Recently, since coming back to South Africa this year, I feel God’s been sharing insights with me on a similar theme through incidents in the gospels.
When Peter was called to be a follower of Jesus, he’d spent all night working hard fishing with nothing to show for it. Striving to be productive.
Then Jesus audaciously tells him to throw his nets out on the other side of the boat. Peter must have been ready to explode: sleep deprived after a long and frustrating night, this could have been the last straw. Why would the other side make any difference? It’s the very same water he’s been fishing all night entirely unsuccessfully. Any fisherman with any sense at all would know you fish at night, not during the day. It doesn’t make any sense. But amazingly he did what the stranger said. He didn’t know much of Jesus but he knew enough to know it was worth listening to him.
And his obedience was fruitful, mind-blowingly, abundantly fruitful. In just one drop of his nets he caught more fish than he could pull in and had to ask for help, both boats were bursting with jumping fish! So much so that they started to sink under the weight of fruitfulness. In the midst of the chaos of bringing in the miraculous catch Peter must have been utterly baffled and shocked, who on earth is this man?! He is left in no doubt and is so convinced that he leaves everything to follow him. Jesus promises him that the sign of fruitfulness in fish will be replicated in fruitfulness in people’s lives.
That story really spoke to me about how often we slog away, working long and hard on what we think will be productive, even what we think will be fruitful. But if we listen to what God’s trying to tell us, and go where he’s prompting us and opening doors, even if it doesn’t seem sensible, then it can be hugely abundantly fruitful, often with less effort exerted. It’s not lazy, just efficient! Maybe it doesn’t always require the long hard slog we think it should in our work=value ethic. If we focus on the places/ relationships/activities that we believe God’s guiding us to, then the fruit can be disproportionate to our effort. He likes it that way because then we know it’s from him not us.
I’ve experienced that recently, the less I try to force and orchestrate stuff to happen that I think will be productive, and the more I try to listen to God and be flexible to go with the flow of where I believe he’s guiding me, the more I get into unexpected and hugely fruitful conversations, opportunities and encounters that would never have happened if I’d been fixing it all up. I’m definitely still learning but I’m feeling so excited and grateful for this insight and how I see it working out in my life.
Photo credit: Flickr ezioman