Jesus called out from the shore, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some."
How many times do we try something over and over with the same meager results? Have you ever said, "I'm getting nowhere fast?" We do sometimes find ourselves working harder, not smarter.
That's the problem, right? Trying harder at the wrong thing isn't going to get you anywhere. Have you ever used all your energy and effort chasing the wrong thing? Even if you're successful at it, there's no joy in it. It doesn't matter how hard you try…if you're working for the wrong thing or with the wrong motive, you are moving away from God's purpose.
The disciples could only see two options out on the lake. Try harder or give up. But Jesus showed them another way. Trust him. Move in the direction he's been trying to show you all along.
Whatever you're frustrated with right now; if you're doing something right now and it feels like all you're doing is banging your head against a wall, throw your net on the other side. Trust Jesus. There's joy in knowing you're not in this alone. Jesus knows what you're doing wrong. He knows where the fish are. It's not always solely about trying harder.
Here's another thing to remember:
WHEN WE'RE DISCOURAGED, THE PROBLEM ISN'T WHERE WE ARE, IT'S WHO WE'RE LISTENING TO.
My brother, eight years younger than me, is hugely into fishing. He ties his own flies. This year, he planned for he and his son to take a once-in-a-lifetime trip to some world-class fishing region of Spain. Everything was booked. Then the coronavirus hit the fan. He's a bit of a fishing fanatic. And he will tell you that sometimes the perfect spot to catch fish is not that far out of reach. If he's fishing off a pier in San Diego, and not having any luck, he'll simply go to the other side. It's not always productive to go far afield chasing fish.
What happens in John 21 tells us the disciples didn't have to change locations. All they had to do was cast their net on the other side. Listening to Jesus made all the difference in the world. Go the way Jesus is showing you.
Here's what we do. Sometimes when we're discouraged, we think it's
because of where we are. If we changed locations, or moved in another direction, or even moved, then that will be the difference maker. And I'm not saying there's no wisdom in that. That might be the answer. But a common result is that, while you've changed locations, it's still the unchanged you, so nothing really changes. You're still frustrated or discouraged. It's the same struggles, problems, or discouragement, but now with different scenery.
Before you start moving from here to there, trying to escape discouragement, listen to Jesus first. He just might want to give you purpose right where you are. Grow where you're planted, right?
The difference maker for the disciples was they let Jesus give the orders. Jesus found them where they were. He showed them their purpose.
So if you're feeling like things aren't working in your life right now, before you do anything, listen for the voice of Jesus. Let him grow you where you are. Cast your net on the other side.
Let's wrap things up with John 21:9-14:
When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
While they initially did not recognize Jesus…could have been the distance…could have been something deeper, that in his resurrected body he looked different than in his earthly body…we don't know…there's no need to over think it…all we know is when they got on land, they knew it was Jesus. That's what's most important. They knew it was Jesus.
Here's what's keeping with the simplicity of all these stories in John. Real
relationships are built on the simple things. How do I have a relationship
with the resurrected Lord? Is it through supernatural experiences and moments? Is that how we relate to the resurrected Lord? How do we relate to Jesus right now?
The answer is simple. We sit with him around a fire. It's a fire he built. For John, this is an important place to be. It's where we need to be. We need to read about and picture in our minds what it's like to sit around a fire with the resurrected Jesus. They're eating a breakfast he cooked. They're talking with him about what's happening in their lives. That's a real relationship with Jesus. You bring everything to Jesus. You want his teachings and his promises to animate your life. You want a real relationship with Jesus. There are so many people who think you have to have a super-spiritual relationship with Jesus. Like, I can have a relationship with Jesus on Sunday, in worship. I can have it in my small group. But it's tough to have it on Monday. It's tough to have it when I'm disappointed or when things aren't going well or right. How can I have a relationship with Jesus when I'm angry or discouraged? Can you have a relationship with the resurrected Lord when you feel like giving up?
That's exactly when and where Jesus meets us in John 21. That's what John wants us to see. On a seashore, once they really listened to the voice of Jesus, these guys experienced the presence of the resurrected Lord.
For whatever and various reasons, seven disciples took a fishing trip to the Sea of Tiberias. The last thing they expected was to see the resurrected Lord. But they listened to his voice. As we're listening to his voice right now. And they learned that Jesus meets us where we are. He comes to us. It's in the everyday experiences of life where we can experience a relationship with the Lord. Even when we're discouraged. Especially when we're discouraged.
Next week, we're going to learn how this is possible.