I was asked to address a leadership team which met last weekend. As I was preparing, I was mentally heading one direction but then…I began reading John 21:1-14. Perfect timing because I could see crucial leadership requirements everywhere in this story.
The disciples had already seen the resurrected Christ twice. They had experienced Him. But what were they to do with the truth they knew? Perhaps they were floundering a bit.
Peter was with 6 other disciples, future leaders of the Church. He said to them, “I’m going to fish.” So they all followed him to the fishing boat. I’ve heard many teachings and read many commentaries about this. Some say Peter was frustrated. Some say he was not patiently waiting. Some say he was reverting to his old life. Generally they are not very kind to Peter.
I have different thoughts. There are times I haven’t been clear about my next step. An opportunity where I served ended and I didn’t know what was next. I’ve experienced confusion about my Ephesians 2:10 calling during different seasons of my life. And I know other leaders who have experienced the same confusion. Perhaps Peter would agree.
What I have come to realize is that, like Peter, in times of uncertainty, we can push forward and live life…always for God’s glory. We continue going to the office. We continue parenting from home. We continue fulfilling the duties of our profession. We live life. But as recipients of the Holy Spirit, we do it as we listen for God’s voice of direction. We keep our eyes on the goal, the eternal perspective.
What we know for certain about this passage, is that Jesus met the disciples where they were…fishing. And He revealed rich life lessons for all who would follow Him.
The disciples fished all night without any success. Surely they were exhausted.
They didn’t recognize the man on the shore (who we know was Jesus) as He called to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” You and I know that Jesus knew the answer to this question but He doesn’t ask questions without a reason.
The disciples answered Him honestly. “No.”
First lesson for leaders: We need to be honest with God and honest with ourselves. And sometimes that will mean acknowledging our failures. Humility is exactly where God does His best work. It’s where His riches are revealed to us.
The man on the beach (Jesus) instructed the disciples to cast their net again with the assurance that they would find “some.” They obeyed and “when they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.”
Lesson for leaders: These professional fishermen knew how to fish but their experience and abilities did not stop them from listening to someone else. And their teachable spirits were rewarded. Everyone who calls themselves by Christ’s name benefits from a teachable spirit and it needs to be exhibited by our leadership.
They obeyed Jesus’ directions. As ministry leaders, this is crucial. We must obey if we want to experience an abundance in our nets.
Our highest calling is to share the gospel. It is hope for this world. It is the answer to the void in hearts where people are searching for what truly satisfies. It is the way to truth and life. “Casting our net” covers both evangelism and discipleship. Make no mistake, every follower has been instructed by Jesus to “go and make disciples.” By the power of the Holy Spirit, we share and we teach.
When the disciples went to bed that night and pondered the events of the day, I wonder if they remembered Jesus telling them in the garden, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” That is exactly what they experienced that day.
Apart from Jesus, there was no success. With Him, they were successful. Apart from Jesus, they struggled, exhausting themselves only to feel defeated by their task. With Him, their task was accomplished quickly and was surely exciting. This applies to ministry. We would be wise to remember Jesus’ words as we prepare for the commitment we made to lead.
At this point, John recognized Jesus and said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” As soon as Peter heard that, he jumped into the water.
Lesson for leaders: As a leader, we should want to get to Jesus as fast as we can. It’s ok for others to see how eager we are for fellowship with Jesus. Jump out of the boat and don’t give a thought to what others think. (And if you’re in a place where you are no longer feeling that kind of passion, there’s a way to revival. It can be discovered by humbly, honestly praying, reading His Word and engaging with His faithful followers.)
The other disciples followed.
Lesson for leaders: When we are running toward Jesus with all of our being, make no mistake, we will be followed!
Jesus was already cooking a breakfast of fish.
Lesson for leaders: Jesus didn’t need the disciple’s catch. He was already cooking a breakfast of fish. And do you remember when He fed 5000 people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish? 5000! But Jesus invited His disciples to be part of something big. He drew the disciples into a partnership. And Jesus doesn’t need you and me for accomplishing His plans but wow…what an honor we have been given every time Jesus invites us to partner with Him. He provides us opportunities to fellowship with Him through serving and loving our neighbors. He opens doors where we can express our love for Him through loving the least, the last and the lost.
Jesus invites us to spend time with Him. He invites His leaders to sit with Him, to feast upon His provision and to enjoy Him. That is our invitation today. Pray, read and study His Word and above all, enjoy Him.
Jump out of the boat!