Monday, May 2, 2011

You Can't Run Away. You Can't Hide. It's Irrevocable!

We are a strange creature with very strange habits. Sometimes there is no predicting how our emotions will respond to situations and what our flesh will prompt us to do. Under stress we all react somewhat different but we tend to do the things that we are familiar with, that we can do without thinking. If you are a runner you may find that a good run helps you deal with things. If you are a reader you might disappear into a good book. If you are a fisherman you might decide to do some fishing. That's what Peter and his friends did.

It is now more than a wekk since the resurrection of Jesus and we still can't imagine the emotional condition of these poor disciples. Jesus was stolen from them, killed in front of their eyes (John was there), buried, mourned for, seen alive, appeared to them as a group on two occasions, and were told that they were being sent as the Father sent Jesus. But what did this mean? What were they suppose to do? Still trying to process all of this Peter decided he would go fishing. Six others decided to join him:

Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. (John 21:2-3)

Note who were there. We know Peter was and so were James and John. Peter's brother isn't named but it wouldn't surprise me if he was because something special is about to happen. Jesus needs to make it clear to his disciples that it is no longer business as usual. The Church is about to be birthed and the disciples need to understand that the season has changed. They will soon go from disciples to Apostles and will carry the important responsibility of seeding the gospel of Jesus Christ. So here they were, in the perfect setting to have their calling renewed.

It's now morning and they have caught nothing. A man appears on the shore and gives them direction as to where to throw the net. Ring any bells for you? Why not take a moment and read back to Luke 5:1-11 and as you read it remember that the partners mentioned are the sons of Zebedee, James and John. This is when the four of them, Andrew, Peter, James and John left their fishing boats in order to follow Jesus. They had left the fishing behind in order to be disciples, so what were they doing back here? According to God's Word his calling is irrevocable. We may try to run away from it, we may quit or we may simply try to ignore it, but the calling remains. Even when we fail the calling remains. So this is what Jesus is about to do; he is about to remind them of this fact by repeating the calling.

As soon as they followed the man's instruction and the net filled with fish, John recognized the familiar and told Peter, "It's Jesus". When this happened the first time Peter bent his knee to Jesus and asked him to leave him. The first time Peter was ashamed to have such a holy man near him, a rough and vulgar fisherman. When God enters in we become all too familiar with our sins and failings. However, this time was different. Peter had changed. He longed for Jesus to be with him. Instead of telling Jesus to go away he threw himself into the water and swam ashore. Peter was about to be restored in this great relationship.

Often in stressful times our first impulse is to run away. In ministry we can have moments where we lose sight of Jesus as it all becomes too much for us. Instead of realizing this is God's work and he is responsible for it, we take on the full weight of it, acting as if it all depends on us. Often there is tremendous personal cost to our ministry as Jesus has us minister in unfamiliar ways and far outside of our own comfort zone. Many who are called feel that impulse to drop the calling and return to the familiar, to go back to their trade and maybe pick up something different. The thing we must remember is the calling never leaves us, it is irrevocable.

For God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. (Romans 11:29)

Peter needed to be renewed in his calling as a "fisher of men". Those who were with him were also being renewed in their calling. When we get lost and confused in these matters, when we just want to run away, God is there to speak to our needs. He is our encourager and our strength. He was there in Elijah's attempt to run away. He even provided Elijah with sustenance during his flight. That's something you know; God looked after his servant even as his servant ran away from him. He met Elijah in the cave that Elijah tried to hide in and he revealed his glory to him, to remind Elijah who he was serving. Elijah could not get away from his calling, his responsibility.

I hope and pray that you are not in that place but if you are I encourage you not to run. Instead, turn to Jesus and cry out to him. Tell him you are lost and confused. Be honest with him so that you are open to his ministering Spirit. If you are honest then you are also open and if you are open then he is able to do a great work in you. If you remain closed to him, closed in with your suffering, you have limited what he can do for you.

One good thing about the disciples going fishing is that they unlocked the door. For more than a week they remained hidden behind a locked door, fearful to go out or do anything. At least now that they were out in the open their whole attitude seemed to be different. Instead of standing in the room, fearful of the appearance of Jesus, they were running to him (well actually swimming and boating) and were willing to do what they were familiar with to do with Jesus; they broke bread together. Unlock the door that your fear has kept bolted on you. Fellowship with Jesus again and allow him to renew your love, strength and joy. Allow him to renew your calling. Allow him to forgive you and set you on the right path again. We serve an awesome God of love and forgiveness and who has given each of us a calling he will never take away. Irrevocable!

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