About this time a year ago in my daily reading plan, I got caught up in this small detail in scripture, tucked away in the middle of John 21:
“Bring some of the fish you just caught,” Jesus told them. So Simon Peter got up and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish – 153 of them. Even though there were so many, the net was not torn. – John 21:10-11, HCSB
I recently came upon it again in another reading plan, and I have to say it resonates with me greatly. There is something about this time of year that is prompting the Holy Spirit to lead me to this verse. I believe it has something to do with the “long-stretch” of the year I am in. New Year’s resolutions have pretty much faded and the hot pace of summer life is merging into the grind of early fall, as kids go back to school and I am pretty much living week to week, rolling with the punches as they come. It is harder to focus and a type of weariness sets in, even frustration for reasons I can’t often put my finger on.
Yet… this idea of “unbroken nets” speaks to me and gives me pause. As flawed and imperfect as I am, I have come to a point in my walk with Christ where I have committed my heart to living in His will, knowing this decision will produce heat which is meant to test and refine my faith.
Jeremiah 20:12 tells us that the Lord “tests” us and that He “sees (our) heart and mind.” David prayed for God to “search him and know his heart, test him and know his concerns” (Psalm 139:23-24, HCSB).
So, back to the nets. What about them? Well, they represent His promise of fulfillment and abundant life. They symbolize the awesome results we get from obedience and faithfulness in the midst of pain, strife, struggle, fear, and even the mundane routine of life. Notice John’s choice of words in verse 11: “Even though.” As if to say, “Look… those nets should have torn long before these disciples reached shore.” The equivalent today would be hooking a 100 pound tuna on a 2 pound test line. It just isn’t going to work, no matter how skilled we are, how much drag we put in the line, or how expensive the reel is. Yet, in this case, the nets held.
Christine and I recently watched the movie “Paul, Apostle of Christ.” It was a great movie for giving context to what the Christ followers in Rome were enduring under the reign of Nero as they chose daily to be faithful and obedient, in the face of pure evil. The desire to follow Christ outweighed the fire and heat of fear. Because of their faith and obedience, God held the net together.
It is important we understand that the testing of our nets will come in both the good and the bad times. Visions and challenges, as much as pain and sickness. God will hold our integrity intact and the bond we have with Him is unbreakable. As Paul says, “I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love” (Romans 8:38).
As we learn to follow and live in the adventure of God’s will and plan for us, we can be confident in His promise to hold us together as the body of Christ. To take us to new depths. To amaze us with the unfathomable. He promises this: “…so My Word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it to do” (Isaiah 55:11, HCSB).
Story after story in scripture proves this to be true, as does the history of the Church. The book of Acts proves it to be true, just as the City Station story proves it to be true. Your own life will prove it to be true, with a little faith and a single step out onto the water.
“Here I am. Send me.”