Peter is definitely one of my favorite humans in the Bible. Strong-willed, passionate, a little reckless and unstable… He had this habit of speaking and acting before thinking things through. And in spite of that, Jesus used Peter as the firm foundation on which to build His church.
The other night, I was reading through one of Peter’s first encounters with Jesus:
One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets.He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
Luke 5: 1-11 (NIV, emphasis mine)
One word in verse 5 jumped out at me: but.
“Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. BUT because You say so, I will let down the nets.”
There is so much power in that one little conjunction. But.
Peter recalled all the facts. He knew the odds were against them. But.
No doubt, Peter thought about this before he opened his mouth. (A round of applause for Peter, please.)
Peter was basically saying, “Here’s reality. We’ve been working for nothing. There were no fish for us to catch tonight. BUT Your word trumps reality. And I will be obedient to Your word.”
When God asks us to trust Him with something, He isn’t asking us to deny reality. He’s asking us to have more faith in Him than in our circumstances.
In all actuality, the Lord will often allow our situations to reach dire straits. Think Lazarus.
A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair. Her brother, Lazarus, was sick.So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.” But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, he stayed where he was for the next two days. Finally, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.” But his disciples objected. “Rabbi,” they said, “only a few days ago the people in Judea were trying to stone you. Are you going there again?” Jesus replied, “There are twelve hours of daylight every day. During the day people can walk safely. They can see because they have the light of this world. But at night there is danger of stumbling because they have no light.” Then he said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up.” The disciples said, “Lord, if he is sleeping, he will soon get better!” They thought Jesus meant Lazarus was simply sleeping, but Jesus meant Lazarus had died. So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him.” Thomas, nicknamed the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go, too—and die with Jesus.” When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days.Bethany was only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem, and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss.When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.” “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.” Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” Then she returned to Mary. She called Mary aside from the mourners and told her, “The Teacher is here and wants to see you.” So Mary immediately went to him. Jesus had stayed outside the village, at the place where Martha met him. When the people who were at the house consoling Mary saw her leave so hastily, they assumed she was going to Lazarus’s grave to weep. So they followed her there.When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. “Where have you put him?” he asked them. They told him, “Lord, come and see.” Then Jesus wept. The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?” Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them. But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.” Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”
John 11:1-44 (NLT, emphasis mine)
Even Jesus wasn’t oblivious to the fact that Lazarus had died. So He certainly doesn’t expect us to be ignorant in whatever situations we find ourselves in.
But He does expect us to have faith outside of our circumstances.
I love that He point-blank said, “I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe.”
He knew Lazarus was sick, so He stayed where He was for another two days. Intentionally. For the sake of those who were with Him. For our sakes, so we would really believe and see God’s glory.
The more impossible something looks, the more glory God gets out if it.
Did you notice that Martha used the same “but” that Peter used?
“Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. BUT even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”
Again, here are the facts. BUT I have more faith in You than I have in what’s right in front of me.
We don’t have to look the other way when life gets hard. We can fully admit when something seems impossible. But we can’t stop there. God is so much bigger than the impossible.
That “but” represents us stepping aside, surrendering our worry, our fear, our earthly logic and reason. That three letter word is us giving control back to the God of impossible things.
Catching fish when there are none. Raising the dead. Mending broken relationships. Bringing back a prodigal child. Providing next month’s rent.
Is God asking you to be obedient one more time, even though it doesn’t make sense? Is He asking you to just have faith?
It may look as if all hope is lost. But…
“B U T” was originally posted in 2015.