180: Time for a Turnaround
As we begin a new year, our focus is on the future. We’re thinking about the upcoming year, not the past year. But just for a minute I want you to think about 2020. You can go back even further if you want. But what would you say as you look past…? What would you say is your biggest regret? For some of you, immediately you know the answer to that question. It jumps out at you. It’s on the front of your mind. For others of you it’s kind of like digging through a pile. I mean, you’re just like, “There’s a lot here to choose from,” and eventually you figure one out. “Yep, this is it. This would be the biggest.”
I was reading some research on our regrets, and it turns out that, as you would guess, there are a lot of different regrets that would be represented in a room of people like this. But there’s one word that tends to be similar. There’s one word that brings our regrets together, that our regrets have in common. There was an experiment done by some students at Strayer University. They went to a park in New York City, and they set out this huge chalkboard and they wrote at the top, “Write your biggest regret.” They just left it there for the day. They…by the end of the day…had all kinds of answers, and then they recorded the answers. So here are just some of them: “Not speaking up.” “Not being a more attentive husband.” “Not spending more time with my family.” “Staying in my comfort zone.” “Not saving for retirement.” This isn’t all one person, by the way! This is a lot of different people who wrote these things. “Not saying, ‘I love you.’” “Not saying, ‘I’m sorry.’” “Not saying, ‘No.’” “Not giving her another chance.” “Not asking for help sooner.” “Not applying to medical school.” “Not being a better friend.” “Not making a move.” And so they found that overwhelmingly there was one word that kept showing up in all these regrets. Did you catch it? The word is what? Not. Yeah. So they look back on their life and they can identify a moment where they didn’t do something that they wished they would have.
And so regrets tend to be about opportunities not seized, about chances not taken, words not spoken, decisions not made, resolutions not kept. You look back and you can see the road you’ve been on and you know you missed your exit. “I should’ve taken that exit. I didn’t take the exit. I wish I could go back and take the exit. I regret not taking the exit and turning around.”
So, I don’t know if you make resolutions or not. I’ve read a little bit about that this week. That it tends to follow age. Like, we make more resolutions when we’re younger, and as we get older we’re like, “Yeah, it’s just kind of the way it is,” and we’re less optimistic about it. But, as we start a new year, it is a good time to think about what we want to be different in our lives. And really the only way to get there is to look to the past and identify some regrets. It’s hard to do, but it’s necessary.
If you have your Bibles…or a Bible app…turn to Luke chapter 5. So, Luke chapter 2 is the Christmas Story. We’ve looked at that some in the month of December. In Luke chapter 5 the earthly ministry of Jesus is just beginning. He’s already developed this reputation as a really powerful preacher/teacher. He has yet to call His disciples in Luke chapter 5. We’re going to see some of that take place in this chapter. And He is preaching by the Sea of Galilee. Here it’s called the Lake of Gennesaret. It’s the same body of water. And He’s preaching on the shore, but as the crowds gather, the people in the back are having a hard time hearing Him.
And so we read in verse 2…it says, “…he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets.”
So you’ve got these fishermen who’ve been fishing all night, and they’re cleaning their nets. They’re putting away their gear. They’re ready to call it a day, right? They’re ready to go home and to crash. Jesus sees it. There are a couple of boats that they’ve left on shore.
Verse 3, “He got into one of the boats….” It doesn’t appear that He asked. He just climbs into one of the boats, “…the one belonging to Simon…”
Now by this time Simon—who is the disciple that we know as Peter, but he’s not a disciple yet—Simon and Jesus are friends. They know each other. Jesus has already healed Simon’s mother-in-law. I’m not sure if that brought them closer together or not, but… But they know each other. And Jesus…Jesus sees that this is Simon’s boat, and so He asks Simon, “Hey.” He gets in the boat. “Can you just take me out a little bit so I can teach from the boat?” He sits down in the boat and He uses kind of the natural acoustics of the water—His voice bouncing off the water so that the people can hear Him.
In verse 4 it says, “When He had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water….’” “Let’s go out. Hey, let’s go out to the deep and let’s go fishing. “…and let down the nets for a catch.”
