It’s so easy to read the Bible and see the people in it as people of incredible faith or to marvel at the miracles that they experience as something that we could never see in our lives. Jesus is here with us today. As much as he called the disciples, he has called us to live lives of supernatural power. He is calling us to step out in faith. We asks us to walk in obedience. He is calling us to feel his power at work in the mundane parts of our lives, redeeming them, and using them to glorify himself.
We tend to compartmentalize our lives. We make little boxes for the different parts of our world and rarely mix their contents. We step into our spiritual box periodically to check in with how Jesus is doing, and then move on to another box.
That was a nice little church day yesterday, but now it’s Monday! Okay, here I go with work…oh, Jesus, hey! What are you doing here?
Jesus wants to mix into our boxes. In fact, he frequently asks us to turn our boxes upside down at his feet, surrendering the contents to him. We find that this concept of compartmentalization was entirely our idea- not his.
In Luke 5, Jesus is called upon to teach. He teaches using a lesson based on one man’s day-to-day, stinky, dirty job.
Luk 5:1-11 NIV 1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 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. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” 5 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.” 6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 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. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 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.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
Jesus literally got into the boats of some fisherman who were wrapping up a hard day’s work. We don’t actually even know what he taught on that day, but we know from this scripture that he changed some lives that day. Three men became disciples. What made them special? They said ‘yes’. They walked in obedience.
When Jesus asked to use their boats- not just to use them but for the men to help him reach the people, they said ‘Yes’. Maybe they were like me sometimes when Jesus gets into “my” business and asks me to surrender a part of my daily life to him. I tend to think or act like, “Okay, fine, Jesus. You can have my boat. Okay? Now, leave me alone, I have nets to mend.” I would never talk to Jesus like that, but I live like that all the time.
Then Jesus keeps pushing. In this case, at the end of their day, Jesus asks Simon to go back to work. Simon is tired. He’s got everything set to go back to work early the next morning. But Jesus is calling Simon to more. He asks Simon to trust him and obey the simple call to action in the moment that could seem so stupid.
We all have the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to us. The very Spirit of Christ beckons us to more closeness and more fruit. The GivenLife.com theme verse, John 10:10 offers us abundant life in Jesus. The thief is the one who argues, ‘Nah, just keep everything in that box of yours. Why would you want to get your nets back out? It’s time to go eat. Jesus loves you, right? Why would Jesus want you to suffer and waste your time? Let’s go. This can wait.’
Abundant life and the experience of power in our lives requires obedience to the voice of Jesus. Simon surrenders his nets to Jesus’s will. He has a relationship with him in that moment where he tells Jesus how he’s feeling but then says, because you will it…He says ‘Yes’. He goes out into deep water for Jesus. In front of everyone, he goes fishing with a carpenter.
He lands one heck of a catch!
That’s the part that we see in the Bible and think, ‘Man, I wish Jesus would help me land a whopper like that.’ 😒
We see other people who have amazing blessings that we want and let jealousy and regret fill us. That’s not what God is calling us to either. How silly is it that we are there, organizing our piddly little crap in our tiny boxes, all the while resenting that other people have larger boxes with better stuff than us? We need to surrender our boxes to Jesus and let him fill them until they are bursting!
We can follow this line of thinking. It’s easy for our little human brains to go into this transactional mode and say, “Okay, so I give up a little and then get a lot.” That’s human thinking for you. But it’s also the thief’s voice in our ear that’s trying to keep us from Heavenly riches and exchange them for fish that will eventually be gone, smelling and rotten.
Jesus calls Simon and his friends to more, and he’s calling us to more too. We miss Jesus when we don’t continue to say ‘Yes’. What if we read this scripture and Simon obeyed Jesus up to this point and then said, “See you, Jesus, and thanks for all the fish!” We can see from our current point of view that he would be a fool to be fixated on the heap of fish that he just landed. Simon (Simon Peter) is Peter- the “on this rock, I will build my church” Peter. He had a lot more encounters of power with Jesus waiting for him. In that moment though, Peter was just Simon with two boats full of fish.
