While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:18–20, ESV)
Whenever I’ve read this passage, I’ve often thought about the way I would react if Jesus called me away from what I already considered to be my life’s work.
Granted, I already know who Jesus is now, and have the hindsight from reading Scripture, so I would say yes in a heartbeat. But what about when He was unknown to most people and His name was just starting to be whispered among those who were awaiting their Messiah?
As I was meditating on these verses and doing a little research on them, I came across something I hadn’t realized before: when Jesus called Peter and Andrew from their boats, they already knew Him and had accepted that He was the Christ.
What’s the alternative to saying yes?
The scene had always seemed so abrupt to me — Jesus says, “Hey, come on, guys,” and they just drop everything and go. Just. Like. That.
So you can understand why I’d question my own reaction if I’d been living during that time. However, upon reading a little more deeply, I now understand why they were so ready to leave what was familiar and just go.
They already knew Him and trusted that going with Him would be better than staying behind.
When we become believers, we meet Jesus. We get to know Him and find out who He is, and we accept Him in our lives as Savior.
And then we go back to our regularly scheduled programming, essentially. We’re changed, yes, but we haven’t taken that next step to live for Him. We may have a lot of introspection ahead of us, or we may be ready to make changes right away. But most of us take a moment or two to process what we’ve just learned and what it means for our future.
The same invitation, but a different avenue
Once we’re ready to leave nets behind, so to speak, we each need to recognize that our own calling may not look the same as anyone else’s. I think this is the hardest part of the Christian walk. God doesn’t call us into cookie-cutter ministry, and we shouldn’t compare ourselves to each other in approach or results.
To use the fishing example, think of how vastly different it is to go spearfishing — quick, sharp, sudden, stab & grab — than it is to sit quietly on a shore with a fishing pole, waiting (sometimes for hours) for a nibble.
In each situation, we still end up with a fish.
When Jesus calls His disciples, He does so in a way that’s unique to each person. You may be called to ministry with a brother, like Simon Peter and Andrew, or with a spouse. You may be the only person who says yes to an opportunity to serve when all others decline.
We are each uniquely gifted
We can’t measure our success by another’s standard. Reverend Billy Graham led thousands to Christ over his lifetime, and yet the person who leads only one is still considered a successful evangelist if they were obedient to follow God’s prompting for that one person.
I used to think I was, at best, a wimp when it came to sharing the gospel with others. At worst, I thought I was a terrible Christian. I’d hear friends talking about leading someone to the Lord in the grocery store, or responding to a stranger’s out-of-the-blue question about why God allows suffering and having that conversation lead to salvation.
I’d rejoice, of course, but then later wonder what I was doing wrong because I’d never had those kinds of “seal the deal” conversations with anyone, friend or stranger.
What works for one might not work for another
God knows our strengths and our weaknesses. After all, He gave us our quirks and our individual personalities. He knows what we’re comfortable with, and He also knows just how to stretch us when He wants us to expand that comfort zone.
An example I can use from my own life is when I first became a believer. My best friend led me through the finer points of the gospel, and it all suddenly made sense to me. We prayed together right then and there, and my life has never been the same.
My friend’s approach was one that worked for me. She’d just become a Christian and was so excited to share what she now knew to be true, and her enthusiasm was only matched by her love for me and concern for my eternity. I heard it in every word she spoke. She didn’t tell me what a horrible person I was, but focused instead on what a wonderful person Jesus was, and it clicked that day.
In contrast, I’d had a close relative hammering me with awful, condemning Scripture verses “from God” for months before that, but her tactic was always to scare someone into listening. And you can trust me when I say she did not speak in love, nor did she speak from God. As a result of that trauma, I still, to this day, don’t trust when someone tells me, “God gave me this verse for you.” Starting off with that line only tells me that someone is about to try to manipulate me.
And God knows that although I love Him and trust what’s written in His Word, that approach will never work with me. He’s been faithful to reach me in ways I can trust, and His voice to me during those times is sweet.
Your gift may be the approach someone needs
There are those who are bold in sharing their faith, and those who are more subtle. Jesus knew when to approach with fire in His eyes, and He knew when someone needed a kind word accompanied by gentleness.
I’m sure we’ve all heard that some of us are soil preppers, some are seed planters, some are waterers, and some are harvesters. We’re not necessarily asked to fill all the roles all the time, and each time we reach out to someone, we may be used differently.
I know the fire and brimstone approach doesn’t work for me, either in receiving or delivering. I don’t feel comfortable being so blunt as to turn people away from the message. There’s nothing satisfying about knowing someone has rejected God’s free gift of salvation, because they’ll “get what they deserve.”
None of us wants to get what we deserve.
If we answer “yes,” He gives us what we need for the next step
In recent years, I’ve found that the way God uses me best is in reminding people that He loves them, and that I love them because of that.
Sometimes people need to know not only where you stand in your beliefs, but that you love them even if they don’t agree with those beliefs. If that’s my role in leading others to Christ, then I’ll do my best to show that love and live out the gospel in that way.
It’s taken me a long time to realize that this method of leading people to Jesus is enough. It might not be what others are doing, nor as bold, but when I love others consistently, they’re more likely to listen if, or when, I share what God’s doing in my life.
When Jesus calls us to follow Him, He equips us with what we need according to where He’s sending us. And since He’s well aware of our personalities, we shouldn’t be afraid that He’ll call us somewhere we don’t want to go. In essence, He won’t teach you how to live in the jungle if He’s calling you to serve in a corporate urban setting, and vice versa.
The disciples couldn’t have known what their time with Jesus would hold. Not really. But, at that point in time, they knew Jesus was who He said He was, and that was enough to strengthen them to follow and share His message.
May I always trust Him that fully.