I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a position where you’re kind of an expert in a field or in a certain area and somebody comes in who really doesn’t know your field as well as you and they start giving you advice. Did that ever happen to you on the job? Like, a manager comes in and you’ve been doing your job before that manager was born. And they come in and they start telling you how to do a job that you know had that manager applied for your job that manager wouldn’t have gotten hired to begin with. But they’re trying to tell you how to do something that you already know how to do. And when that happens it immediately makes you a little bit defensive, right? Immediately you have this sense of, “Who are you to tell me?” I don’t know if Peter experienced that at all here, but there must’ve been part of him that said, “Hey, Jesus, I tell you what. I’ll leave the teaching to You; You leave the fishing to me, right? Like, Jesus, You just…why don’t You stay in Your lane over here? And I know about fishing. You know about teaching and carpentry, so You do… You know, You build things and talk to people. I’m going to…I know about fishing. I like You, but don’t interfere with… I like You, but don’t interfere with my job.” Jesus, I like You on the weekends, but don’t interfere with my love life. Jesus, I like what You have to say, but don’t interfere with my money. Don’t interfere with my entertainment choices. You’re great. I like to listen to You teach, but I don’t need any help over here. I kind of know what I’m doing over here.
And so Peter is asked by Jesus to go out into the deep and to fish in the deep, and in verse 5 Peter says, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and we haven’t caught anything.” And I don’t know if there was a pause here. Like, he’s hoping Jesus will say, “Oh, yeah, okay. Listen. I’m sorry. You guys have worked hard all night. You didn’t catch anything. You’ve got to be exhausted. Why don’t you go on home?” I think there was probably some kind of a pause where he’s hoping Jesus will, you know, pull that back in. We’ve worked hard. We haven’t caught anything. “But because you say so, I’ll do it.” “Because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
And the Bible says in verse 6 that, “When they had done so”—when they go out to the deep and they let down the nets—“they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink” (vv. 6-7). They took on so many fish in both boats that the boats couldn’t hold any more weight.
I can imagine how much fun these guys were having, right? They’d fished all night. They hadn’t caught anything, and now…I mean, this was a fishing story they would tell for the rest of their lives. I mean, they are celebrating and high-fiving. It’s huge.
You see, these guys weren’t just fair-weather hobby fishermen out for a night of relaxation on the lake. These guys a real fishermen. Like, it’s their livelihood. It’s their job. They pull in empty nets. It’s not just kind of annoying. It’s not, like, a hobby that just didn’t go well for the weekend. It’s their food. It’s their livelihood. They don’t have food to eat and they don’t have fish to sell in the market. It’s a big deal, right? So for Peter and his friends, his coworkers, his staff, not catching anything, working all night and having nothing to show for it—that’s a problem. It’s like working for hours and hours and you don’t have any sales. You need to make the numbers work. And they don’t have any fish to sell, and their business can’t stay open if they’re not selling fish. They’re fishermen. And so they’re at a point of discouragement as the night ends, but then Jesus comes and suddenly there’s a reason to celebrate.
Now here’s one of the things I want you to catch: Unless they had gone through a night of disappointment the deliverance that Jesus brought wouldn’t have really meant that much. Meaning that if Jesus would have started the evening with them and, you know, created this miracle of all these fish being caught, I mean, it would’ve been exciting. But because they went through disappointment, because they went through discouragement, they were at the right place to meet Jesus and experience that kind of a blessing. They appreciated it differently. They recognized power differently because they had tried it themselves and it didn’t work. They had attempted everything they could attempt and it hadn’t worked out for them. But now Jesus comes, and they see the difference that Jesus makes.
So, as we look at Peter’s life, I think that one of the things that we see—not just here but really in his life on a larger scale—is this very simple message that this time doesn’t have to be like the last time. This time doesn’t have to be like the last time. And that’s a message that a lot of us need to hear, because you’ve tried some things, time and time again, and it hasn’t worked. You’ve thrown your nets out year after year, and maybe this year you don’t even bother throwing the nets out because you’ve not caught anything. And in our mind, at some point, it starts to feel like this time is just going to be like the last time, and, “If I failed the last time, I’m going to fail this time. So I’m not going to worry about doing anything different this time because it didn’t work last time.” And that’s why…that’s why we quit. We could be one time away from experiencing God’s blessing in a way that we never knew was even possible, but we let what happened last time keep us from moving forward this time.
So, if Peter were here and he was going to talk to you about 2021, I think one of the things he would say is: “Hey, with Jesus this time doesn’t have to be like last time.” I mean, that’s the difference, right? It’s still Peter and the same boats, the same nets, the same lake. If anything it’s worse conditions. It’s the morning heat and it’s out into deeper water. But the difference is that Jesus is with them. And maybe in 2020 you made some resolutions and you had some ideas of what you wanted to do differently and some areas where things needed to turn around, and so you worked at it. Like, you worked hard all night and you gave it everything you had. You made some task lists and you set some goals. My question is though: Has Jesus been in the boat with you? That’s the determining factor. And so for a lot of us, you’ve put your time in and you’ve tried to improve and make some changes, but the difference-maker here is Jesus.
