The Empty Nets of Success

(Luke 5: 1-11)

Jesus said to Peter, “Let me get into your boat.” Jesus begins to speak to the multitudes that had gathered on the shoreline. Peter is thinking, “Here is Jesus in my boat, and I’ve failed Him; I’ve let Him down. I started to become His disciple; I even saw miracles.

This story of Peter is about a man who learned from his failure. And how success happened because of a simple thing. It happened when Jesus came aboard his little boat and gave directions that he followed. And that is where we will find success in our lives when we let Jesus be in control. We will all have failures, but we will learn more from our failures than our successes. When we have partial success, it’s because we only partially obeyed. 

Consequently, the reason Peter was pulling up empty nets was that he was outside God’s will. If you know God has called you to do a sure thing, yet you refuse to do it, you are miserable and frustrated, and you’re pulling up empty net after empty net. It is time to return to your first love and do what God has told you to do, and you will be where you ought to be.

 Jesus had said to Peter on another occasion, when he was out fishing, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” We read that they ditched their nets, left their boats and businesses to follow Jesus. But somewhere along the way something happened, and they stopped following him after they had started. So, here in Luke 5 is the second time Jesus had asked them to become fishers of men. 

Jesus could have used Peter as a sermon illustration. “Look at this man, he began to follow me and turned back, and he is pulling up empty nets. Might I say, let this man be an example to you.” However, He turned to Peter and said, “Let’s go fishing, but this time let’s do it my way.”

Jesus had said to launch out into the deep, but every fisher knew that the time to fish was at night and in the shallow waters, not in the deep waters in the daytime. Peter might have been thinking that we are fishermen, professionals, and we know these matters. You might be high on spiritual issues, but we are the experts when it comes to fishing. However, Peter says, “At your word, we will let down the nets.” If Peter had not obeyed the first seemingly insignificant command, he would never have taken part in a miracle.

So, he went ahead and did it, to humor Jesus. Of course, he and those with him caught so many fish that their boats began to sink. As the boats were sinking, it began to sink into Peter who Jesus was. He knew Jesus wasn’t just a man, but that He was the Messiah. But as he recognized Jesus for who He is, Peter also saw himself for who he was. He said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”

Whenever we get a vision of who Jesus is, it will always give us a realistic perspective of who we are, as well. We do not see the truth about ourselves until we see ourselves in His light. Seeing ourselves in His light always brings conviction.

It is the little things God would have us be faithful in because if we aren’t, we will never go out into the deep. So, we must first start with what we know is the will of God for us at this very moment in time and do it! Partial obedience will never fulfill God’s purpose. 

Patience and timing are critical when waiting on God to use us.  Sometimes God has the right person at the right place but at the wrong time. Too early, sometimes too late. Moses is an excellent example of the importance of timing. He wanted to do something for his people, but he was impatient, it was too early. If we do it God’s way, in God’s timing, our nets will be breaking as well, because He has directed our path.

Looking over Moses’ life, we find that he spent 40 years in Pharaoh’s court finding out that he was a somebody, 40 years in the backside of the desert finding out that he was a nobody. Then he spent 40 years in the wilderness finding out what God can do with a somebody that see’s he’s a nobody.

Now, after the net was full, what was Peter’s reaction? He said, “Depart from me for I am a sinful man.” What a way to say thanks. He was humbled; God had revealed himself to Peter in a realm he could understand. Peter had seen other miracles; he had seen his mother in law healed. But Peter knew of the impossibility of this happening by chance or circumstance, and he knew that it was God working. And it was God working for him personally, and it humbled him out. 

God has made allowances for our failures; that is why he died on the cross for us. We all have fallen short of the glory of God. When we fail, not if, but when we fail, if we learn from that experience, it will help us out the next time we face it or something like it.

But He is still saying, “Follow me and I’ll make you fishers of men. Let me on board, let me give you direction, let me take control, and everything will change.” As we go out to serve him, as we go out in life, it’s essential that we let him on board and let him be in control and let him be captain of our ship.

Make Him Lordship in every area of life. He has set before us opportunities to serve him, to make a difference, opportunities to catch men alive. In closing, Jesus said to Peter, “From this day on, you will catch men alive.”


Let’s look at what happened when the disciples obeyed Jesus’ instructions. “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4).

Life is a composite of decisions. Where we are today is the result of choices we made in the past and today’s decisions determine where we will be tomorrow.

The Results of the Disciples’ Obedience to Jesus’ Instruction:

  • Two boats full of fish, nets were breaking
  • Peter was a part of and took part in a miracle of God
  • Peter saw himself as he had never seen himself before
  • Others received the benefits of the miracle
  • Peter’s concept of God changed
  • God changed the disciple’s vocation
  • God broke their hearts and instilled the correct idea of Jesus
  • Jesus became a living reality for them.

You need to know what you want in life before you can make well-informed decisions. Also, you must factor in God’s will and purposeWill this decision glorify God and help prove my life’s purpose? Having a good sense of yourself and your relationship with God makes the whole decision process more manageable. 

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