Simon is filled with awe and shame at how he doesn’t deserve this miracle in his life. He actually tells Jesus to go away. Can you relate to that? It’s a natural (but unhealthy) tendency to let ourselves languish in shame. We are truly unworthy in the natural world, but we are not merely flesh creatures. We were created and then redeemed by the blood of Jesus. Jesus is calling us worthy. Who are we to tell the King of Kings, “No, Jesus. I know better than you do. I’m actually unworthy. Go away!”
That’s not our job. We have no place telling Jesus that he can’t have us, our boxes of compartmentalization, or the piddly garbage in those boxes. If Jesus says that we are worthy, we need to surrender our pride and accept the higher call on our lives.
Simon and his buddies don’t just keep fishing. It would be easy for them to believe that apparently, Jesus wanted them to be the world’s best fisherman. Maybe God would bless them with two boats full of fish every night!
Instead, they recognize the pile of fish for what it is: evidence of the glory of Jesus. Jesus is worth pursuing and that means stepping into the next season of life for them. They pull their boats onto shore and follow Jesus to become fishers of men.
It’s important not to let the needs of this world get in the way of a move of Jesus in our lives. Fishers of men make less money than fishers of fish. They ate well and had a blast while they were walking with Jesus, but then Jesus sends them out later with only the clothes on their body and a walking stick.
The season after that? Their Messiah dies. After that? They receive the Holy Spirit and work amazing miracles like Jesus. The season after that? They are persecuted and killed. There are so many ups and downs in life. We need to accept that. We have to know that we are waging war against the forces of darkness and be willing to fight.
The thief wants us to polish our little knick knacks and surrender to him instead of marching into the service of Jesus. Move into the next season of your life. Fight with power on your side. Do the painful thing that is worthwhile. Push your boat back into the water if that’s what Jesus is calling you to next, but also be willing to walk away from that boat if Jesus is calling you to something else next.
Not knowing what is next is totally normal. We are walking in faith. The only answer is connection with Jesus. Keep following his voice. He leads with peace and helps you walk through scary times like we are living through today. It was not easy for Simon to walk away from his job as a fisherman to become a disciple. Simon stepped out in faith to become the Peter he was called to be.
Later, he would step out of a boat and walk on water with Jesus. He started sinking when he took his eyes off of Jesus. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Follow him and you’ll step into what’s next too.
Lord, thank you for correcting us when we stray. You are good and gracious. Like forgetful, willful children we stray again and again, but you are patient and don’t give up on us. You help us to see where we are going wrong and you continue to pursue us. You love us. US!! We who deserve nothing have been created and loved by you, God. Your mercy is astounding.
Forgive us our sins, Jesus. Thank you for convicting us but paying the price for those since. We repent, Lord. You are our good shepherd and King. We worship you, Lord.
Father, we lift up these prayer requests to you.
As I sit here, my mind is a whirlwind of thoughts, a cacophony of concerns, and a jumble of jobs yet to be done. I feel silly. I have more than I need in every category. I am rich compared to so many across the country, much less the average of other countries across the globe. And now I think maybe I understand what Jesus said in Matthew 19:24, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (ESV). Here I am, a fat camel drowning in the eye of a needle, in a tiny spot of water made of so many things that I don’t need. I’m overwhelmed by the ‘too much’ and ‘too many’ of life, and yet, paradoxically, I find myself unable to say no to more. All of this is costing me focus on the King of everything.
I’ve tried too much, invested too much, started too many things. And despite it all being too much, I can’t seem to stop. I feel like I could turn myself inside out, and I still wouldn’t be enough.
In the midst of this storm, I hear a still, small voice. It’s a voice I know well, a voice that has been with me through every triumph and trial. It’s the voice of God, whispering to my weary soul, “I am enough.”
God’s words ease my frazzled nerves. He reminds me that He is the King of All, and I don’t need to strive so hard. I don’t need to be my own god of ‘too much.’ I don’t need to make myself feel like I’m not enough.
In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (NIV)
These words resonate with me now more than ever. I realize that I’ve been carrying burdens that God never intended for me to bear. I’ve been trying to navigate life on my own, forgetting that I have a Savior who can calm any storm with a single word.
I know the problem, and I know the answer. I’ve been spending too few moments with God. I’ve been so caught up in the ‘too much’ and ‘too many’ that I’ve neglected the One who is more than enough.
