Luke chapter five relates one of my favorite stories from the Bible. But, that said, just about anytime Jesus works a miracle, I smile inside — sometimes outside, too.
In this story, Luke describes that on this day Jesus was teaching from Simon Peter’s boat on the seashore, or in very close proximity to it. And He entered into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the people from the boat. Now when He was through speaking, He said unto Simon, “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draft.” And Simon answering said unto Him, “Master, we have toiled all the night and have taken nothing. Nevertheless, at Thy word I will let down the net” (Luke 5:3‒5, 21st Century Version).
On this particular day, it appears Peter was tired of his occupation. Peter, and company, had toiled all night. I wouldn't be surprised if, that night, Peter was thinking, “I need to find something else to do with my life. After all, I’m a seasoned fisherman, but not one fish was caught in our net.”
Have you ever wondered if God wants you to do something different than what you currently do to occupy your day? Is it possible that, at least for the time being, God wants you to stay put and make a deeper commitment to what you currently are engaged, but now for His glory?
Jesus instructed the disciples to let down the net when, tired and weary, they had already fished the entire night. Thank God they obeyed His command! God's commandments are not always convenient.
Over the last few weeks, my wife, Sharon, and I visited our many encampments in the Lake Union Conference territory. I was very pleased to see what God was doing in each conference.
On the grounds of Indiana Academy, we saw the great dedication that courses through the veins of our Indiana elementary and academy teachers as each one being commissioned that day recounted their journey of how God called them into teaching ministry.
Earlier that week we witnessed Indiana Conference’s quest to raise $100,000 for evangelism and heard a stirring message by Elder Mark Finley, resulting in many rededicated lives.
Having started their encampment on Sunday, by Wednesday, they had $29,000 committed to winning the masses for Christ. The concluding weekend of camp meeting was fast approaching, and they were not halfway to their goal. However, Sharon and I returned to Indiana that weekend to witness and participate in their reaching their worthy goal!
By Monday, we were on our way to Camp Wakonda for Wisconsin’s camp meeting and enjoyed seeing the beauty of God’s people coming together to hear the Word preached and enjoy each other’s fellowship. Recreational vehicles filled the tree-lined roads, and the pathways between were teeming with campers who relaxed and were likewise refreshed under beautiful conifer canopies. Breakout sessions abounded every day, so the people of God could be trained, resourced and inspired to go home to do greater works for Jesus. Year after year, Wisconsin enjoys representation from campers from close to half the states of the U.S. because of its picturesque beauty and feel of the old-fashioned camp meeting we remember.
We pressed on to Lake Region Conference’s gathering to hear great mid-week preaching by Elder Eddie Allen. Again, the senior saints were out in full force and youth also abounded at the youth pavilion. There’s nothing like seeing the people of God having a good time in the Lord. The grounds were beautifully manicured as it was clear the administration, camp staff and pastoral work force had worked hard to make for a rich experience for all in attendance.
From there, we headed north to the grounds of Great Lakes Adventist Academy in the Michigan Conference to hear a very powerfully delivered message by John Bradshaw on salvation and grace! This encampment truly must be the greatest reminder of what I have been writing about this year in regard to the great organization the Seventh-day Adventist Church enjoys, as in multiple articles I have mentioned how impressed I am with what God has wrought in our faith community the world over.
There are so many campers at Michigan that there are three trollies that run all day, taking people in train-car fashion to their respective parts of the grounds where they reside. Pastor security teams line the roadways like sentinels shepherding the sheep as they do at all our encampments. It’s a site to behold to see the great organization that goes into making the Michigan Conference encampment fun and comfortable for the campers.
As the week concluded, we returned to the Lake Region camp meeting to see the beauty of holiness on the beautiful grounds of Camp Wagoner. Quite honestly, each camp meeting is different as are the grounds. All the properties looked great, even as the desert has a grandeur all of its own, even as does the mountain or stream.
The greatest blessing to me was being able to see the emphasis on finishing the work in varied ways and in all parts of our territory although, kind of like Peter, Sharon and I were very tired from crisscrossing the countryside to show support for each camp meeting event. We were very much inspired by what wonderful works the Lord is doing in each of our local conferences.
Our union conference team also fanned out to support each encampment and enough can’t be said about our staff for the way they assisted with communications support and providing presentations to our local conferences on the Equality Act, the Kosrae Project and stewardship by our legal, Education and Treasury departments, respectively.
We serve alongside the local conferences, knowing God wants all of His children to hear the special messages of His saving grace. No one has been tasked to tell the world Jesus is coming more than we, hence, by divine design, it’s incorporated into our name — we are Adventists!
As we enter the summer season of reaping, will you join in the effort to launch out into the deep and let down your net? Going into the deep means risk. This is no dockside adventure. It’s time to wade out into the waters and risk getting to know someone with the love that Jesus has placed in your heart for those who don’t know Him.
Some camp meetings still await us this year as the Illinois, Michigan Upper Peninsula and our multi-ethnic camp meetings have yet to transpire. Yet, as the summer is in full swing and the autumn season of reaping awaits, it is certainly time for us to let down the net from every church, by every pastor and member, even members in the making. Let's make mission first, most and best, all because of the One we serve.
Let’s face it. Soul-winning, like fishing, is hard work, and there are days when it seems like giving up is better than launching out further by faith into the deep, dark world around us. Remember, big fish are not caught in shallow water. Picture, if you will, Peter calling on his friends to help him pull the net into the boat after the many times it slipped back over the side of the boat because of the burgeoning catch.
Camp meeting is borrowed from the Feast of Pentecost in the Old Testament, where there was great singing and reviewing of the mighty acts of God commensurate with harvest time, and from the Day of Pentecost in the New Testament. Now that your spiritual batteries have been recharged by great singing and preaching, let’s recount the goodness of the Lord and His mighty acts through Jesus our Savior and reach the lost. Remember, that was once you and me. That’s why we sing, “Love lifted me!”
Jesus still instructs His disciples today to let down the net, even if we have fished the whole night. Because of what God will do for us through His Holy Spirit, once our season of reaping is concluded, we may be tired, but we’ll also be inspired!