A fisherman’s dreams are perhaps not much different from yours or mine. Their dreams are often conceived within the context and boundaries of what is known to them and they are not often realized as expected. But what happens when a fisherman’s dreams are fulfilled? What does he do then?
“One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 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. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’ 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.’ When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 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. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’ For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 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.’ So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:4-11 NIV)
Up until this event, Peter had one means of making his way in the world and that was to bring in each day’s haul and maybe…just maybe, bring in the “big catch.” That’s what fisherman dream about. Whether it’s the size of the fish, or the number, there’s always that prize that they feel will prove their worth.
Then suddenly, it happened—a catch so epic that it nearly sunk two boats. This isn’t the fish story about the one that got away, this is a story about the massive haul that was abundantly more than Peter could ask or think, bringing a finale to his dream. And, that was the problem.
Where does one go when they realize that they’ve achieved it all, especially when they discover that achievement alone doesn’t bring real fulfillment? That’s where Peter found himself—undone, and at the feet of Jesus with his heart laid bare, declaring, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” But it was not Jesus’ plan to throw Peter back. He had skillfully chosen the right bait, knowing just how deep to go that he might catch the fisherman. While capturing Peter’s heart was a miracle, technically speaking, the catch of fish was not.
There is no indication that fish were generated out of thin air, transformed from some other state, or even multiplied. The text does, however, indicate that this was a supernatural intervention brought about by a prophetic word—that is, the location of the fish had been revealed to Jesus by what is known as a word of knowledge. The word of knowledge is one of the gifts of the Spirit mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12. In the chapter preceding this story, Jesus had been filled with the Holy Spirit. Through that event, Jesus had been enabled to operate in all of the gifts of the Spirit. By them, Jesus found a way to untangle Peter’s life and set an example for us to follow—a path which Paul says we should eagerly desire to follow (1 Corinthians 14:1).
There is nothing wrong with a fisherman’s dreams, nor is there anything wrong with the dreams we dare to dream. God gives us the power to imagine and to set up goals for ourselves. He wants us to seek for greater and to go deeper. But once hooked, he will not hesitate to upset our dreams that he might reveal himself to us in the process.
And, after all, Peter’s dream was not wasted, was it? Jesus was able to turn it on its side and motivate Peter to leave his past behind, pointing him towards his true identity—not as a catcher of fish, but as a fisher of men. How will God use your dreams to propel you into your calling, and, how will he use you to bring the destiny of others to the surface?