It’s stupid. It’s demonic. It’s prideful. And I’ve had enough. (again) So, I decide to let go. I focus on multiplying the ‘too few’ moments where I consider how much God loves me. I reach out from the whirlpool in the eye of this tiny needle—yeah, I’m beyond mixed metaphor at this point, I know, but it’s how I feel—I turn my focus from this tiny little stressful kingdom, and grab hold of God’s hand, focusing on Him.
I try to spend moment after moment, day after day, in the presence of God. Because there’s no such thing as too much of God. Only precious moments of which, right now, I have too few.
As I make this decision, I feel a sense of peace wash over me. I feel the burdens lifting, the storm calming, the whirlpool receding. I feel God’s presence enveloping me, reminding me that I am enough, not because of what I do, but because of who I am in Him.
Maybe I’m still a camel staring down this ultra-tiny hole in the needle, or maybe God will trim away the fat until I’m a mite on the camel’s back, able to pass through the needle with little trouble. All I can say is that, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the ‘too much’ and ‘too many’ of life, I encourage you to let go too. Lean on God. Remember His words in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Sometimes we find ourselves wandering around in a spiritual daze. We feel emotionally, spiritually, and perhaps even physically worn out. We blame God or question God and feel like a victim but our suffering often comes because we are carrying things around that God never intended. We stray from his care, his blessing, and abundant life. In doing so, we also take on the burden of caring for ourselves. We load ourselves up and get lost in the cares of the world. That’s not how God wants us to live.
Every couple of years, there’s a story about an actual sheep who strays from its real-life flock. In 2021, Edgar’s Mission, of Victoria, Australia, rescued such an animal. They named him Baarack. “He was found wandering amongst the many trees, native animals and perils of a state forest. Each day his wool grew longer and longer, and his plight more desperate, while his chances of survival grew thinner and thinner,” their website says.
Baarack was not a wild animal. His breeding as a wool sheep meant that his health and ultimate survival required shearing of his fleece when it got too long. Away from his shepherd’s care, Baarack’s wool became a liability—an immense burden. When Edgar’s Mission finally cleaned up Edgar, they sheared off 35.4kg (78lbs) of “matted fleece, adorned with countless sticks, twigs and insects.”
That sounds like a lot. Depending on Baarack’s age and weight (the Edgar’s Mission website says that he was thin), he may have been carrying twice to one-third of his body weight. Beyond being a heavy burden, it made it hard for him to see. He developed a skin ulcer under the fleece. It made him less nimble, so he was more vulnerable to predators.
All of this mirrors our lives when we stray from a close relationship with God.
We have an enemy of our soul who prowls around like a lion (1 Peter 5:8). When we stray from the care of God and don’t submit ourselves to His Word, we forgo the washing of the Word that the Spirit provides. No one on this world can deny the pain that is the equivalent of a festering spiritual ulcer that comes from undue, unclean burdens that scrape and chafe us.
We need to be obedient to our Good Shepherd and lay our burdens down.
In the Book of Matthew, Chapter 11, Jesus says:
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (NIV)
1 Peter 5:6-7 says:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (ESV)
Jesus also tells us that, in this world, we’ll have struggles [John 16:33]. Being alive means that stuff will go wrong and there’s always work to do. We’re not here on an all-expenses-paid vacation. But we make it harder when we carry around fear, anger, unforgiveness, hurt, and other things. Sometimes we carry these things for years.
Pain from something that happened to us a decade ago can cause us to continually stray just a little bit farther every day until we look around and think, “Where did Jesus go?” He’s there, but you are wool-blind, covered in hurt and maybe some anger that crept in along the way.
What are you carrying? Pause and ask the Holy Spirit what you are lugging around that is creating festering wounds underneath it all. Jesus will lift that burden and heal your wound if you’ll let Him.
It’s hard to be aware of when our pride is causing us to suffer. We have to be in the practice of spending time with the Lord. When we keep our eyes on Him, we can see when we’re straying away from Him. It’s much harder to get lost that way. Then Jesus can shear us when we need it. He can clear the sticks and bugs that might otherwise collect in our fleece. He can feed us good spiritual food and water so that we will never hunger and thirst like we do when we’re on our own.
How odd is it that we just have to humble ourselves to accept this free care that comes with salvation?! We don’t have to do anything but say, “Yes, Jesus. I am yours.”
Living a powerful Christian life is like plugging in a lamp and wondering why the light is not on when the switch is not turned on.
