Summary: Peter’s prayer of Luke 5:1-11 failed because he had too much faith!
Sermon: Failed prayer
Text: Luke 5:1-11
Occasion: Trinity V
Who: Mark Woolsey
Where: Arbor House
When: Sunday, July 3, 2005 (which is really Trinity VI, I know)
Where: TI Morning Prayer
When: Friday, July 8, 2005
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today I would like to use our Gospel reading to take up the theme of prayer - specifically failed prayer - and its causes. I’ll even steal my own thunder and tell you why this particular prayer failed - it was because of the person’s faith. Now, most of you probably heard what you think I said, but I suspect not many heard what I really said. You see, this prayer did not fail because of the LACK of the person’s faith, but BECAUSE of his faith. He had too much faith, so his prayer failed. How can this be? Isn’t that contrary to what the rest of Scripture teaches? Well, let’s take a closer look...
II. Favor of God
v1-3: So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.
First of all, we notice the favor of God upon the people. We see this in two ways. One is the fact that a multitude was crowding Jesus, trying to hear Him preach. When is the last time you remember a preacher being so closed in by his hearers that he was forced to retreat behind a barrier in order to speak? The Father had apparently put such a thirst for His word in their hearts that Jesus was physically challenged to speak to them all. Another way we can discern God’s blessing upon the crowd is that when God gave them a thirst, He slaked it with the pure word. Unlike any preacher before or since, Christ taught without error. What these people heard was truth with no mixture of error.
III. Fascination of God
v5: Simon answered and said to Him, "Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing;"
Next, we move from the favor of God to the fascination of God. Jesus must have been quite an interesting preacher. The text tells us that Peter had been up all night working and yet here he is not only listening to a sermon, but paying attention. I have enough problems keeping awake those people who have had a good night’s sleep. Yet the Gospel of Jesus, properly preached, is exciting and captivating. A preacher has to misundertstand it or work at it to make it dull.
IV. Finger of God
v4,6,9: He said to Simon, "Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." ... And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. ... For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken
From the favor of God and fascination of God, the next item that jumps out at us is the finger of God, that is, the miracle of the massive fish catch. The King James Bible calls it the "draught of fishes". This is somewhat of a humorous point in the story as a preacher tries to tell a frustrated fisherman how to fish. This is something akin to me coming home to a disaster in the kitchen, and trying to tell my wife how to cook. Assuming I lived, it would be a long time before I got the casts off my arms and legs! The best time to fish, which is at night, had already past and it was fruitless. But in spite of the obvious absurdity of the situation, Peter dutifully casts his net, fully expecting nothing more than water and wasted effort. Yet the result was astounding, so much so that Peter "and all who were with him were astonished". From this we learn several things. As Matthew Henry says,
Now by this vast draught of fishes, Christ intended to show his dominion in the seas as well as on the dry land, over its wealth as over its waves.
One of the most prominent themes in all of Scripture is the sovereignity of God over every aspect of creation. He tells the waves when to roll and when to be still, He commands the wind to blow and cease, He calls the dead from the grave, He demands our faithfullness even to death, and He controls our wealth. This miracle plainly displayed His divinity; so much so that when He shortly called Peter, James, and John, they immediately quit their jobs and followed Him. This begs yet another question concerning God’s sovereignity, which is that if this miracle was so effective in causing people to follow Christ, why doesn’t He do it all the time? Has He lost His touch? In answer, I think all we can say is that the common perception that God gives all men an equal chance, and it’s up to them to accept or reject Him, is faulty. Given a choice, we always choose ourselves rather than God. It is God’s choice of us, not our choice of Him, that determines our eternal destiny.