This was a miserable sermon to prepare and deliver. I’d rather talk about Jesus…and we did…but we need to know our enemy.
“Cast the net on the right side of the boat,” He told them, “and you’ll find some.” So they did, and they were unable to haul it in because of the large number of fish. (John 21:6)
The disciples had struggled all night and caught nothing.
Suddenly a voice cried out to them, “throw the nets on the right side”. When they did…they were unable to haul in the catch.
The disciples were given a visual reminder.
They should never forget that on the right side of the boat is where the fish are….
And…where is the “right side” in life?
The right side is where the Creator and Sustainer of all is located. The right side is where you and I find the hope of the world. The right side is the place of grace.
Are you casting the net of your life on the right side of the boat?
If you’re having a though time right now with life…could it be your casting your net on the wrong side of the boat?
Throw your net on the right side today!
One of our boys has always been such a deep thinker. When he was 3 years old, watching a movie with him was a chore, because he would analyze every aspect of the plot. We would try to explain to him it was only a cartoon, without a ton of hidden meaning, but it was never enough. Even today he’s the analyzer of life. He asks the deep questions.
Personally, he takes after me (although he’s more fluent at it than I am). I’m a questioner too…and believe it’s been a help to me in life, ministry and leadership. The best questions get the best answers.
So it was not surprising when one day, when he was an early teenager, seemingly out of nowhere, Nate asked, “Daddy, what’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made in your life?”
I didn’t have to think long. We had owned a very successful, fast-growing business. We stood to make lots of money in the years ahead, and we sold that business to buy another. It was devastating. If it could go wrong it did. Although it’s a very long story and we felt we were doing the right thing at the time, it proved to be a very painful five year experience until we sold the business, basically walking away with nothing.
I told Nate (we call him Nathaniel) that selling one successful business and buying that business was obviously the biggest mistake of my life.
Nate countered quickly, “Yea, but you’ve said you probably would have never surrendered to ministry had that experience not occurred.”
“You’re right,” I replied. “I was too busy chasing a dream. God worked it for good. But, that was definitely my biggest mistake in life.”
As I said, I’m an analyzer too, so several days later, while I was in a time of prayer, Nate’s question came to my mind. I decided to ask God about it. In my prayer, I said, “God, why did you allow me to make the biggest decision of my life? I would have followed you if you had made it clear. Why couldn’t you let me do it another way? That was such a difficult time in our life.” (It was one of those rare pity parties I had with God. Don’t be afraid to have them. He understands.)
God seemed to interrupt me before I could continue. Now please understand, I have never heard God audibly. And, I’d love to say He speaks to me everyday. But, there have been a few times where I am certain I heard the impression of God on my heart…where I know God “spoke” clearly to me. This was one of those times. (As a side note, they always line up with truth from God’s word.)
I sensed God say, “Ron (I’m so glad He knows my name), your biggest mistake was not buying that business.”
I was surprised. I figured it must not be God to hear such a reply. So, I snapped back, almost as if I was sarcastically speaking to my own false thoughts, “Oh really, well then what was the biggest mistake of my life? Because I can’t think of one bigger.”
God interrupted again…
And, God was silent. Point made. Point accepted. I had no more questions.
The truth is many had seen what God was doing in my life; including my wife, but I had ignored them…continually replying that we are all “called to ministry”…and I resisted the surrender to vocational ministry for many years.
God’s counsel that morning has proven true so many times, as I reflect back over my life and the decisions I have made. The greatest failure in my life has always seem to be a result of when I do what I want to do rather than what God wants me to do.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1 NIV
When I was a little boy, air conditioning was a luxury. Most of the schools didn’t have it and many of our houses were without it. Still it seems like we spent more time outdoors then than we do now. In the summer, we would go to my grandparents quite often. When the time came for homemade ice cream, everyone would gather around, bowls in hand, and head for their favorite shade tree. No matter how hot it was, with ice cream in hand and a shade tree above, the weather was always just right.
That is what I think of when I think of the “shadow of the Almighty”.