So, there are four words, I think, that make the difference between last time and this time for Peter, and the four words are the words that Peter speaks to Jesus. He says to Jesus, “Because You say so.” Jesus says, “Go out to the deep. Cast your nets.” Peter says, “Hey, we’ve been working all night.” In other words, I don’t think it’s a good idea. If you ask me, I don’t think this is going to work. I mean, if I were in charge it’s not what I would do. I’d like to go on record as saying, “We’re wasting our time.” But because you say so I’ll do it. It’s not what I feel like doing. It’s not what I want to do. It’s not the right thing in my mind to do. But because you say so…because you say so I’ll do it.
And if you’re looking for a motto for this year, if you need something to grab a hold of for 2021, one idea might be to say, “2021 is going to be the ‘because You say so’ year for you.” It is where you decide that what will determine decisions and what path you take and what direction you go will not be your feelings, will not be what you want; it will be what Jesus said: “Because you say so.”
Now that’s a hard a hard submission. You see this in children, right? I mean, if you’re a parent and you want to frustrate your child, when they ask for permission you say, “No,” and when they ask, “Why?” you tell them, “Because I said so.” Yeah, that’ll frustrate them. Our parents did it to us. We get to enjoy doing it to them now. But it’s not any easier for them to swallow that. That’s tough to accept because we want a reason. We want an explanation. We want a guarantee. I mean, it would be nice if the way this story unfolded is if Jesus would say to Peter, “Hey, Peter, I know you’re tired. I know you’ve been working all night. I know you guys are exhausted. I know you just cleaned your nets and put them away. I know you don’t want to do this. But if you’ll take me out there and fish in the deep, here’s what I’m going to do for you: I’m going to cause your boats to overflow with fish. Your nets will break because there are so many fish. If you do this for me, if you’re obedient to me, here’s how I’m going to bless you.” That’s kind of the agreement we want in our relationship with Jesus. “Jesus, okay, look. I’m willing to make some decisions about my…” Maybe you say, “My dating life.” “I’m willing to do some things differently at work or with neighbors or as a husband, as a wife. I’m willing to do some things differently. But I need you…I just need some things in writing from your end. I just need to know that if I do this then you’re going to do some things for me. I need to know what it’s going to look like. And I’m willing to do it, but I need some kind of a guarantee that the blessing is going to come. Because I don’t want to do it. I don’t feel like doing it.” And yet that’s not how this whole thing works. It is obedience and then the blessing. It is faith and it’s not easy to do.
And Peter may have thought that Jesus didn’t know anything about fishing, but he was still willing to obey him even though he didn’t think Jesus knew what was best, right? And Peter learns that Jesus knows everything about anything. Like, Jesus has a built-in fish-finder. Like, He’s hardwired with that. He knows where all the fish are. He didn’t need Peter’s boat. He could’ve just walked out there ten feet, stood on the water and taught. He’s going to learn. Peter is going to learn just how much Jesus knows. But sometimes we forget that, and because we forget that we don’t trust Him. We think we know better than Him. We question what He asks us to do, because from our perspective it doesn’t make sense. Perhaps Peter was worried what other people would think on the shore. Because it doesn’t reflect well on him as a fisherman that he’s going to go back out at the wrong time of the day and in the wrong location. But look, Jesus knows. Jesus knows more about your job than you. And Jesus knows more about your spouse than you. And Jesus knows more about your child than you. And Jesus knows more about you than you. He knows. And so, we can trust Him to say, “Because you say so.”
Jesus is called “Master” by Peter. Peter says, “Master, because you say so.” He doesn’t say, “Teacher.” He doesn’t say, “Mentor.” He doesn’t say, “Consultant.” He says, “Master.” And that’s how Peter relates to Jesus. And there is so much freedom if we can accept this. I mean, it’s hard to get there, but if you can get there, there is so much freedom in it. Because you don’t have the pressure of deciding what you’re going to do. You just do what Jesus has told you to do. We think there’s a lot more… “There’s freedom in doing whatever I want to do.” No, there’s not. If you just do whatever you want to do…whatever you want to do…it’s going to put a lot of pressure on you and it’s going to create tons of problems, right? Like, if your New Year’s Resolution is: “You know, I’m just going to do whatever I want to do. That’s my New Year’s Resolution. I’m going to eat whatever I want to eat for the entire year—just whatever I want to.” Well, it’s not going to go well. You know, what do we call people who decide that that’s how they’re going to live? That they’re just going to do whatever they want to and they don’t really care. They’ll just say… If they should do something and they don’t want to, they just say, “I don’t want to do it.” What do we call those people? We call them two-year-olds, right?! That’s what children do. This is not how we make decisions about our lives. It’s a hard reality, but it doesn’t work if you just live how you want to live.
