Word versus Experience

And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”

Laura and I read through Luke 5:1-11 this morning, noticing something in the Lord Jesus’ interaction with Peter. Peter, it seems, is at a moment of two competing claims for authority–his experience and his Lord’s word. Peter’s experience is this: “We toiled all night and took nothing!” His Lord’s word is this: “Let down the nets.” Peter seems to model obedience over experience here. But notice this:

And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken.

Peter’s response was one of obedience, but not confidence. Look at what founds his confession of sinfulness — that he was astonished at the measure of what Jesus’ word accomplished. It seems that he obeyed, but did not trust the bounty of Jesus’ goodness. He trusted the Lord’s voice enough to cast out his net, but not enough to believe that he would actually catch much (or anything).

And this, Peter saw, was sin.

How often am I like this? How often do I obey, but only because I must and not because I believe and expect the bounty of my Lord’s goodness? How often are you like this? (If you’re like me, probably often).

It takes the Spirit to change things like this — to change our inclination and expectation and trust in the Lord over the seemingly powerful testimony of our experience. I want to be full of the Spirit. So I pray this:

O Holy Spirit,

As the sun if full of light,

the ocean full of water,

Heaven full of glory, so may my heart be

full of thee.

Vain are all the divine purposes of love

and the redemption wrought by Jesus

except thou work within,

regenerating by thy power,

giving me eyes to see Jesus,

showing me the realities of the unseen world.

Give me thyself without measure,

as an unimpaired fountain,

as inexhaustible riches.

I bewail my coldness, poverty, emptiness,

imperfect vision, languid service,

prayerless prayers, praiseless praises.

Suffer me not to grieve or resist thee.

Come as power – to expel every rebel lust, to reign supreme and keep me thine;

Come as teacher – leading me into all truth, filling me with all understanding;

Come as love – that I may adore the Father, and love him as my all;

Come as joy – to dwell in me, move in me, animate me;

Come as light – illuminating the Scripture, moulding me as my all;

Come as sanctifier – body, soul, and spirit wholly thine;

Come as helper – with strength to bless and keep, directing my every step;

Come as beautifier – bringing order out of confusion, loveliness out of chaos.

Magnify to me thy glory by being magnified in me, and make me redolent of thy fragrance.

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About Danny Slavich

I am a Christian husband, father, pastor, and poet. I lead Pembroke Road Baptist Church a multi-cultural, multi-generational church in urban South Florida.
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5 Responses to Word versus Experience

  1. Ben says:

    I think I would disagree with your reading, there — Peter’s confession of sin seems unlikely to be merely a reference to the one act of disbelief, but rather a reflection on His life as a whole spurred by a realization, for the first time, of who Jesus is.

  2. Lee says:

    Umm… I find myself in agreement with Ben here… 🙂

    This section of Luke 5 appears to be an elaboration of the passages in Matthew 4 and Mark 1 which tell of the calling of Peter, Andrew, James, and John. I can see your reading if you focus on only verse 9; but 10-11, along with the essence of the callings as captured in Matthew and Mark, seem to point to Ben’s reading as being primary.

    Not that you don’t make a good point, of course. Worse yet, for me, is the fact that I frequently don’t even obey – I just follow my pre-conceived notions of how things will work out…

  3. Tato says:

    I don’t know if I can accept that Ben and Lee are in agreement… I feel compelled to disagree with their view… must fight urge…

    Can I be obvious and say… “both”? I think that scripture more often than not has mulitple layers of meaning, Peter was a sinful man and confessed sin, but he also did have a hint of distrust in his saying “we fished all night and caught nothing”. It is a good reminder that even if we are not confident in what the Lord is doing we are always called to obedience… because that is the outward sign of our inward faith.

  4. Tato says:

    I don’t know if I can accept that Ben and Lee are in agreement… I feel compelled to disagree with their view… must fight urge…

    Can I be obvious and say… “both”? I think that scripture more often than not has multiple layers of meaning, Peter was a sinful man and confessed sin, but he also did have a hint of distrust in his saying “we fished all night and caught nothing”. It is a good reminder that even if we are not confident in what the Lord is doing we are always called to obedience… because that is the outward sign of our inward faith.

  5. Lee says:

    🙂

    Well, I did give props to Danny’s interpretation, if you look back at what I wrote – but I feel that Ben’s is the primary reading…

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