"Can This Year Really Be Different?"
"‘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 21:3 (NIV)
Each year as I hang up the blank calendar in my kitchen, empty of appointments but full of promise, I think to myself, This year will be different!
This will be the year I finally finish that house project, exercise consistently, lose weight, pray faithfully, spend more time with friends and so on and so forth. This year has to be better than last year … right?
And yet, for so many years I’d get to March (if I lasted that long) and give up on my goals, feeling like a failure once again.
I got so frustrated because I knew how to do this stuff. I might not do it perfectly, but I can paint a wall, take a walk, put less food in my mouth, sit and pray and schedule time with friends. This isn’t rocket science! But … for some confusing reason I either stopped trying or kept making the same choices as before, expecting a different result.
I wonder if that’s how the disciples felt the night they went fishing and caught nothing. The story is told in John 21, after Jesus’ death when the disciples had gone to Galilee to wait for His return (which He’d told them about in Matthew 26:32).
While in Galilee, at least on one night, the disciples returned to their old lives … to fishing. They knew how to fish, as they’d done it all their lives, but that night after hours sitting in wooden boats, floating in dark silence, they caught nothing.
The story takes an interesting turn as the sun starts to rise. Jesus stood on the edge of the lake (although they didn’t recognize Him at first). He asked if they’d caught anything, and when He learned they hadn’t, He gave them a simple instruction: "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some" (John 21:6a, NIV).
Scripture doesn’t record the disciples’ thoughts, but I imagine they were confused and a bit annoyed at this piece of advice. After all, they’d been doing everything they knew to do, why should they keep trying? The fish obviously weren’t there!
And yet, they threw their nets on the right side of the boat. This time, in obedience to Jesus, Scripture tells us they caught so many fish they were unable to haul in their nets.
This would have been a nonstory had the disciples ignored the suggestion to try again, but in a slightly different way. They could have insisted they knew how to fish, they knew the water, and they knew the behavior of the fish. Instead, they humbly listened and obeyed. The blessing of the fish was minor in comparison to seeing Jesus and His power at work in their lives again.
This passage encourages me to press pause at the start of the New Year. I’ve already proved I can’t do much in my strength. So before I go back to my old ways, forging ahead, certain I just need to try harder, I want to stop and seek Jesus’ direction and help.
As I look back on my life, those are the times I’ve seen the Lord work in the greatest ways. When I admit my natural strength isn’t enough, God’s supernatural strength is evident.
So maybe this year things can be different. Not because I’ve got a new game plan or brilliant strategy. I haven’t found a short-cut or an app to make things easier. Maybe the difference is simpler than that. Instead of looking to myself, I need to wait on Jesus. Not just in the big questions and problems, but in everyday, seemingly mundane choices.
As the disciples learned that morning, we are never far from success when we allow Jesus to direct our course.
Dear Lord, I’m so sorry I’ve lived much of my life guided by my own direction, while You have always been there offering wisdom and power. I want to become a woman who looks to You first before trying harder in my own strength. I need Your help. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
John 15:5, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (NIV)
Ecclesiastes 7:8, "Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride." (NLT)