Being saved means you are empowered. Being powerful come from accessing the power of God and putting it to work in the way that God designed you.
Matthew 14-16 says “14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” [ESV]
Satan will try to turn off your switch. He will try to get you to turn it off. Life’s circumstances can distract us from the fact that we are designed to shine. When we are out of community, it’s easy to forget that our switch is off or to be unaware that the enemy is working against us.
Powerful Christian living takes focus. We have to turn the switch on every day by spending time with him. We have to resist temptation to turn it off. We have to avoid walking in sin because we have been freed from slavery to sin, and when we go back, it’s like tossing our lamp into water and hoping that it’s going to keep working.
God is our redeemer. His is our maker and our source. God did not make automatons who mindlessly operate according to some programming that was installed when we were made. We have the will to follow him or not. We can decide to live in the dark. We can choose to disobey the call on our lives and eave the switch off that lets us lead a life powered by Christ. I would rather lead a life of purpose and power.
Connection with God in worship is critical for a healthy relationship with our Creator. Despite its importance, emotional and intellectual baggage can weigh us down in times of worship. The enemy of our souls wants us to focus on the things that would stand between a closer relationship with us and God. Satan wants to take the focus away from Jesus where it belongs and to instead think about… just about anything else. God seeks intimacy with us in worship, and Satan hates that. He wants us to instead feel as far away from God as can be.
It’s horrible that this baggage, and the enemy of our soul, gets in our way in moments that can be so healing and holy. In my journey as a Christian, I’ve learned several important lessons that have helped my worship to become authentic, joyful, relationship-based, and less religious and empty-feeling. If you’ll open yourself to these ideas and be willing to feel a little odd at first, soon you’ll experience new closeness to God in worship.
I grew up in churches where it was really weird for people to raise their hands during worship. Our hands were attached to hymnals as we sang traditional songs.
You could feel the congregation’s relief as we went back to the chorus after singing the third verse that no one but the oldest church members knew. I share that, not to be critical of churches that still worship this way but to contrast that with my current worship life.
I raise my hands in worship. It’s an outward expression of what I’m feeling inside. Raising hands has gone from something that I thought only weird people did to being something that I can’t imagine not doing.
I was exposed to more expressive worship during my teenage years- a time when everyone feels insecure with their bodies and social life. That insecurity made raising my hands even harder. For years, I thought people would judge me if I raised my hands. It felt like admitting something was wrong with me. Spoiler alert: there was!
Satan compounded that insecurity with pride.
When a worship leader asked the congregation to raise their hands, it yanked me out of worship. If I were at peace and was connecting with God the moment before, it didn’t matter.
It made me angry when a worship leader said, “Let’s all raise our hands to God.”
“Who do you think you are to tell me how to worship God?” I would think to myself.
God pointed out a flaw in my thinking: If this person is leading the room in worship and I believe that God appoints people to places of leadership (Romans 13:1), then the question turns from “Who do they think they are?!” to “Who do I think I am?!”
If I believe that this person can hear from God and they ask me to do something for God’s benefit, I should be willing to raise my hands and do all sorts of other things as long as they are Biblical- even if it makes me feel foolish. Resistance to raise my hands had nothing to do with a Biblical objection (see 100 verses regarding lifting hands). It was all about pride in my heart.
Soon after that, I was raising my hands and it was the purest act of worship I could give at the time. It was still painful for my flesh. I felt silly at first. But that was key. It was a physical representation of surrender and it brought me closer to God every time.
It still does.
In this service, Dave made a comment like, “Just smile at God. Did you know that you can smile at God? We so often get stuck with this stink face on us while we worship- like we’re in pain or something. Sometimes that is natural, but did you know that you can smile and worship with joy?! Smile at God while you worship sometimes!”
I wish I could find a recording- especially a video of that message- because it was a powerful lesson for me that I’d love to review every once in a while. We can smile at God!
The first time you do this, you might feel a little goofy. But as we’ll get to in a minute, if you do it with authenticity it is natural.
You are worshiping a person- not an idea. You’re not worshiping the song you’re singing. You’re not performing on stage. You’re telling a person how you feel.
When you talk to other people, you smile when you’re happy. You smile when someone does something that makes you feel good. God does SO much for us! He gives us a lot to smile about!
