What is success? Is it measured by achievement?
Peter would have measured success by his fishing haul — that he knew the best places to fish, and was able to consistently come home with a boat full of mackerel.
But one night he must have felt like a failure. He and his partners went out and threw their nets in the water, over and over again, hour after hour, but didn’t have anything to show for it.
Maybe that fruitless night seemed like a symbol of everything in Peter’s life that had gone wrong. It could be his marriage was on the rocks, or the people in Galilee didn’t respect him, or he had let his father down. He might have felt that his dreams were broken, or that the Roman occupation had taken away his hope for a better future.
Like many of us, he could have been wallowing in bitterness and disappointment. The first thing we do when things go wrong is feel like God isn’t working in our life. Certainly there are times recently when I have felt bad physically and emotionally and I have felt apart from the will of God.
But then there are passages like this one in Isaiah 40 that get our thinking back on track:
Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth. . .
To whom will you compare me?
Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.
It puts things in perspective to consider how epically great God is. I read recently that some scientists feel that the universe is infinite. When we were driving home at night Monday, we went through parts of the countryside so dark that we could see many more stars than usual. And I thought, “This is only the first layer of stars. There are more and more, going on forever.” To me this a reflection of God – He is so vast it is mind boggling. Who are we to complain to God about our circumstances?
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak. . .
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. (From Is 40)
In the end, when things go wrong and we feel apart from God, we should realize instead that our ONLY real hope is hoping in God. The word “hope” here means much more than wishing. It means expecting, waiting with sure anticipation. To me it is like holding on to a tow rope. God is taking us some place, we just need to hang in there.
I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil 1:6
You see, here is the thing. Peter defined success in terms of accomplishment. But when Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will make you a fisher of men” in Mark 1, he changed Peter’s whole paradigm. The true success was going to take place in Peter’s character. The heart of Jesus would became his own.
This wasn’t something that would happen all at once. The word “make” in Mark 1 means “to produce, construct or form.” It was going to take time. There would be a process. And as we read of Peter’s life, we see that he went through a lot. He had highs — walking on water. And he had lows, like the time he denied Jesus.
But this process taught Peter to WAIT and HOPE in God. As he wrote later in his life, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (I Peter 5:10)
Let us change our paradigm of what success is. Let us trust COMPLETELY, and hold onto God in all circumstances. We do not stand apart from God’s will. His right hand holds us fast. (Ps 139:10) We will stand in awe of the future He brings. Our joy will be deeper, because we will be more like Him.