Let Down Your Nets

Doing the illogical to believe for the improbable.

Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of state during the Bush administration, once famously said that there were four types of known. There were known knowns, known unknowns, unknown knowns, and unknown unknowns; it’s just a complicated say of saying there’s a lot of stuff that we know and a lot of stuff that we don’t know. For God however, there is only one type of known; one of the perks of omniscience is the fact that you know absolutely everything there is to know. It’s baffling to me, then, that I still sometimes find myself thinking about things as though I know best.

In the gospel of Luke we find Peter doing just the same. They’re about to go home after a long night toiling on the lake and catching no fish when Jesus asks them if he could use the boat as a platform to teach the people. And so they spend their day providing a service that gives a whole new meaning to the word stage management. When He had finished He turned to Simon Peter and told him to cast down the nets.

And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.
– Luke 5:5-6 (ESV)

Peter’s initial reaction was to go through that list of reasons why it doesn’t make sense. This isn’t nonsense, this is a professional whose life depends on being able to catch fish explaining that there are none to be caught. They’d already tried, they’d already worked hard, they were tired, and there was no fish to be caught. Peter knew the lake and he knew how to fish. He wasn’t grasping for vain excuses – they genuinely had been out all night and caught no fish. Jesus was asking him to do something that seemed totally illogical and believe for an outcome that seemed entirely improbable.

I think that so often when we think of God’s desires for us as good we can find ourselves thinking of a reason why they may not happen. We’re the experts in our own situation, right? We’ve tried before, we’ve looked for the fruit of the promise before, we’ve toiled all night and not got anywhere, we’re just too tired, it’s so easy to think of reasons why that good thing isn’t going to happen. You know what? I think that’s okay. Sure, it’s not ideal, but God understands humanity. God not only created humanity but, through His only Son, became humanity. He understands that there are moments of weakness and moments when we think our perspective is best, it’s what we do and the choices we make in that moment that count.

Peter gave his reason why there’s no point in fishing, he explained that they’d already tried, but then what does he do? He says that because Jesus told them to they’re going to let down their nets anyway. It’s not that he doesn’t face all those voices saying that it’s silly, that he’s done it before and that it won’t work, it’s just that he recognises that he’s talking to someone for whom the normal rules do not apply. So the nets go down and the next thing you know they are breaking because they are so full of fish.

Peter saw all the natural reasons why they weren’t going to catch any fish that day, but he also saw that God was not bound by the natural. I know that sometimes I find myself coming up with reasons why the good things He has may not be for me, as though I am some kind of special exception to His promises, but you know what? I genuinely believe that He understands. He knows I’m a work in process, and He sees that I am a work making progress. The important part comes next; when we have our moments of feeling down, or of having a little whine and a moan, do we then stand up anyway and say “but at your word, I’ll let down my nets”?

I don’t know the promises that you’re believing God for in your life. Maybe you have certain specifics, particular dreams He’s put in your heart, or maybe it is the whole enormous scope of His promises for your future, but what I do know is that even if it seems unlikely you need to let down your nets anyway. Peter believed the word over and above his own logic, and he took in the catch of the century.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
– Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

God is not only all knowing but also all powerful. He doesn’t just know better, but He has the power to make His promises come true long after it seems impossible. He has the power to bless you long after it seems your situation seems hopeless. So my encouragement to you today is, no matter if it seems illogical, no matter if it looks like catching anything is improbable, let down your nets and keep on fishing. When the time comes God will fill them, it may not be the catch that you expected – but it will certainly be an abundant one.

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Photo from March PIx, used under Creative Commons Licence.


  • John Jobes says:

    Very good. It reminded me of the great truth that we should live by; Believe God above yourself. Whatever anyone or anything else may suggest, God knows best and can make the best happen in our lives regardless of what everyone and everything else may say.

  • Huw says:

    Thanks Peter. I preached on this very same text just last Sunday! And I appreciate very much what you get from it.

  • Peter J says:

    Thanks, Huw, will your preach be podcast? I’d love to hear it! It’s such a rich passage with so much to get from it!

  • Huw says:

    Hi Pete, yes all my sermons (well, most of them) are up on-line and for podcast… there’s a link on the side of my blog for “recent sermons” and you can get them there!

    (Let me know if you have problems finding it, I can send you the MP3!)

  • Gill says:

    Another brilliant one Pete.
    It’s incredible how we can continue limit God’s abilities by what we know, think can happen.
    I love how He turns what we think we know on its head and does something incredible.

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