And so there’s a ton of freedom in this. Some of you, on the job, have experienced this, right? Like, you have a boss who makes a decision that you don’t really agree with or you don’t really like. But, hey, you’ll do what you’ve been asked to do. That’s fine. Because it’s not your decision; it’s their decision. They’re the ones who make that choice. And so there’s freedom in the submission. And that’s a surprising freedom to discover. It is where you just say, “Jesus, because you say so in this area of my life I’m going to submit. I may not want to. I may not understand it. It might not make a lot of sense to me. But I will do what you’ve asked.”
When asked what it looks like to live a “because you say so life,” here some responses a few Believers gave. A couple who are missionaries in Africa said, “Because He said so we moved away from family and the comforts of the life we knew and took our family to a foreign country where we didn’t know anyone and we didn’t speak the language.” Someone else said, “Because Jesus said so I broke up with the man I thought I was going to marry because he wasn’t a follower of Jesus.” Someone else said, “Because He said so my girlfriend and I stopped living together.” Another person said, “Because He said so I put off retirement and now give my income to supporting four full-time missionaries in India.” “Because He said so we invited a single mom and her three kids to live with us while she goes back to school.” It’s not easy. It’s not convenient. It’s honestly not what they wanted to do, but they knew that’s what God wanted them to do. One wife said, “Because He said so I didn’t give up on my marriage even though I couldn’t stand to look at my husband and never thought I could love him again.” She said, “It was so hard for so long, but today our marriage is healed. I love my husband more than words. I’m so glad I obeyed God.” But she didn’t know at the beginning that she was going to have a return. She threw her nets out there because God said to throw her nets out there, but she didn’t know what was going to happen next.
And so that would be my challenge for you: To start this year with that spirit of submission that just says, “Because you say so.”
Now those words are hard to say out loud so I thought we could practice together, all right? We’ll have a lot of opportunities to speak these words even in this upcoming week, so could we just kind of practice saying this out loud together? On the count of three, nice and loud…one, two, three. (Audience repeats.) “Because you say so.” That’s my prayer for you this year, that you make that commitment…that “God, I need help with it, but that’s the spirit I want. Because you say so.”
And it’s easy enough to say this generically. It gets a little bit tougher when we give some context to it and we get more specific with it. So let’s do that, okay? We’ll practice saying this in some areas where it’s a little more difficult. So I’ll give you some scenarios and if so led—no pressure here—if so led you respond with “because you say so.”
Jesus, giving generously and joyfully of my finances is hard for me and it seems like a lot to ask, but because you say so… (Audience repeats, “Because you say so.”)
Jesus, I don’t feel like forgiving him, and I don’t want to forgive her. Not after what he did. Not after what she said. But because you say so… (Audience repeats, “Because you say so.”)
Jesus, I don’t want to confess my sin. I want to keep it a secret. It’s embarrassing. It’s uncomfortable. But because you say so… (Audience repeats, “Because you say so.”)
And so here we are at the beginning of a new year. We tend to look on the past with regrets and we know we’ve missed some opportunities…things we didn’t do we wish we would have. I think most of those regrets would be resolved with this simple commitment to live a “because you say so life.” And God begins to repair the damage of the past when we begin to submit our current decisions.
And so they’re pulling all these fish in and they’re ecstatic, right? I mean, they’re having a blast. But at some point, Peter just becomes overwhelmed by the significance of the moment and by the power that he’s witnessing.
And so they’re pulling all these fish in and they’re ecstatic, right? I mean, they’re having a blast. But at some point, Peter just becomes overwhelmed by the significance of the moment and by the power that he’s witnessing.
