“Our Christian Faith in Our Daily Calling”
(Luke 5:1-11 – Epiphany 5 – February 10, 2019)
Luke 5:1-11 – 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.
Dear disciples whom Christ Jesus has called as His followers:
How close is the Lord in our daily lives? As Peter finds out in our text, He is very close, even closer than expected. As Peter is going about his daily work as a fisherman, Jesus provides a miraculous catch of fish. Suddenly realizing he is in the presence of God Himself in Jesus, Peter feels his unworthiness and sinfulness. But the divine Savior, the forgiving and loving Savior, calms him with these words: “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.”
With Peter, let us see how close the Lord is to us in our daily lives and work. Our Savior is present with His forgiveness and peace. He is here calling us to great things in His kingdom. With Peter let us apply “Our Christian Faith in Our Daily Calling” as we see that: 1) Faith listens to Christ’s Word, 2) Faith acts on Christ’s Word, 3) Faith shares Christ’s Word.
1) Faith listens to Christ’s Word
First, faith listens to Christ’s Word. This is what Peter is doing as our text begins: “So it was, as the multitude pressed about [Jesus] 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 Jesus walked up and asked Simon Peter to let Him use His boat, this was not the first time they had met. In John’s Gospel we hear of the time when Jesus first called Peter and others to follow Him (John 1). At that time, as Peter listened to Christ’s Word, the Holy Spirit had worked in his heart, causing him to trust in Jesus as his Savior. That was the Lord’s call to faith.
Some time after that, Peter and his companions had returned to fishing. Jesus had not yet called them to full-time work as His apostles. So their daily calling had remained in the fishing trade, by which they could provide for themselves and their families. We learn that Peter’s life calling included marriage; for Luke 4:38 speaks of his wife’s mother being in his house. There were mouths to feed, fish to catch and sell, a living to be made. This was an important calling, as it is for us to whom God has given loved ones to care for. God wants us to take our daily calling seriously, serving Him and the people He puts around us with the abilities He gives us.
So as Jesus approaches Peter and his companions, they are busy with their work, washing their nets, doing important things. Can they afford to stop and listen to Jesus, when they already feel so behind in their work after a fruitless night of fishing? Did Peter have time to just lay down his nets, let Jesus take over his boat, and listen to Him preach a sermon?
Yes, of course he had time. Ever since he had been called to faith by Christ’s Word, Peter treasured that Word above all else. He knew there was nothing more important in daily life than Jesus’ words of eternal life. He showed his faith by finding time to listen to his Savior’s Word.
How important it is for us to approach our daily life with Christ’s Word before us. Even more important than all our daily work and plans in this temporal life, we need to refresh our souls with Jesus’ words of eternal life. Martin Luther once said: “Tomorrow I plan to work, work, from early until late. In fact I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” He did not feel he could get his work done, and done rightly, unless he meditated on Christ’s Word and promises. He needed to lay all his responsibilities and burdens in the Lord’s hands in prayer. Then, he could go forward in the Lord’s strength, guidance, and blessing.
Do we often find ourselves busy with the cares of our daily calling? Do responsibilities seem overwhelming when it comes to satisfying the needs of family, or the expectations of a teacher or employer? Are we wondering how we can ever accomplish an important task before us? Do we even wonder what our purpose is in the day ahead? Remember the words of our hymn:
With the Lord begin thy task; Jesus will direct it.
For His aid and counsel ask; Jesus will perfect it.
Ev’ry morn with Jesus rise, And, when day is ended,
In His name then close thine eyes; Be to Him commended.
Let us learn to apply our Christian faith in our daily calling, first by listening to Christ’s Word. Then with our faith strengthened, we are ready to act on His Word for great blessing.
2) Faith acts on Christ’s Word
This is what happened in our text. When Jesus finished speaking, He said to Simon Peter: “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Peter answered: “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.”
As an experienced fisherman, Peter knew the best time to cast the net was nighttime, not in broad daylight. And the best place was in shallower waters along the shore, not out in the deep. Maybe there was a temptation to feel foolish in following Jesus’ direction. After a frustrating and tiring night of catching nothing in the best of conditions, why go through all of this now?
In our daily calling, it is not always easy to act on Christ’s Word, is it? His ways do not always seem to make sense. Sometimes, we think we know better by our experience.
A Christian in employment may be dealing with frustrating conditions. He is tempted to think: “Why should I put in all the honest effort to do a good job? They don’t appreciate me anyway, and I never see much success.” A Christian in marriage may be having a difficult time. He may be tempted to think, “I can’t please my wife; why try?” Or she may think, “Why should I love and honor him after the way he treats me?” A Christian in childhood may not understand his parent’s rules. He is tempted to think, “I know better. I’ll go ahead and do what I want.”
We know what God’s Word says about these things: Love, honor, obey, serve. Do it, not only when their eye is on you but in sincerity of heart; do it as to the Lord (Colossians 3:17-23). But instead of answering, “at Your word I will,” we are tempted to take things into our own hands, to sin against the life callings God has given us. We are tempted to neglect those He has put around us, to withhold the love and service we owe.
