How to Catch a Fish

Cast the net . . .”—John 21:6 (NASB)

When Jesus died, His disciples lost more than a teacher and friend. It’s as if they lost hope. They had expected a Messiah who would reign in Jerusalem as their King, saving the Jewish nation from the tyranny of the Roman Empire. He would multiply their resources, multiply their land, multiply their independence, and multiply their legacy. One thing they learned, and maybe you have, too, is that Jesus always does the unexpected.

When Jesus manifested Himself at the Sea of Tiberias, He found Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John, and two other disciples doing what they knew–fishing. Scholarly circles propose why Peter called his companions to fish–to earn a livelihood, to embrace their former passion, to simply have something to eat. But it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Jesus had a lesson for them there and a lesson for us now.

That night they went out into the boat and caught nothing (John 21:3). Along the shore at daybreak, a stranger stood. He called out to them, “’Children, you do not have any fish, do you?’ They answered Him, ‘No.’ And He said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.’ So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish” (John 21:5-6 NASB).

Was the right-hand side of the boat better fishing? Probably not. Was this an exercise in trust? No because they didn’t recognize the stranger was Jesus. David Guzik suggests that “this was probably a test of their ability to find the guidance of God in small and unsuspected ways–such as a stranger calling out fishing instructions from the shore.”

There are times we embark on a mission and don’t immediately see the rewards or expected outcome. We are often left disappointed, discouraged, or full of doubt. If the mission we’re on is from the Lord, there might be little setbacks, postponements, or diversions. It doesn’t mean the Lord will not multiply within those times or beyond them. It simply means there are unexpected lessons to learn within them. Guzik points out, “This account illustrates the principle that we should never be afraid to change our method, as long as it is at the direction of Jesus.”

I take to heart the words of Charles Spurgeon who said, “To be a fisherman, a man must expect disappointments; he must often cast in the net and bring up nothing but weeds. The minister of Christ must reckon upon being disappointed; and he must not be weary in well-doing for all his disappointments, but must in faith continue in prayer and labor, expecting that at the end he shall receive his reward.”

DIG: What did the disciples learn from this experience?

DISCOVER: Think back to a time you felt led by the Lord but experienced a setback or the need to change your methodology. What did that teach you?

DO: The next time you feel discouraged about what isn’t working, remember that God has the power to multiply and He’s always working.