The Ones That Got Away

As you can see, I have not fallen off the face of the earth, and I do apologize that it has been so long since my last post.  Between getting our house ready to sell, finding a home for Barnabas (which we did), and traveling thousands of miles (yes, thousands!) over the past month, it’s been all I can do to keep straight where I am and what day it is.  But I can tell you this, I’ve missed sharing my heart with you, and I couldn’t let another day go by without writing to you.  So, from the comforts of the hotel room where I’m currently staying, I bring you today’s devotion.

And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, 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.
— Luke 5:1-8

I’ve written and taught from this passage so many times, I thought I knew it backward and forward.  I’ve discussed the empty nets, the hopeless fishermen, and the miraculous catch.  I’ve explored—I thought—every angle of this account, but this week, the Lord opened my eyes to something I’ve missed.  For as many times as I’ve read, studied, and quoted this passage, there was a glaring point I’ve overlooked.  Thanks to a sensational message by Dr. Caudill, the director of our mission board, I now understand this story in a whole new way.

I would like to draw your attention to Jesus’ command to the disciples.  Though they had fished all night and caught nothing, He commanded them to let down their nets for a draught.  Notice the plural form “nets,” as in, more than one.  I have no idea how many nets the disciples had, but we know they had more than one because the second verse of the passage tells us as much.  Besides that, being professional fishermen, it’s safe to assume there were multiple nets.  

So, Jesus tells them to let down the nets.  Pay close attention to Peter’s response.  On the surface, it seems good.  Obedient.  Of faith.  He tells Jesus that they had been out all night and caught nothing but because Jesus commanded, they would obey.  Then, Peter proceeded to let down “the net.”  Did you catch that?  Net, as in one.  Not nets—plural.  Just one.  One net.  Peter obeyed the Lord. . .sort of.  He acted but not in complete obedience.  For whatever reason, he failed to let down all the nets and settled for just one.

As a result of his incomplete obedience, notice what happened.  The net became so full, it broke.  Imagine how many fish the disciples could have caught that day if they had let down all the nets.  But instead, they didn’t even get a complete net full because when the net broke, some of the fish got away.  Yes, they brought in a great load, but they could have had so much more if they had only obeyed completely.  They could have had God’s best, but they settled for good enough.

I don’t know why Peter didn’t throw out all the nets.  Maybe he didn’t really believe it was worth the trouble.  After all, they had fished all night.  They were tired, weary, and frustrated.  Maybe Peter—even though he partially obeyed—didn’t truly believe they would catch anything.  If that were the case, why bother with more than one net?  Yes, maybe it was a lack of faith that kept him from complete obedience.

Or perhaps it was the inconvenience of it all that caused him to hold back.  The beginning verses tell us the disciples had already cleaned their nets.  If Peter were to cast them back into the sea, they’d have to clean them again.  Who wants to do all that work twice?  

Or, it could be that Peter thought he knew better.  Yes, Jesus said cast out the nets, but surely one would be sufficient.  I mean, it’s not like it really matters, right?

But it did matter.  It mattered a lot.  And Peter realized it, but by then, it was too late.  The net had already broken, and the fish had already gotten away.  And Peter was sorry.  Sorry he hadn’t gone all in.  Sorry he hadn’t obeyed Jesus to the letter.  Sorry he hadn’t received God’s best.  And perhaps even sorry that he had cost others a portion of their livelihood because of his lack of faith.  Peter held back, and it cost him dearly.  Even though he experienced a miracle, he couldn’t rejoice in it because he realized he missed out on so much more.

What’s holding you back today?  What’s keeping you from casting out all your nets?  What is it that’s preventing you from obeying God completely?  Whatever it is, I urge you to learn from Peter’s mistake.  Don’t miss out on God’s best and settle for good enough.  It’s not worth it.  God has so much in store for each of us, but sadly we never get to see the extent of it because we haven’t fully surrendered to God.  He’s urging us to cast out our nets today.  All the nets, so not one single blessing gets away.  Will you obey completely, or will you hold back?  The choice is yours, but remember, that choice may affect others as well.  Don’t be responsible for the ones that got away!

A Little Strength

I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.
— Revelation 3:8

Each time I come across this verse, I’m reminded of its usage in my favorite movie, Facing the Giants. Though it is a film centered around a football team (which is typically not my thing), the spiritual applications within the movie have impacted my life in so many ways.

Grant is a failing coach with a losing team. His house is falling apart. His car breaks down regularly. And though he and his wife long to have a family of their own, the possibility of conceiving seems unlikely at best. On the verge of losing all faith and hope, Grant is visited by an older gentleman who claims to have a message from God. The man reads Revelation 3:8, which encourages Grant to view life from a different perspective—God’s perspective.

I won’t tell you the outcome because I don’t want to spoil the ending if you haven’t seen it, but I wanted to outline the premise for those of you who can relate. Those who are frustrated about things being harder than they should be, taking longer than they’re supposed to, and leaving you grasping for any thread of hope. You’re tired. You’re weary. You’ve tried so hard to serve God, but it seems like your only reward is fatigue and frustration. You’re ready to quit and looking for one good reason to keep going.

