Finding Success

John 21:1-14

The only place where success can be found before work is in the dictionary.
We wonder how Simon Peter and his friends would have taken that statement.
You can almost hear Peter argued, "Haven't we tried all night to catch some fish,
and what do we have to show for it but some empty nets.
Work? Sure we've worked – now where is that success you mentioned
?"

Most of us would say that Simon had a point.
If there were fish in the sea, you couldn't prove it by looking at the disciples fishnets.
They would have endorsed the solution of the poet, Arthur W. Bell:
"A man and his motor have brought it about –
The angler must learn, if he hopes to take trout;
The schedule and route of the hatchery truck."

As the first faint glimmer of light appeared in the east, a figure stands on the shore watching.
Then he speaks, His voice carrying clearly and distinctly across the water:
"Lads, have you called anything?"

Notice He didn't ask, "How many hours did you pray last night?"
Or "Why haven't you fasted lately?"
Not that these questions are unimportant.
The point is this – Jesus is interested in everything we do.

His concern is not limited to so-called, "religious," matters.
School pressures, family problems, dating relationships, unpleasant circumstances,
disappointments – anything that is big enough to concern us is big enough to concern Him.

Peter and his fishermen had failed to find success.
Christ was concerned about that.

When Peter recognized Jesus, he calls back, "We've fixed all night and have nothing to show for it."
Instead of criticizing Peter, Jesus instructs him, "Cast your net on the right side of the boat."

Now most of us would have felt that the suggestion of Christ was as timely as the urge to sneeze underwater.
We know how most of us would have taken these instructions.
More than likely we would have replied, "Now wait a minute, Jesus.
We have been fishing here all night long.
If any fish were here, we would have them in our boats by now.
Why not let us try in a different place – maybe down the shore
..."

Isn't that the way it goes?
When we fail or experience difficulty, we start thinking that "things would be different
if only our parents were... or if only I could change schools or teachers, or live in a different place
."
Some may think, "I could be a better Christian if I could go to another church
for this church has too many hypocrites."


Attitude and Altitude

But the way Christ has of helping us is usually that of helping us in our difficulty – not out of it.
Instead of allowing us to run from a problem, He helps us to overcome it.
Jesus, above all others, knows that success is not a matter of where we are, but what we are.
It is not what happens to us and makes us succeed or fail so much as to how we react to what happens.
This is a difficult lesson to learn.

Some years ago during football season the sports section of almost every major paper in the country
carried the story of a highly, gifted young athlete who was voted off his football team
by the senior members of the squad.
They told the coach that the young man, whom we will call Bill, was hurting the team.

The athlete's background was interesting.
According to the papers, he had entered a state university as a freshman, and things that didn't suit him.
He stayed only a short time, and then entered a Junior College.
Upon graduation, he considered a church-related university, but changed his mind.

Finally, he entered a university in a neighboring state.
The football team at this university had a brilliant record, and was coached
by one the most highly respected coaches in the land.
Just to be a member of the team would have been a rare honor to most boys – but not to Bill.

When everything didn't go his way, he created trouble.
His poor attitude hurt the morale of the team.
His pattern of behavior might have found expression in words like these: "If things don't go my way,
I'll pack my bags and go somewhere else
."

When the humiliating dismissal burst upon the sports world, he was quoted as saying,
"Perhaps, I didn't hustle is much as the rest of them during practices.
I didn't do a lot of running.
I didn't like long drills, but will do what is required to get ready for the game.
I didn't like all that detail stuff – I had no particular desire for it
."

Christians must be realistic.
Difficulties and disappointments are as much a part of life as cell phones, computers and television sets.

There are some very serious problems in this world.
"A high school junior waited till the last bell rang, and went in to talk to her teacher.
She related the fact that her parents were getting a divorce.
In just a few more days she was to go to court.
She was going to have to decide which parent she was going to live with.

Her mother was the type that regularly frequents the the beer bars at night.
The girl told her teacher that one night her mother asked her to go with her.
When she finally got home, she had seen enough to sour her for good on that kind of life.

Doubting that the mother loved her, the girl with deep emotion, told her teacher,
"My mother wants me to live with her.
But she really doesn't care about me.
All she wants is the monthly check that my daddy will pay her for me."

The teacher asked about the father.
She answered, "He's a heavy drinker.
When he comes home drunk, he is like a wild man.
I don't like the thought of being at home alone when he gets on a kick like that
."

The teacher then asked, "What are you going to do?"
She shook her head, and sighed, "I don't know.
One of my best girlfriends has asked me to move in with her and her family.
But they don't have enough room, and besides, they have problems of their own
."

When you hear this Christian teenager's tragic story, you think of how lives can become a burden
before some teens become old enough to vote.
Houdini couldn't escape from this girl situation.

The teacher talked to this young lady about Christian living in difficult circumstances.
The teacher related this miracle of fishes of Jesus to her, and discussed what it could mean to her.

Then, the teacher noticed that a great calm came over to the girl as they discussed
how Jesus works His miracles in our hearts today.

The girl plans to go to a Christian college after graduation the next year,
but until then she isn't going to have it easy.
At last she looked at the teacher with the new determination, "Well, I'm going back and try again."
The teacher told her she believed that she would make it.

The miracle of the great fish catch has another point.
Jesus told the disciples to cast their net on the right side of the boat.
You don't develop strength by just refusing to run from your problems.
Christ has a workable solution which is activity with a plan.

We must remember that the way of Christ is the right way.
Life lived in any other way will not work out.

Simon Peter could have cast his net and a more convenient place,
or where he thought others would expect him to cast it.
But he knew that all directions except the right one would be wrong.

Having obeyed Christ where they were in the way that Christ directed,
the disciples loaded their nets with 153 fish.

Sometimes, when we find ourselves in difficulty, the Lord changes circumstances.
But most of the time, He changes us.

The waters into which the disciples were told to cast their nets with the same.
But the fishermen weren't.
The circumstances had not changed, but the men had.
They heard from the Lord, and now they had a new strength and a new purpose.
When they will obey Him, He provided the success.

Some years ago a ship at sea found itself in a tragic position.
Water was all around them, and the crew was dying of thirst.
When hope was almost gone, there saw a ship in the far distance.
Quickly, they set out their distress signal.
The answer came back: "Dip it up."
"Dip it up?"
This is salt water.
This is not a time for jokes.
Again they signaled, and again the same answer.

Someone suggested that they lower a bucket over the side just to see what it's like.
Think of their amazement when they find that the bucket contained fresh water.
Instead of being on the high seas, they were at the mouth of the great Amazon River.

Remember, the next time you think:
"I'll never amount to anything –
Not here where I have been placed –
Where troublesome circumstances fence me in, and fence opportunities out.
If only, I could get away
."

We must remember that success is not a matter of geography – not when
the living Lord Jesus Christ is directing your life.

"If thou faint in the day of adversity, and your strength is small."
Remember!
"If God be for us who can be against us?"
"I can do all things through Christ
…" (Philippians 4:13)

This sermon was adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White