Every year around January, I have friends ask what my word of the year is and I never have one. I’ve always thought it was a neat idea but I never really got into it. But in the fall of 2016, I started thinking about and looking for my word for 2017. Something I could meditate on and gravitate to. A word that makes me think Jesus and move closer to who he wants me to be. 2016 had some great moments but hurled some big stones, too. There were many times throughout the year I was reminded how little control I have over this crazy life and it was in those moments when my word came into view.
Life is great at making us feel powerless, isn’t it? Dealings with work, family, and even church can lead to an abundance of stress, jealousy, fear, and fatigue. When we look around, we’re almost certain that everyone else has life figured out. Our inner voice bullies our struggling heart and we are left drained.
I love Peter especially in Luke 5. He’d been fishing all night and his workday had been disappointing, at best. The nets had continued to be empty regardless of the times he tried. He was tired, frustrated, and probably ready to go home when Jesus enters the picture.
After speaking words of grace and truth to the people, the King of kings, disguised as a typical Jewish rabbi, suggested Peter lower his nets once again. He knew about the previous night’s heartache but it was leading Peter to something powerful. Jesus could have filled the struggling fisherman in on how this was all going to play out. He could have shown him the thousands responding in Acts 2 or given him an aerial view of Vatican City. He could’ve have shown him the sprawling cathedrals in Europe or the thousands of church buildings sprinkled across our country today. But instead he spoke a few words, “Drop your nets” and Peter’s future was now in the choice of what he would do next.
Have you ever tried to tell Jesus how disappointed he was going to be? Maybe you told him that you thought he was cool but his people were a mess so you’d worship on your own or hang out in nature. Maybe you feared a political candidate so much you lost sleep. Maybe you turned up your nose and started avoiding that person who is living in sin because you’re positive they would never become a disciple. Maybe you slandered the church down the road because they didn’t do church like you. Maybe you chided the poor for wrong decisions instead of helping them or refused to give money because they might use it inappropriately. Maybe you thought someone was so messed up, Jesus couldn’t help them anyway.
We tend to want to advise the creator of the world from time to time, don’t we? Peter wasn’t any different. He had no qualms about letting Jesus know how his night had gone. “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.” Doing life on our own always works out that way. When I focus on what’s going on around me I only see the empty nets, the disappointment, the drama, and darkness. Autopilot kicks on and I start to worry. I struggle with jealousy, pride, apathy, and lust. I battle moments of insecurity, defeat, bitterness, and a whole lot of nothingness. I need Jesus to encourage me to try again because when he’s in the boat, life changes. Suddenly, life is doable. Not perfect, but possible.
Too often, we struggle through life with overwhelming feelings of powerlessness. We’re tossed from here to there in situations where we have no control. Fear reigns and dictates how we respond but God has called us to something powerful. We may not be able to control someone else’s action but we can certainly control our reaction.
We were given a spirit of power! Power to love the unlovable. Power to be joyful, peaceful, and patient in a world that isn’t. Power to be kind and good regardless of where we are or what we’re faced with. Power to have faith and to share it with others. Power to be gentle and the power to control ourselves in a world that says we don’t have to.
Power by Heaven’s standards isn’t what the world would classify as real power. The world will tell you that power is doing something great but God defines power as doing something good. Paul tells Timothy that God gave us a Spirit, not of fear, but of power, love, and self control. Power lacking love and self-control is not Godly power.
Peter pulled that net up and felt the tension immediately. There were so many fish, the nets began to break. Fish that weren’t there a few hours ago and a fisherman who began to realize that the man sitting in the boat next to him wasn’t your average teacher. I love what Peter did next. He didn’t immediately worship Jesus. He didn’t immediately follow him. First, he feared him. “Go away from me, Lord. I am a sinful man!” Peter was out of his comfort zone and we always find out who we are when we are.
We are in a brand new year. We can allow it to tell us how powerless we are or we can remember that God has made us powerful. We have the strength to make a difference in the lives of those we encounter because of Jesus. We have the power to resist temptation and live through tragedy. We have the power, through Christ, to survive.
Rise up, children of God. Claim what’s yours. Strength in moments of weakness. Love, joy, and peace in the face of adversity. Grace in a time of grief. God has made a way. You are powerful.