- The Explore the Bible lesson for Jan. 31 focuses on Luke 5:4-11, 27-32.
All of us are going to experience failure in life. Famed author of the Harry Potter book series, J.K. Rowling, said in a 2008 Harvard commencement address, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.” Failure is one of those universal experiences that bind our humanity together. We’re all going to experience failure.
In the Apostle Peter’s first encounter with Jesus, we read about a major setback in Peter’s life, a failed fishing expedition. Peter and his friends were professional fishermen. Peter would have had a good boat and the best nets. He knew that lake like the back of his hand. He knew exactly where to catch the most fish. And yet after fishing all night long, he and his friends came up empty. Peter had failed.
But in the rest of the story, we read how Jesus transformed Peter’s failure into success. You ought to see some good news in this story if you have ever experienced failure in your life. This passage tells you to do three things in order for Jesus to turn your setbacks into successes.
1. Get Jesus in your boat.
The real key to the success of that second fishing expedition was simply the fact that Jesus “got into the boat.” Nothing will make a bigger difference in your personal success in life than simply appropriating the presence of Jesus in your life—every day. You’ve got to get Jesus in your boat, every part of it. Peter’s boat represented his business, his livelihood. And Peter allowed Jesus to use his business as a platform for ministry. What a great key for success for us today!
2. Follow Jesus’ instructions.
Jesus instructed Peter to, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Now those were some unusual fishing instructions for Peter to follow. In fact, they really didn’t make a whole lot of sense to an experienced fisherman like Peter. You typically don’t find fish way out in the “deep waters.” Fish are usually caught “in the shallows.” And fish are usually caught at dawn, not in the middle of the day. But Peter had to learn that day that a key to success in life is doing what Jesus says, even if it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Peter had to learn to cooperate with God’s plan and follow Jesus’ instructions, no matter what. And there’s another great key for success for us today.
3. Obey Jesus in faith and without hesitation.
Peter may have had his doubts and fears about those unusual fishing instructions from Jesus, but Peter’s response gives us the third key for turning setbacks into successes: “But because you say so I will let down the nets.” Peter didn’t have to think about it, analyze it, or even pray about it. Jesus simply told him to do something and Peter responded immediately, without hesitation, and in complete, trusting faith. Now, there’s a key for success we all need to learn.
Perhaps you are feeling like a failure today. Join the club. Perhaps you are feeling like you’ve “been working all night and come up with an empty net.” Welcome to the human race. As Pastor Rick Warren notes, “We usually think of failure as negative. But wise people know how to take advantage of failure. They learn from it. They use it as an education. One of the primary tools that God uses in your life to make you what he wants you to be is failure.” Bill Gates says it well: “It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”
What are the lessons of failure you need to heed today? Get Jesus in your boat, follow the instructions of Jesus, and obey Jesus in faith and without hesitation. If you will follow these three simple steps, you will be well on your way to Jesus turning your most disappointing setbacks into delightful successes.
Jim Lemons is professor of theological studies and leadership at Dallas Baptist University. He is a senior adult Sunday school teacher at Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas.