At his greatest moment of professional success as a fisherman, the Apostle Peter fell down and cried in an astounding response, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:1-11). Instead of immediately planning how to spend the wealth of the huge catch or considering how to market his skills as a fisherman, Peter turned his focus to the Rabbi and recognized the fearful gap between himself and One with him on the boat.
Peter was likely an expert, schooled in the art and science of his business. Imagine the crush of disappointment that day when he had fished all night during prime fishing hours without a single catch.
Professional embarrassment and concern for the success of his business may have been two emotions. And then the Rabbi came to him and asked him to partner in the Rabbi’s work for a day. Jesus’ request may have sounded like, “Bring your skills, your boat, and your best equipment and let’s do some Kingdom work.” They set out from the shore a short distance; then Jesus asked Peter to launch into the deep water and lower the nets. Peter first objected. As an expert fisherman, he knew the effort was hopeless. The Rabbi was a great man but certainly not a fisherman. Nevertheless, Peter lowered the nets and experienced the overwhelming catch.
We all love success. It feels good—certainly better than failure. But success can easily become a stumbling block if not handled humbly and wisely. It can lead to self-focus, arrogance, sense of entitlement, and a misplaced view of our own importance. Succeeding well is a challenge.
Peter met the challenge.
Instead of burnishing his own ego and reputation, Peter looked to the transcendent essence of Jesus. He saw his own desperate need while experiencing professional success because he saw the true Source of that success. Peter knew he was unworthy to experience the providence the Rabbi offered.
God’s benevolence visits each of us at times. We might receive a favorable promotion, get selected for a choice assignment, or be commended for our work in a high-profile mission. Yes, God will work through our skills and experience just as He worked through Peter’s. God, the infinitely self-sufficient One, graciously invites us to bring what we have and partner with Him. We contribute our time, skills, and resources, but our real success is that we have been graced by the Rabbi’s favor, presence, power, and an invitation to join Him.
When success came, Peter knew it did not come from himself. He rightly turned his attention to the Author of success, recognized his own neediness, and submitted without reservation to the Master’s call to follow Him.