At times, too, we struggle with meaning and purpose in our calling, when we do not understand how God is working in our life. I heard of a missionary who spent years translating the Bible into the language of a remote tribe, only to have it all destroyed in a disaster. “Why?” we may wonder. Or there is the Christian who is lying on her back in a hospital bed wondering: “What is God’s purpose in this? Wouldn’t I be more useful if I could serve in good health?”
In many ways, in our daily callings we feel the curse of the fall, a world frustrated by sin. Our work and livelihood is not always as clear cut and joyful as it once was to Adam and Eve in a perfect world. After we have tried and failed, we may throw up our hands like Peter and say: “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing.”
Yet, the faith that has been strengthened by Christ’s Word has more to say: “nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” With Christ’s command, Peter heard a promise: “let down your nets for a catch.” Beyond all apparent fruitlessness, faith acts on Christ’s Word. It says: “My Savior is trustworthy. What He promises He will do. He will bring the needed results.”
As Peter and his companions acted on Christ’s Word and let down their net once again, they saw the fulfillment of Christ’s promise in a miraculous way: “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.”
It says: “When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!'” Suddenly, he realized how close the Lord of Glory had been all along: yes right here in his boat, right here in his mundane and sometimes frustrating livelihood. The Lord was here to direct him and to work powerfully in his life. This was very humbling.
Do we ever stop to think just how close the Lord is to us as we go about our daily life? The Lord, who by His mere Word made the universe; who causes things that are not to be; who breathed life into us; in whom we live and move and have our being – He is near. Then we realize how unworthy we are in His holy presence. He has seen all our wrong attitudes toward our daily calling, our lack of trust, our failure to serve. In realizing our unworthiness, we may fall at Jesus’ knees and say with Peter: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”
“Do not be afraid.” It is Jesus speaking. He is not present to cause fear. He is here as our Savior, to lift us up with words of forgiveness and peace. He is here to direct our life, to bless us in our daily work and calling. He is here to call us to do great things in His kingdom.
Why can we trust Jesus to act on His Word in our daily lives? Because we know how good He is as our Savior. He loved us enough to come from heaven and work out all things for our eternal life; so we can trust Him to work out all things in our temporal life, too. He loved us enough to sacrifice Himself to save us from sin and eternal ruin; so we can trust that He will never let anything in life truly harm us. He loved us enough to spend His whole earthly calling fulfilling all righteousness for us, to sanctify our life before God; so we can trust that there is no part of our life without meaning. Even if things are not going well, He has great plans for us. Wherever He has placed us in our daily calling, He is calling us to great things in His kingdom.
How often it is true: before greatness first comes humility. Through humbling circumstances in our daily life, our Savior is leading us all the more to cling to His Word of promise. Through our weaknesses and failures, He is leading us all the more to pray for His strength and help. As He so focuses and strengthens our faith, He is working His miracle in our life. He is leading us to act on His Word in ways He can bring blessings greater than we imagine in His kingdom.
3) Faith shares Christ’s Word
Think of the great blessings He works through our lives as our faith, strengthened by His Word, now shares His Word with deep conviction. This is what happened with Peter and the others. As they marveled at Jesus’ miraculous catch of fish, He said: “‘From now on you will catch men.’ So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.”
They were ready to “catch men” for Christ by sharing His Word. They would use His Gospel of grace and forgiveness like a net, to draw people into His kingdom for eternal life. But as they had seen by Jesus’ miracle, it was the power of His Word that would bring about the catch.
Not everyone is called to begin full-time work as a public minister of the Word, like these disciples. But every Christian is called to be a witness of Christ within our daily callings (1 Peter 2:9). What an important role we have as we share His words of eternal life in everyday life: with family and friends, fellow employees or students, fellow citizens and neighbors. In retirement years, our Christian calling does not change. The Lord simply gives us the ability to serve Him in new ways. Even if we find ourselves confined to a hospital bed, God still has a purpose for us. We can share His Gospel with others, and pray for the work of His kingdom.
Like Peter’s boat, our daily livelihood becomes a vehicle in the Lord’s service. Our Savior is always present, strengthening us by His Word, working through us. So however humble our daily calling may be, it is a setting in which His glory can shine through. He places us near others so they may hear His words of eternal life through us and receive His eternal blessing.
Just as Jesus provided the catch in Peter’s boat, He can work great blessing through our lives in ways we do not expect. We may not even realize all the ways He has worked through our lives and our witness until we are in heaven. Then we will see clearly how, in His infinite wisdom and love, He has worked in all things to make our lives fruitful by His wonderful plan.
So let us learn to apply our faith in our daily calling, as we listen to Christ’s Word, act on His Word, and share His Word. As we pray in the words of our hymn:
Thus, Lord Jesus, ev’ry task Be to Thee commended;
May Thy will be done, I ask, Until life is ended.
Jesus, in Thy name begun Be the day’s endeavor;
Grant that it may well be done To Thy praise forever. Amen.