So when you’re worshiping and making a joyful noise, make a point of expressing that joy with a smile on your face!
In worship, we should not put on any pretense. If we are hurting, it’s okay to hurt. When we sing a line that’s hard to sing because of where we are in life right then, it’s okay for it to be hard.
Don’t worship if it’s a lie.
When I was a teen, I came to a crossroads moment during a Sonshine Festival concert. We were singing I Love You, Lord. I’d sang that song countless times before, but I realized that I was telling God that I loved him and it wasn’t true!
I was singing it out of religion. I believed in God, but it wasn’t a loving relationship from my end. I was practicing my parents’ religion and not truly worshiping.
It broke me but in a good way. I decided that I would pursue a love relationship with Jesus and over time, after shaking off empty worship and embracing worship as communication with my savior, I fell in love with God for real.
Pursue the same thing for yourself. Make your worship mean something. Just be honest with him. You can talk to him when everyone else is singing. If you’re feeling far away from God while everyone else is worshiping, take a moment to speak out loud, “God, I feel far away from you.”
Try to get out of your head. Stop analyzing or being dramatic and focus on connection. I actually struggled with worship for a while again, because of Christian comedian, Tim Hawkins.
The guy is hilarious, but his bit about worship positions messed with me. I couldn’t assume any sort of physical position without thinking about whether I was “carrying the TV’ or doing the ‘goal post’.
I watch that Tim Hawkins video now and I can kinda smile but I felt more mocked than being able to laugh at myself. I told you: I had baggage about this!
I hope that video doesn’t trouble anyone reading this but I share it because Satan would use that to mess with me. Authentic worship is a dangerous weapon of spiritual warfare. The forces of Hell will do anything to keep us from it. In my case, it was persuading me to take offense at a little Christian comedy. Stupid!
I got over it and moved on when I realized Satan’s ploy.
When I moved and started going to Renovation Church in Mansfield, MO, I was taken aback at first because they use televisions and lyric videos for worship rather than having a worship band. But within a song or two I realized that I loved it!
It was far less distracting. At the start of worship, the lights go down, they crank up the speakers, and it’s just you and God and the words on the screen. I can’t tell you how often I have been distracted in the past by what was happening on the stage during worship.
“I wonder where So And So is? Did she have her baby?”
Or “Wow, that guy should not try to rock that haircut. It doesn’t work for him,” I would think.
I was never so distractible or shallow as when I was worshiping with my eyes open during those services.
Do what you need to do to enter into authentic worship. Get out of your head and worship your little heart out! Raise your hands or don’t. Smile or don’t. Don’t let the act of worship be about you or your church or even the song that you’re singing.
Worship is about appreciating the majesty of our God.
Worship is more than good music. My favorite worship songs are written from a first person point of view where “I” is in the lyrics a lot when I am singing about me and God is referred to as “You”. That’s why, I Love You, Lord is still probably my favorite worship song. I’m old school that way.
If it’s a we/us song sung to God, I love that too. Talk about old school: We Exalt Thee can change the atmosphere in a room! But when it’s I Exalt Thee, I really get excited!
Songs with lyrics about God but not directed to God are great on the radio, but don’t feel like worship to me. I have nothing against modern Christian music or music that comes from a dusty hymnal. Worship needs to be about communication. That’s all that matters.
We need to leave our drama behind us and enter into the presence of the One who has given everything to save us and to be with us forever.
Try taking time to find a place alone with God. In absolute silence, try raising your hands in worship. Close your eyes if you need to ignore your surroundings. Then start speaking Biblical truths about who he is. Compliment God on his glory! I’ll close this article with some of my favorite “confessions” if I can call them that- things to speak out loud, to God in worship.
Worship with music or without. Raise your hands in a physical act of surrender if you can. Above all, use worship for its intended purpose- to devote your entire being to recognizing God for who he is. You can do this in tiny moments throughout the day. If you do, you will grow closer and closer to Jesus.
God, you are so good.
You are the King of Kings.
You are my King, Jesus.
God, I’m yours.
Lord, I worship you.
You are worthy, Jesus.
I trust you, Lord.
Thank you for being here, Holy Spirit.
Father, I love you. (if you need to, you can add, “Help me to love you more!” Kinda like this.)