Resting within the protection of God’s glory, I find peace from the burdens of the world.
No, my problems don’t always disappear, but the journey is made easier. The valleys aren’t as deep, and the mountain tops seem to last longer and come more often.
Dwelling within God’s shelter means that I trust Him even when the odds makers say I shouldn’t. It means that I choose Him over the achievements I can make on my own. It means that my life is not my own. I am bought with a price, the shed blood of Jesus, and that my home is in Heaven, where awaits for me an eternal blessing, which far outweighs the problems of this world.
My grandparents tree is no longer standing. I have air conditioning now everywhere I go. We seldom make homemade ice cream. In fact, at family gatherings now we rarely go outside. As I reflect on the good memories about that shade tree, however, I realize that the best shade I will ever experience is within the “shadow of the Almighty”.
Why don’t you rest in His shade with me for a while?
Like maybe for an eternity!
I don’t know about you, but I feel like the disciples. I am still learning to pray. The fact is I have more knowledge of prayer than I have substance and practice of prayer.
Just being honest.
Be respectful – You’re talking to the Creator God. He is worthy of all our praise. He’s the Holy Father. He puts stars in the sky. At the same time, He paints the belly of a Lady Bug. Never take for granted the privilege of prayer.
Be yourself – Along with being respectful, it is important to be who you are. Don’t attempt to make your words pretty as much as you attempt to make your heart pure. Just as you want your children to be respectful, yet still be themselves, I am convinced God wants that for His children. We are told to call Him “Daddy” (Abba). He wants us to fall in the comfy chair of home in His presence.
Be honest – God knows already, yet He loves to hear His children talk. Just like we do as parents. He wants to know what’s on our mind. We can tell Him if we are angry and still be respectful. Speak truthful when talking to God.
Be open to His voice – Spend intentional time listening, with your Bible open. God most often speaks through the already written Word. But He also speaks through the still small voice like the gentle breeze. Over time…and with lots of practice…you’ll begin to know and hear His voice.
Be consistent – Pray as much as you want and need God’s involvement in your life. How much is that? For me, that’s fairly constant. I pray far less than the need I have for Him. Have a daily routine. Start a prayer list. Do it daily. But mostly, do it as a part of lifestyle more than a part of routine. It’s a relationship. And He’s always with you, so take advantage of the closeness you can have through Christ. If you’re sitting at a stop light…pray. If you think of a friend…pray. If you begin to worry…pray. It can be a paragraph, sentence or a couple words. (I’ve prayed “Help me God!” many times.) Don’t overcomplicate it. Just pray. Talk to God. What a privilege that I can encourage you in this way. (Hebrews 4:16)
Of course, all this begins with a simple belief in Christ as your Savior. That is what makes you His child. If you’ve never believed in the One whom lived, died and rose again three days later…begin there.
What tips do you have for us amateur prayers?
I’ve learned through hard lessons that a stretched heart never returns exactly the same.
The Bible says, “Above all else, guard your heart.” I think part of the reason is that once the heart stretches, it’s changed. Forever.
Let’s say you had a dream. You pursued it with passion. It didn’t work out. You failed. But, in the process you stretched your heart for something new. You’ll have to find yet another dream to fill the void you created by stretching.
You thought you had the job. You were beginning to get excited about it. You even looked at houses in the area. You didn’t get the job. Your heart stretched. You will have to refuel your passion where you are now or you’ll be miserable. Your heart was stretched.
You felt a call to ministry at some point in your life, but you ignored it. Or something happened. You’re not serving right now and your heart is empty. Your stretched heart has never been the same.
And, it works in other ways too. You looked at things online you shouldn’t have seen. Now you want more. And more. You can’t seem to find satisfaction. You stretched your heart.
My advice is to find something to fill the new space you have created. You can’t just “get over it”.
You have to fill the void left behind because of the stretching. That may require prayer, discipline, accountability, practice or even counseling. Maybe all of them.
But your stretched heart is too important to ignore.
“Above all else…guard your heart“. (Proverbs 4:23)