To you, my dear one, God offers these words: “I know thy works.” Yes, God is keeping track. He is aware of your faithfulness. He knows all you do for Him and is working on your behalf night and day. He loves you and wants only what is best for you. So. . .

He has set before you an open door that no man can shut. Yes, my friend, God has made a way. He has opened that door of opportunity. Of ministry. Of relationship. He has given you something to do, and it’s up to you to do it.

Then, notice this next phrase: “for thou hast a little strength.” Not a lot. Just a little. Just enough to grasp that last thread of patience. Just enough to keep your mouth shut when you want to tell that coworker what you think. Just enough to keep from throwing in the towel. A little strength.  

It doesn’t sound like much of a compliment, does it? But, in God’s eyes, a child with a little strength is much better than a mighty warrior king. The strong are self-sufficient. They think they can do anything and everything. They have no need of God. Those with just a little strength, on the other hand, are at the point where they have nothing left to give, and they know it. In their weakness, they are made strong because it is when they turn it all over to God. And so, God looks on and says, “Yes, she has a little strength. I can do something with that.”

This verse has reverberated in my mind over the past couple of weeks. As I’ve crawled on my hands and knees to stretch protective coverings over the floor and climbed ladders to tape off the moldings around the house, I’ve heard God’s voice reminding me, “You have a little strength. That’s good. I can use that. I can multiply that. I can use that weakness to show you just how strong I am.”

Sometimes a little strength is all you need. Hang in there, dear one. God is doing a mighty work. Look for those open doors and rely on His power. He’ll see you through.

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
— II Corinthians 12:9

I Believe. . .A Little Bit


Recently, the Lord has been dealing with my heart about a new book idea. The concept revolves around the many instances in the Bible where it seemed there wasn’t enough. Not enough money. Not enough time. Not enough faith. Not enough resources. As I’ve thought and prayed about this topic, more and more stories from the Bible have come to my mind, and with each one, I feel a sense of growing excitement—so much so that I’ve decided to start sharing a few of these ideas with you on this blog. The entries here won’t be as detailed as they will be in the final book (whenever that comes to pass), but it will give you a good idea of the insights the book will hold. Are you ready to get started?

And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!
— Matthew 8:23-27

This may seem like an odd passage to use at the beginning of this study, but for me, it’s a timely reminder. We all know the story of this great storm and how Jesus spoke peace to the winds and waves. We’re also well-acquainted with his rebuke to the disciples, but only recently as I explored this concept of “just a little” did I notice Jesus’ exact wording. He didn’t say the disciples didn’t have any faith. He said they had a little.  Just a bit. Enough to wake up Jesus, believing He could help, but not so much to calm their terrified hearts. A little faith.

But here’s the thing, a little faith is all we need. Jesus said so Himself. Check out this passage:

 And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
— Matthew 17:14-20

In this instance, we see the disciples had no faith. Though they had healed the sick and cast out demons before, for some reason, they didn’t believe they could do it with this child. Maybe the situation was too scary. Perhaps they felt the need was too great. I don’t know, but Jesus stated they were faithless and unbelieving. But notice what he tells them next. He informs them if they had faith as small as a mustard seed, it would be enough to move mountains. Just a little faith can move mountains. Just a little faith makes all things possible.

This is such a comfort for me to know right now amid so many uncertainties.  My mind is clouded with questions. Will we ever finish these house repairs? Will we get the amount we need when we sell the house? Will we be able to purchase our motorhome before our crazy fall schedule for deputation begins? Will we find a new home for Barnabas before we leave for our big trip to Texas? If we don’t, what then? How? When? Where? Why? Oh, the questions!

Yet through all the noise, I hear that still, small voice whispering, “Have faith, Dana. I’m working things out.” And while my heart still races and my mind keeps swirling, there’s a mustard-size seed of confidence that brings me peace in the storm.  I may not have the great faith I want to have, but even if I only have a little faith, that’s enough to see these mountains of worry and stress fall away, just as happened with the father of this possessed child. We see more details of his story in Mark 9.

And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child. And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us. Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.
— Mark 9:21-24

What an emotional story! This heartbroken father pleads with Jesus to heal his son, but notice his wording, “If you can do anything, help us.” If you can. That doesn’t sound much like faith, does it? But Jesus’ response changes everything. “I can do anything if you can believe.” At which point, the father cries out the prayer that spills from my lips day after day, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief!” Do you know what that statement tells me? That father didn’t have much faith, but he had just a little. And a little was all he needed. Jesus proved that when he healed the son.

My friend, maybe you can relate to the disciples, the broken-hearted father, and this red-headed missionary/writer. Perhaps today you’re clinging to “just a little bit” of faith. If so, take heart. With that faith, you can move mountains.  All is not lost. And the more we exercise that little bit, the more it will grow, just like our muscles. So, hold that chin up high, face that storm, and cry out, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”