I have decided to follow Jesus.

When I graduated from high school, I had surrendered my life to do whatever God wanted me to do. I decided to go to a good Bible college and study to be a pastor. My plan was to skip my first semester of college and save up enough money to buy a car and drive to Pacific Coast Baptist Bible College in San Diego, California. Some of my friends were going to Missouri, but I wanted to go near beaches of southern California.  I had all my money saved up and my car was newly painted and ready to roll.

One evening in December I drove to pick up my mom from teaching night school. I pulled into traffic and a girl, with her headlights off, broadsided me. I was okay but my car was totaled. I was cited for not yielding to traffic. With no car, I had to decide how I was going to get to California. To make a long story short, I ended up purchasing an airplane ticket to Springfield, Missouri. Instead of walking the sunny beaches of southern California for my winter semester I was trudging through the snow covered sidewalks of Springfield, Missouri (known as the Queen of the Ozark Mountains). Talk about a disappointment. But God had better plans than I did. I just needed to keep following HIm.

Sometimes God has to bring us to the end of our self. Beyond your ability is where God wants you to be.

In Luke 5:1-11 we discover a story of the Apostle Peter. He spend all night fishing with no luck. However, the following morning Jesus told him to let down his nets one more time for a huge catch. Peter answered, “… at thy word I will let down the net.” So many fish were caught they needed a second boat. Peter discovered a key life principle…

When you let go of everything and follow Jesus you will be blessed beyond your imagination.

I discovered a few interesting twists to this story.

Net vs. Nets.

Did you notice that Jesus asked Peter to let down the “nets”? But He decided to let down the net. Isn’t that amazing. Jesus wanted Peter to let loose of all his nets, but Peter only trusted Jesus with one. We can trust Jesus with everything we have. Don’t be stingy with Jesus.

A Fisherman Failure.

Peter was a proud, successful fisherman. But when a carpenter (Jesus) gave him advise, I wonder if he questioned his request? What did a carpenter know about fishing? But this wasn’t just any carpenter. Peter soon learned how much Jesus knew about fishing. Often, Jesus chooses to challenge our strength which will break our pride.

Humility after Success.

This was probably Peter’s most successful fishing day. Yet, rather than brag on himself and his accomplishment, he bowed and publicly recognized how bad he really was. He fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Success can often show us how weak we really are. We recognize that we are nothing and God is everything.

A Personal Story.

The full account of this story lets us know that John and James were with Peter. Yet, the interaction is between Jesus and Peter. I don’t think this by accident. Peter had a face to face encounter with Jesus and he decided to leave all and follow Him. The decision to follow Jesus is a personal decision. You are as close to Him as you choose to be.

And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.” (Luke 5:11)

Step by Step.

At the beginning of this story, Jesus made a small request of Peter – to use his boat as a pulpit. Once he was in the boat, he began to take Peter to greater steps of commitment until he finally surrendered everything to follow Jesus. That’s what Jesus does. He starts with our simple willingness and stretches our obedience until we’re eventually getting out of a boat and walking on the water.

Faltering Steps.

This is not the first time Peter started to follow Jesus. In Matthew’s gospel, we discover another story by a boat (Matthew 4:18-20). In this one, the same guys were out cleaning nets and Jesus said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew says they “left their nets and followed him.” In Luke 5 they are back to fishing. At His promise that Peter would catch men. he “forsook all and followed him” He followed Jesus for 3 years until after the crucifixion and resurrection. Then we find out in John 21:3, Peter said, “I go a-fishing” with 6 other disciples went with him. Jesus again met them and challenged them to fish for men. Jesus was patient with Peter, just as He is patient with us. Even when we don’t follow as we should, He waits for us to get back on the path.

So, what did we learn about following Jesus from this encounter in a boat? We learned that Jesus wants us to let go of everything. Let go of all of our nets, let go of our strengths, and let go of our pride. We also learned that once we’ve let go of everything, we must follow Jesus anywhere. We need to personally follow Him, step by step, and if we get out of step, He is patiently waiting for us to get back in line.

Back to Springfield…

Let me finish my story in beautiful Springfield, Missouri. I flew into the small airport in Springfield and caught a ride to the campus of Baptist Bible College. One of my roommates, ironically, was from Southern California. The next morning I want to the field house to sign up for classes with about 1,500  other students. I got in line between a real cute girl and she started talking to me. I thought she was interested in me. But I found out that she was just friendly. But that wasn’t the end of conversation because before I graduated 3 years later we got married. I am so glad my plan didn’t work out. When you surrender your life to Jesus and follow Him, He will bless you beyond your imagination.