Fishermen catch fish. It is what they were trained to do. They had done this many times before. They were familiar with the scent of the ocean, the waves, the net and the prime time to catch. It was a night destined for success. Yet, it produced nothing but failure. They spent an entire night toiling and working to catch fish. When the sun rose and the light came across their boat, it was empty. They were frustrated, exhausted and on edge. They had waited many days for instructions and decided fishing was the best option in the waiting. However, now their stress was elevated, and their spirits deflated.
They had failed.
It gives me cold sweats and wakes me up in the middle of the night from a dead sleep. It causes me panic and anxiety. It keeps me paralyzed from stepping forward and pins me in the corner. It prevents me from attempting anything I am not sure I can succeed in. It is my greatest enemy and deepest fear.
I cannot fail. It is unacceptable and irreversible.
Failure, I have hated you for so long. However, the tides are turning, and I am seeing that you may be more friend than foe.
Did I just type that?
“Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish… 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.” – John 21
Jesus waited until morning to come to them. At the first signs of light when their failure was complete, He arrived. He could have stepped in prior to their failure. Avoiding the failure all together. Yet, that is not like our God.
There was much to learn in the failure and much to see in His fruitful work amidst that failure.
He was about to send these men into a harsh world where they would fish for the lost. They would spend many days in damp prison cells; they would be abused, mocked, abandoned, and martyred. They would leave cities quickly on the heels of people throwing rocks and cruel words at them. They would taste failure and defeat more often than they could fathom. In the setbacks and defeats they would learn that Jesus was their only success. He would do His work and fulfill His plan in spite of, in the midst of or because of their failure.
Jesus had trained them for 3 years to spread the gospel, to love the lost and broken, and to live amidst persecution. They were trained to follow Him and be fishers of men. Christians follow Christ and fish men. It’s what we do. It is assumed and understood.
Yet, we will fail, just as they did.
I am sure they would remember this night and Christ’s power over and over again for years after. In the moments that felt fruitless and full of failure they would remember the long disastrous night and the divine morning their net did not tear.
Notice that the disciples answered honestly. These trained fishermen did not shy away from their failure, but stated, “no.” They had no fish. In the admittance of failure Jesus moved.
We must heed the words of God as the disciples did. They did not allow their exhaustion, frustration or failure to keep them from listening. They did not retort, “We have fished all night, there is nothing.” They followed through the failure into obedience.
As they pulled their nets in, they were filled to the brim. John shouted, “It is the Lord!” Oh, the beauty of this moment. After times of failure, flat on our faces in frustration and exhaustion, when we cannot recognize the Lord in this place, He moves. God calls us to obedience in defeat. Let us trust Him and throw our nets.
For we will shout with joy as the nets come forth, “It is the Lord.”
On the backs of defeat will be the mighty moves of God. We will not be able to say as our prideful hearts often do, “It was my net, my wisdom, the prime time for success, or my training.” We will shout with acclamation and joy “It is the Lord.”
“Christianity, from Golgotha onward, has been the sanctification of failure. Our failures bring us face to face with the weaknesses and inadequacies that lie within, so that God’s strength can be made perfect in our weakness.”- R. Kent Hughes
Dear failure, I pray we can become friends. That I recognize God uses you to draw me unto Himself, receive all the glory and remove my pride. I desire not to fear you but instead to embrace you, knowing that Jesus takes you and produces His faithful work through you in me.