Leadership

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So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat. When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.

Luke 5:1 – 11

As a kid growing up in Florida, I was able to do a lot of fishing.  One time, I won a contest for catching the most fish!  Just one time. Most of the other times were kind of fraught with failure.

If you’ve ever been around a fisherman, you know they have great fish stories. The more they tell those stories, the bigger the fish get. 

But there’s no fishing tale I could share quite like the one in Luke 5. This story has a lot to say to those of us in ministry and others in business. It’s all about how to handle discouragement and failure at work—whether you’re a professional fisherman, or a Christian leader, or a pastor, or a businessperson.

Let’s dive right into the story—Peter, Andrew, James, and John owned a fishing business. They had been out fishing all night and caught nothing. You and I can relate to this. We know what it’s like to work day and night trying to fish for people with the Gospel yet come up empty. Or as a salesperson, to work and never make a sale.

These four may have been fishermen at the time, but we know something they didn’t.

Jesus’ intention from the beginning was for them to become fishers of men. By the way, that’s what He wants all of us to become…whether we are pastors, Christian leaders, or people in the business and professional world. 

It is funny how people respond to their own “failures”. Some almost glibly say, “well, we / I made some mistakes and would certainly do it differently next time, but…”  And then the butt everything away from them. All the time, not seeing the level of failure it was and only taking a “politically correct” amount of responsibility.  Often forgetting the tremendous effect on others.

Others blame the failure on such a large group of so-called “acceptable” reasons, but without remembering the Scripture says, “our hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it.”  This can mean they deceived themselves from seeing the failure that it really was.

While others, take all the responsibility and wallow in the failure to the point of not learning from it and moving on.  Most people quit and move on to the next potential failure because they have not learned from the past failure. Let alone taking a deep dive into the real cause(s) for the failure and making sure they do not repeat it. 

This quitting and starting over someplace else can also become a pattern in a person’s life.

Then there are others who will do what John Maxwell in his book, Failing Forward wrote what to do…and that is to fail forwardBe better and do better from what is learned from the failure.

Now back to the lessons Peter, Andrew, James, and John learned from Jesus at the end of their fishing trip on how God turns around failure in ministry and business.   

We see how Jesus turned struggling fishermen into some of the greatest fishers of men the world has ever seen. 

If we want God to turn around our ministries or businesses, we’ll need to take the same four steps as Peter, Andrew, James, and John:

1. Give Up Control of Our Ministry or Business. 

Luke 5:3 tells us that Jesus got into one of Peter’s boats. If you want God to bless your ministry or business, Jesus must get into your boat, too. 

 At that point, these fishermen were in the same lake, on the same boat, and using the same nets that had caught nothing the night before. The only difference between their empty nets and their overflowing nets is Jesus. 

 That’s a game-changer for you too. Jesus needs full access to your ministry or business.

 You may think that’s obvious because, of course, you need Jesus in your boat. But how many times have you given the steering wheel of your ministry to something else? Whether you’re letting the opinions of others or the world’s definition of success lead the way or just went to the wrong people for advice, it isn’t Jesus.

 Too many of us have prayed, “God, make me a success, and I’ll serve you.” But instead, God wants us to pray, “God, my ministry or business is failing, so I’m giving it all to you. I won’t hold anything back. Do with my ministry or business what you want.”

 If you want God’s blessing on your ministry or business, Jesus must have complete control. 

2. Admit What We’re Doing Isn’t Working.

This seems impossible for some people to do. Can you imagine how tough it was for Peter to tell Jesus in Luke 5:5a, Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing…”? Peter was a professional. He had fished his whole life. It’s tough for any professional to admit failure.

It’s tough for pastors and Christian leaders, too. It’s humbling to admit that despite your education and your hard work, your ministry or business is struggling. Sometimes, your best isn’t good enough. 

What keeps us from admitting when something isn’t working? Pride. Stubbornness. Fear. We often want to do ministry the way we’ve always done it. Or we are unwilling to seek godly counsel from experienced people who will explain how to use Biblical principles to trust the Lord while still accepting our responsibility to fix the problem rather than just walk away from it or giving it to someone else to fix.

Pride can also make us afraid God will make us try something new. 

But these kinds of responses only lead to one place—back to the same old failures.

3. Do Whenever and Whatever Jesus Tells Us to Do. 

Jesus told Peter exactly what to do. Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” (Luke 5:4 NLT). Jesus provided a when (now), a where (where it is deeper), and a what (let down your nets). When God gives us a calling, he does the same for us. 

Like it was for Peter, our calling will take us deeper and require us to take risks. Deeper water is often where the fish are, making it more dangerous to catch them. The people who are far from God are in the deep water, too. To reach them, you’ll need to take a risk. 

One reason God allows you to struggle in your ministry or business is because He wants to take you deeper. Obeying Jesus in your ministry or business always involves risk. God loves you too much to let you stay where you are. 

Before starting Make It Clear Ministries over 48 years ago, I was a young Bible College professor. God called me to start this ministry with no money, no staff, no salary, no facilities, and no support. God called me to take a risk. God called me to go into the deep water—and I obeyed.

What is God telling you to do? What is keeping you from obeying?

4. Expect Jesus to Turn Things Around. 

If God calls you to fish, comes along with you, and tells you where to let down your nets—and you obey—you won’t come up empty. Peter understood this. All the fatigue, fear, and frustration from the previous night were behind him. Peter is quivering with expectation. He isn’t afraid of failing anymore. 

The Bible says when the fisherman let down their nets, Jesus blessed them abundantly: “…when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking.” (Luke 5:6). 

Then, Jesus changed their perspective. The Bible says they were amazed at what God did. Peter then calls Jesus “Lord.” 

This miracle became the turning point in the lives of those four men. The night of empty nets was followed by a lifetime of serving Jesus and seeing Him do the impossible through them.

Your toughest ministry or business days can also be the turning point for you. As you give Jesus the control of your ministry or business, admit your way hasn’t worked, do whenever and whatever He tells you to do, and expect Him to turn things around. God will do the impossible through your ministry or business too.

 

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Written by Stan Ponz
Dr. Stan Ponz is founder and president of Make It Clear Ministries (a national ministry that began in 1973 to help people take the Gospel and the Word of God into every person's world!). Stan also serves as President of Clarity Christian College. and is married to his high school sweetheart Carol, who led him to the Lord in 1966.