I often experience a deep weariness at doing things that seem fruitless or mundane. I fear new paths will turn into impassable rabbit trails. There seems no point in getting exhausted if there will be no return on my investment.
Simon and his partners felt something like that one morning after catching nothing all night. They were in the process of cleaning nets and probably getting ready to slouch home and take a long nap.
[Jesus] saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets.And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the multitudes from the boat. And when He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but at Your bidding [rhema] I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:2-5)
Simon already knew enough about Jesus to take Him seriously. When Jesus spoke, things happened. So, because Jesus said it, the fishermen launched back into the lake and dropped the nets again. The result was completely different, just as Jesus had said.
I want to follow Simon’s example and be willing to do what Jesus says even if my own disappointments or analysis suggest it might be pointless. Our willingness to obey rests on our love for the Lord and our trust of Him. Our experience of Him (or the stories we know about Him) tells us that His direction is guaranteed and accurate. Experience reinforces faith in His bidding. But an act of faith always starts with a word from God.
The “bidding” that Simon referred to was a rhema (word). The way the Greek word is used in the Bible fits no clear pattern but it often refers to specific directional statements, prophecies, promises, or divine announcements. It is used of inspired and deliberate statements that come true. The association with fulfillment is so strong that the word is often used of the results themselves. It occurs frequently in the stories of the birth of Jesus.
As we follow Jesus, He teaches us to discern the difference between His rhema voice and distracting voices. Doing what He shows us bears fruit.
Many of us struggle at this point with another doubt. Will He speak to me, and, if He does, will I be able to hear Him? Unless we are certain of promises like: “My sheep hear my voice,” and, “He will guide you into all the truth,”1 we will tend not to listen. No one waits for His voice unless they expect Him to speak. Some of us find it more comforting to come up with a plan of our own just to feel like we are doing something productive. Others prefer to put the nets away and spend the day in a recliner.
Specific rhema (words) from the Lord are an important part of His guidance. So let’s listen.
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- John 10:27; 16:13 [↩]