I was well familiar with the story of Peter’s long night of fishing with no results. After he had come in for the day and Jesus used his boat to speak to the people, Jesus told Peter to put out his nets again. This time the catch was so large that the net broke, causing Peter to realize his sinfulness and Jesus’s power and holiness.
What I don’t remember noticing before in this story, until last Sunday in church, was the inconvenience of it all (though inconvenience wasn’t the main point of the message or the passage, that aspect provided food for thought for the next day or two). Luke 5:2 says the fishermen were out of their boats and washing their nets. They were done for the day. Then they were asked to go back out, at the “wrong” time of day, to a place that had seemed fishless just a few hours earlier.
I worked for a few years at a fabric shop, and one night just before closing a girl came in to look at fabrics for her wedding. I think all of us who worked there either slumped or looked visibly dismayed: that kind of encounter at the store could take hours, and we were all set to go home. The girl noticed our reaction and immediately turned around and left the store. I’ve always felt bad about that – not only did we lose a customer and look highly unprofessional, but we put a damper on what is usually a fun time in a girl’s wedding planning. So I can imagine a little what Peter’s feeling might have been at being told to put his nets back out after he had just come in and cleaned up his equipment.
I began to remember a few other Biblical incidents of inconvenience:
- Moses, Gideon, and others called by God from their quiet, placid occupations to lead Israel through difficult times and against formidable foes
- Jairus interrupted while bringing Jesus to heal his desperately ill daughter
- A widow asked to use her last bit of provisions to feed a prophet
- By way of parable, a man awakened in the middle of the night by another friend in need of food for guests
I’m sure there are multitudes of other Biblical examples.
I thought of incidences in my own life when I’ve struggled with convenience vs. obedience:
- When I was in the middle of something, like making dinner, and my child disobeyed, and I was tempted to “let it go this time” rather than stop what I was doing to deal with him
- When I’ve cozied up on the couch with a good book and remembered that I haven’t spent any time in the Bible yet that day
- When I have felt an inner prompting to speak to someone about the Lord and convinced myself it wasn’t the right time or place.
- When someone interrupted my writing time just when I was experiencing an unusual flow of thought and expression or when I wanted to get a certain amount finished before stopping
I’m sure there have been many other similar incidences here also.
Once when I was in college, a few girls became aware of a certain student’s financial need. Most of us were struggling financially ourselves and did not have any extra to give to anyone else. I can’t remember the exact details now, but I remember news of the situation was passed to about four people before someone was able to chip in and help her. At the time I wondered why God didn’t just prompt the fourth person directly about the need instead of going through such a circuitous route. I don’t know all the reasons, but surely one was that this way, more people were aware of the need and more people glorified God when the answer was provided.
In the situation with Peter, the fact that Jesus told him to put out his net in the daytime after an unsuccessful night of fishing brought more glory to Christ and showed more of His power. Even though Jesus had healed Peter’s mother-in-law earlier, somehow this incident with the great catch of fish affected Peter much more, causing him to fall “down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.‘” I’ve heard preachers point out from this incident that God touches us not just in our area of weakness, but in our area of strength. Perhaps seeing Jesus’s abundant power and provision in what had been Peter’s area of expertise was what finally brought Peter to his knees.
For the widow of Zarephath, not only were her and her son’s needs provided for miraculously, but the very prophet who so inconveniently asked for her last food in such desperate times was the instrument through which God healed her son.
Sometimes inconveniences are just part of living in a fallen world – we don’t know why they happen, and all we can do is try to take them patiently. Sometimes they test our love, our obedience, our willingness to sacrifice for the sake of others. Sometimes they show us our wrong priorities. Sometimes they remind us of our need to rely on Him. But we can see God’s hand through, in spite of, or even because of the inconveniences He allows. He inconvenienced Himself for our sakes: may we be willing to allow Him to inconvenience us for His sake.