|Volume 20 Number 1 January 2018||
Gary C. Hampton
Jesus taught the multitudes from Peter’s boat. He then commanded him to “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Peter answered, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” The resulting catch was large enough to fill and almost sink two boats.
There is a sense in which the Lord has told us to let down our nets in teaching. We need to begin with our own children in our own homes and in Bible classes. God told Israel:
Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, like the days of the heavens above the earth. (Deuteronomy 11:18-21)
Christian fathers need to follow Paul’s directive. “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Christ’s followers must make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-48). We might be tempted to tell the Lord we have been “toiling all night and caught nothing.” Such a response overlooks the real source of fruit produced by sowing the seed of the kingdom (1 Corinthians 3:6-7). The early church understood, and though persecuted and scattered, they “went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4).
Let us resolve to teach our children and look for openings to teach others. “Let down your nets” and pray for the Lord to give us a bountiful catch.
Think and Do
All of us realize how hard it can be to make changes in one’s life. New Year’s resolutions are easy enough to make, but how about seeing them through beyond a few days, about really integrating these positive changes into one’s lifestyle permanently? It’s just easy to get into a routine, and without thinking, it becomes part of who we are. Exchanging a bad habit for a good one is always beneficial, but actually doing such is not always as easy to do as desiring it.
Spiritually, we understand the struggle that can be involved with trying to overcome sin in our lives, replacing it with righteousness and what benefits for eternity. We can relate to the words of Paul, “For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate… For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do” (Romans 7:15, 19 HCSB). No one would doubt Paul’s motives or his desire to do what is right, but we can all agree that desires do not always connect with deeds. What is it we can do to help bridge the gap, to help us fulfill our desires for good, to grow in what God wants and expects of us?
To the church in Philippi, Paul offered two helpful, inspired, God-approved suggestions. First, there are certain things about which we can think (Philippians 4:8). The word translated “think” (ESV) carries the idea of giving careful thought to a matter, to consider, ponder and let one’s mind dwell on. The idea is to focus one’s thought processes and mental attention on what is best for us as Christians. To replace sin with the will of God, we must concentrate our thoughts on what God’s good will is for our lives, which Paul says includes, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable.” These are some of those things that are morally excellent and praiseworthy, which originate with God and will enable His will to work in us, bringing Him praise, honor and glory. This enables us to distinguish between right and wrong, what is superior from the inferior, to make better choices in what we allow to fill our thoughts, which in turn guides our lives. As Paul said earlier, “So that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:10 NASB).
In addition to how and what we think, Paul said, “Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9). The word translated do or practice means an action as continued or not yet completed, what one does repeatedly, continually, habitually. It is a course of action or conduct, especially of right, duty, virtue. Paul gave himself as an example of one who thought on these things, accepted them as true and practiced them in daily living. This is what he encouraged us to do as well. We must fix firmly in our minds what is the right thing to do, and then we must do it over and over, making it part of our lifestyle. Over time, it can become part of who we are. Such a formula for life will help our feelings align with God’s will as well, which also helps us seek what is best.
You may say, “But this takes effort!” This is true, but what in life has value that comes without it? Isn’t a relationship with God and Christ, and the hope of eternal life, worth our best effort? Satan is at work seeking to divert our attention away from spiritual living; we must pay close attention to what it is we believe and how we live, or we will forfeit what has the greatest value for us. Are you willing to change your mind and habits to fit God’s will for you? Do you want God’s rich blessings for your life? Change your mind, and put into practice what you think.
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. (2 Peter 1:2-4)