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Filling the Empty Net

If you’ve seen the Disney film, Finding Nemo, you’re familiar with one of the main characters, Dory, the wide-eyed blue tang fish that suffers from frequent memory loss. One of the things Dory does remember however, is a song she learned from her parents that reminds her to never give up in situations that are frightening or difficult.

The song begins:

Just keep swimming

Just keep swimming

Just keep swimming

Swimming, swimming

Then several stanzas later, Dory sings:

Life’s full of little spills

Don’t throw your fins up in disgust

Oh, what’s the use of floatin’ there

Not going anywhere?

Swish your tail

And dive on in

And trust …


Just keep swimming

Just keep swimming

Life isn’t all that grim.

What I love about this song is the encouragement to not give up when life brings difficulty, which we all know it will. But one thing I need to remember is that if I try to “keep swimming” all on my own, I will likely become very exhausted and eventually give up no matter how hard I try.

That’s when I need to remember who my life preserver is. This past week, in reading both Luke 5 and Jeremiah 1, I was given that reminder.

Luke 5: 4-5 says:

“When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”

“Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear!

Jeremiah 1:5-9 says:

I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”

“O Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!”

The Lord replied, “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!”

Then the Lord reached out and touched my mouth and said, “Look, I have put my words in your mouth!”

Do you notice anything similar in these two passages?

When I read them, I notice two people who have very similar reactions to what they’re being asked by God to do. They each have a little bit of doubt about their own abilities. Simon Peter tells Jesus he’s already worked hard all night to catch fish with no success. As a professional fisherman, he’s likely very doubtful that going out again at a time of day that isn’t even considered a good time to fish will have good results. But do you hear what he says?

He says, IF YOU SAY SO. Those are the key words that propel him from doubter to believer. In spite of the odds being against him. In spite of the fact that he’s already worked all night and doesn’t think things will be better a second time, he listens and obeys.

So, when I read this, I have to ask myself:

What is God asking me to do that seems nearly impossible?

What have I been working really hard at that I need to simply let him help me with?

What can I release to him so that my own efforts don’t exhaust me?

What can I do with him at my side, rather than alone, and see results that will leave me as awestruck as the disciples on that boat were?

In the Jeremiah passage, I can ask similar questions:

What do I feel like I can’t do because I’m too much or too little of something? (Jeremiah thought he was too young, for example.)

What am I afraid of that God promises to protect me from when I listen to and trust him? (Jeremiah was afraid of people, for example, definitely a relatable fear)

What will God do for me that I can’t do as well on my own? (In Jeremiah’s case, God put HIS words in Jeremiah’s mouth.)

In my current focus on the word BELONGING, I find these passages to be so helpful. They are so good at reminding us that we always belong with God. He truly never leaves us to do all the things we need or want to do on our own, and in a world that often makes us think we CAN’T achieve certain dreams or get through challenging times, these reminders are so important.

This week, I encourage you to read Luke 5: 1-11. What stands out to you as you read? What do you notice about what Jesus says, what he promises, what he fulfills. Picture yourself in the scene, and then picture Jesus in your current situation. How can Jesus fill your “empty net?”

Here are a few things I noticed from the passage that I hope encourage you too:

· God often comes to us when we’re doing what might at first seem insignificant. For Simon Peter, it was when he was in the daily grind of fishing. So when I’m in my day-to-day moments, I might want to pay more attention to what God might be doing in my life. Maybe I should expect a few “wow” moments in the simple things.

· God can do far more than I realize and far more than I can do on my own. Peter had empty nets after an entire night of fishing. With Jesus at his side, listening to what Jesus told him to do, catching an overabundant amount of fish came surprisingly easy.

· God can take my “empty net” and fill it. Whatever I feel is empty or lacking can be made full with him.

Finally, try praying the promises of help and provision from Jeremiah 1 and Luke 5 for your own situation.

Here’s an example of how to do that:

Rewrite Jeremiah 1:6-8 to say:

Lord, I feel like I can’t _________________ for you because I’m too _________________. But you tell me not to say that I’m _________________________ because you will be with me. You will protect me. You will act on my behalf.

Restate the promise of help in Luke 5 this way:

Lord, I have worked so hard at _____________________ and the result has been ________________. But IF YOU SAY SO, I will (trust you, wait on your timing, …..) I believe that you will help me fill my “empty net.”

I hope these promises give you encouragement this week. I pray that you feel his presence and help in each situation you face and know that you can “keep swimming” with Jesus in the boat beside you.

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