Verse 8 says, “When Simon Peter saw this…” When he saw how many fish were in these boats, it says, “…he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’”
So let’s make sure we understand the image here. He falls at the feet of Jesus in the boat. So what’s he surrounded by? Everywhere…everywhere…like, everywhere, flopping around is evidence that Jesus did what he couldn’t do. Everywhere he is surrounded by evidence that he tried and it didn’t happen. Jesus told him to do something and it did happen. Everywhere. And so he falls to his knees and he just says, “I am a sinful man!” He repents and he confesses. And repentance and confession is what unlocks a new future. After this we’ll see that Jesus is going to invite Peter (Simon) to be His disciple. I think this is what He was waiting for. He was waiting for Peter to acknowledge his own unworthiness, his own sinfulness, so that a new future, a new path, a new adventure would open up. So he repents and he confesses and says, “I am sinful.”
And when we repent and we confess, it is a way of handing God the broken pieces so that He can repair. The exit ramp for a turnaround is called repentance.
My dad was kind of known as a “Mr. Fixit.” He was very handy at fixing things that others couldn’t. So people would often bring things to my dad to see if he could make them work again. But one thing that was always frustrating to him wasn’t a lack of knowledge about what to do. More often than not he knew what needed to be done. What was frustrating to him is that so many times people would bring something to be repaired, but they wouldn’t bring all the pieces. And he would try to describe to them the pieces that were missing, but many times they wouldn’t have a clue what he was talking about or where the missing pieces were. And it’s hard to repair something when or if some of the pieces are being withheld. What makes something beyond repair is when necessary pieces aren’t surrendered. You give up those pieces and the repair can take place.
When we repent, when we confess sin, it is a way of saying to God, “Here are the broken pieces. Here are all the pieces.” And when God gets all the pieces, He repairs, He redeems, He restores, He rebuilds. That’s what He does. And so, when we confess and repent, we give Him those pieces. That’s what Peter does. He says, “I’m a sinful man.”
In verse 10 it says, “…Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Don’t be afraid. From now on you will fish for people.’ So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him” (vv. 10-11).
They just walk away from it: the boats, the nets, and I think, it would seem, all that fish. And they started the day as fishermen, but they end the day fishers of men. It is a new path. They have turned some things around.
So I want us, as we finish now, to flash forward towards the end of Jesus’ ministry, His time here on earth, to John 21. And by this time Peter…Simon is Peter…and Peter has become one of the most trusted disciples of Jesus. And a few chapters before John 21 (John 13:37) is where we read about Peter in the Upper Room, vowing that he will never leave or betray Jesus. He makes, if you will, a resolution that even if everyone else leaves he never will. And you know the story about the three denials: how Peter denies knowing Jesus, denies being a follower of Jesus, and he swears on the penalty of hell that he’s not a follower of Jesus. And then the rooster crows and Peter is broken. The Bible just says, “He wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62). And things seem pretty messed up. He goes back to the Sea of Galilee, the Lake of Gennesaret. Apparently his boats are still there, and he decides he’s going to take up fishing again.
And so in John 21, he is out on the lake fishing. Assuming he’s fired from his job as a fisher of men, he’s gone back to being a fisherman. And somebody is on the shore…maybe fifty yards out…too far to see who it is but close enough that they can hear what he says. And the person on the shore says, “Hey, fellas, have you guys caught anything today?” They say, “No. Thanks for asking. We haven’t caught anything.” “Why don’t you guys…? Why don’t you throw your nets on the other side of the boat?” Well, that’s ridiculous. What good is that going to do…unless? And hope starts to rise in Peter, and he frantically grabs the nets from one side of the boat and he throws them onto the other side of the boat, understanding what the implications are for the rest of his life. And he watches as the fish literally just jump into the net the moment it hits the water, and the net begins to fill and break. Peter knows. He knows it’s Jesus. He can’t wait for the boat to get to shore. He dives in. He swims to shore. He comes up out of the water. He’s out of breath. He’s dripping wet and he’s trying to catch his breath to say something. But what’s he say? And Jesus says to Peter, “Do you love me, Peter?” Peter says, “Lord, you know I do.” Jesus asks again, “Do you love me?” “Lord, you know I love you.” “Peter, do you…do you love me?” “I love you, Lord.” And Jesus says, “Then feed my sheep.” In other words, Jesus says to Peter, “Your denials don’t disqualify you. Your past doesn’t determine your future. This time doesn’t have to be like the last time. You are not beyond repair. I need all the pieces, but I still have a plan for you.”
And if Jesus were to sit down and talk to you as you begin this new year, I think He would say something similar. Your past doesn’t disqualify you. What happened then doesn’t have to determine what happens now. You are not… Listen, you are not beyond repair, but He does need all the pieces.