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Awesome Presence of God (Part 1)

July 1, 2022 • Life for Leaders

Scripture—Luke 5:4-11 (NRSV)

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to burst. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’s knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were astounded at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

Focus

Peter was in a boat, Esther in a palace, Moses by a bush and later a cleft in a rock, some boys in a furnace, Lazarus in a cave, a Roman soldier by a Roman crucifixion. Among common ordinary repeated events of life, like these experienced fishermen in Luke 5 who had cast and re-cast, they found the awesome wonder of a present God in the monotony of their common everyday work.

Devotion

There was a math class I took in college whose name is rarely spoken out loud. I’d attempted to take it twice only to realize that it was not going to end well, and I tried to jump off the ship. Some people find the reality of a very present God during the sermon exposition on Sunday. Others find their burning bush, prison cell, the palace of Shushan, or Damascus road in the rest of the fullness of the Lord in all the world. Or in math.

By attempt three my conversation with God had struck a different tone. I was asking God for another degree (perhaps that meteorology direction was right and I just did not discern the face of the sky right.) Although it was clear that I needed to head to Strong Hall and reenroll, I knew what had happened and I was sure I knew what would happen again.

That is such a normal place for humanity to circle back to: we know what will happen because we have been there before. Work is a place where the vast majority of us (especially those in blue- or new-collar work) are often caught up in the monotony of repetition. We do the status quo every day and only get noticed when something goes wrong.

Peter seemed to be at a place of fishing monotony.  Casting and recasting for little return can do that to anyone, especially when casting determines one’s livelihood (Luke 5:5). Jesus tells the disciples to head out into the sea, almost sounding matter of fact: “Let down your nets for a catch.”

We find that in Christ’s kingdom the most ordinary, mundane, repeated (and often failed) attempts of life can bring about the most wonderful gift. That is after all what grace is. By attempt three of taking the course, I was deeply entrenched in the Peter-ish “worked all night” trying-to-pass mentality. During enrollment, I found that the second professor (because one professor is not enough for one class) would be a mentor from my school of engineering. Then I enrolled and the format of instruction changed. Then the testing instruction was rearranged and after I received a high grade on the first exam there was a lot of clarity that it could be that I might pass this class.

Peter was in a boat, Esther in a palace, Moses by a bush and later a cleft in a rock, some boys in a furnace, Lazarus in a cave, and a Roman soldier by a Roman crucifixion. Among common ordinary repeated events of life, like these experienced fishermen in Luke 5 who had cast and re-cast, they found the awesome wonder of a present God in the monotony of their common everyday work.

God may call you to do the same thing that you did yesterday. Awe does not need the sensational to occur. We only need the recognition of a present kingdom; the God of all saying things like: “Go back into that workplace and try again.”

Reflect

What comes to mind about yourself when you hear Peter’s initial response (“Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing”) to Jesus?

If you translated a moment like this into your own work, what do you think Jesus would be asking you to go and do?

Act

Schedule the anticipation of awe. Carve out some time to be still and think about a place you regularly go to, and write out answers to these questions. Is God really present in that place and do I believe it? What does his presence mean? What can I learn from here in that place? What is possible?

Prayer

Thank you, Father, for not waiting until the beginning of the week to make it clear that you are here. We thank you for those drops of glory—gracious gifts and a foretaste of eternity to come where we won’t get over who you are. Until our work with you is without flaw, teach us to keep trying. And help us to be patient with others who are tired. Amen.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Jesus Calls People at Work (Luke 5:1-11; 27-32)


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