Friday, February 9, 2018

When You're Discouraged and Feel Like Giving Up


My small group agreed to do a Bible study by Priscilla Shirer. It's a good study and requires a fair amount of introspection. My preference is to dig into the ancient languages and drag out truth. What I don't want to do right now is to dig into my heart and drag out the particular sins on which the study focuses. I also don't want to admit I haven't done my work. Last night, I pulled my book out again and determined to persevere.
I made it through a couple of days' lessons without too much repentance.   The next day's lesson, though, slammed me in the face with the reality of my sinful and discouraged heart.
The passage of Scripture was Luke 5:4-10. Here's a quick Leanna paraphrase (but read it for yourself later):
Simon Peter and his buddies fished all night long. As professional fishermen, they expected a nice-sized catch, but not one fish made its way into their nets. They adjusted their technique. Tried everything they knew. Nothing helped. The sun came up and their nets were still empty. Literally empty. 
Discouraged didn't begin to describe how they felt after an entire night's worth of hard manual labor and not one fish. 
They cleaned their nets in anticipation of going home for a big breakfast and a long sleep. They possibly groaned a little bit when they saw Jesus headed their way because Jesus and action went together like pita and hummus. 
Jesus took a long look at the empty nets and said, "Go back out to the deep water and let your nets out again."
Peter was polite. He didn't say, "What do you know about fishing? You're a carpenter." He simply said, "We fished all night and didn't catch anything. But okay.
Did he expect results from the redo fishing trip? Probably not, but Peter went anyway. Why, despite the empty nets and the hopeless night, did he load up his boat and head out again? Maybe because Peter knew Jesus' word was always worthwhile. It always brought results, and it still does.
They let down the nets and caught so many fish the boat nearly sank. That enormous haul absolutely rocked Peter's world.
The point, of course, is that fishing nets, directed by Jesus, are more efficient and more effective than fishing nets directed by the best fishermen on the Sea of Galilee.
I've worked hard the last few weeks. The new e-book launch. The new website. Blog posts. Speaking. In the midst of all the work, I've dealt with my cornea problem and persevered. Today my nets aren't truly empty, but it feels as if they are. 
I want fish I can count in my nets, but that's not what Jesus has given.
The e-book launch and the new website launch didn't coincide quite the way I expected they would. Not as many reviews as I wanted came in, although the ones I did get are magnificent. (Thanks to those who left reviews!) The analytics plug-in on the website isn't working yet, so there's no way to tell if people are seeing my new site and blog or not. There are still some glitches to work out.
Numbers I can see encourage me, but I don't have them right now.
Today, I'm face to face with nets that look empty and I long to know where Jesus wants them cast. The plan for today was to work on writing projects from home, but I want to know I'll have a yield. What will be in my nets at the end of the day? 
What does success look like when it's not measured by fish in a net or dollars in a bank? How do we measure the result of obedience when it doesn't come in tangible ways?
Nowhere does Jesus say obedience brings lots of fish to our nets or dollars to our bank. 
Scripture tells us the results of obedience are manifested by changed lives, new disciples, and the fruits of the Spirit. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-control. 
My job isn't results. My job is obedience. This morning, I reassessed my results and found my nets aren't empty after all. A young man surrendered his heart to Christ earlier this week and my heart is full of Spirit-fruit. I shared Scripture truth with a young woman who used those lessons in a talk she gave last night. I read back through some of my early writing and found a new/old Bible study to share. I have much to celebrate.
Are you discouraged today? Does it feel as if your obedience has brought very little yield? 
Maybe it's time to stop looking for fish in the net and start looking for joy and peace in our hearts, for the evidence of influence in the lives of others, for the evidence of Christ-change in us. 
This morning, I will cast my net again and ask our Lord to fill it with the kind of fruit that lasts. 
And Simon answered and said, "Master, we worked hard all night and  caught nothing, but at Your bidding I will let down the nets." And when they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish; and their nets began to break;" Luke 5:5,6 nasb