Jesus Doesn’t Need Your Fish!

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When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”

John 21:9-10

The disciples were restless. Jesus had just died on the cross and reappeared alive in the flesh to them. Then he disappeared again like a magician. It was a visionless time for them. What were they to do now?

Peter went back to what he knew – fishing. He was supposed to be a Fisher of men not a fisherman. But in times of aimlessness, he went back to his old job. He went back into his comfort zone. So they laboured hard through the night but caught nothing. But in the early morning light, a stranger called out from the shore.

In the misty morning fog, they couldn’t recognise who it was at first. Just instructions to let down the net on the other side. We read:  

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.”When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

John 21:6

John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, recognised the stranger as Jesus. How did he know? Because it was a miracle déjà vu. Just when Jesus first called Peter and a few others with a miraculous catch of fish (Luke 5), he reminded them again of that original call. Sometimes we lose sight of our original call. We get tired of ministry because it’s so difficult. So unrewarding. So thankless. It isn’t worth the effort or heartache. We go back to our own ways. Maybe even considering calling it quits.

But Jesus gently renews our call. He shows Peter that he can do nothing without him. Toiling all night yielded nothing. Your experience in the past doesn’t guarantee success in the present. Till he gave a simple instruction to cast the net on the other side of the boat. Jesus reminded Peter that he could not achieve anything without his help. Similarly, we cannot achieve anything without God’s help. No matter how hard we may work. No matter how experienced we are (Peter was an experienced fisherman). Do you believe that without Jesus you cannot do anything? I mean, literally, anything with Jesus? That’s a humbling thought.

There’s Peter’s miraculous catch. But we may miss Jesus’s miraculous catch too. When they reach the shore, Jesus had already started grilling his own fishes. Where on earth did he get them from? It teaches us an important lesson in ministry: Jesus doesn’t need your fish. Let that sink in for a moment. He can do the work just as well with or without you. But as co-partners, co-labourers in this wonderful redemptive ministry, Jesus gives us the privilege to join in (1 Cor 3:9).

Jesus tells Peter, “Bring some of the fish you caught.” Though He can work without us, he wants to work with us. That’s the ultimate rest knowing that we don’t need to produce results. But when we obey Jesus and his methods, there will be fruit. Fishes will be caught. Nets will refuse to break even under immense weight. Miracles will appear. When we co-labour with Jesus, we rest in the fact that Jesus doesn’t need our fish but he wants it.

God Loves to Work with Families

“It’s amazing how God called two brothers into ministry at the same time!” Many people have asked my brother and I that question. And it led me on a search in Scripture whether God called siblings at the same time? If you check out the Bible, it’s fascinating how God chose siblings for his work at the same time also.

  • Moses, Aaron and Miriam
  • Andrew and Peter
  • James and John
  • Jesus, Jude and James

God loves to work with families. Why? Maybe they have a common background to begin with. If they are raised by the same good parents, the children mostly will be good. I must attribute our entry into ministry to our parents too. They are really sold out for mission work overseas and have a passion for equipping pastors in third-world countries. That made a crazy huge impact on us. It showed us that God must be number one in our lives. It showed us the cost of discipleship. It showed us that we give our lives for things of eternal value.

Though it wasn’t an easy decision to enter church ministry, our parents were supportive. Because of their love for God, they released us to pursue where God led us. That’s how we entered at the same time. God loves to work with families. God the Father released his son Jesus to cross space-time boundaries to become a human being. He had parents, brothers and sisters. After his death and resurrection, his mother Mary and his siblings were part of the Upper Room group that met to prayer. James and Jude each wrote a book in the New Testament.

God loves to work with families. As parents, are you setting a godly example for your children? Are you willing to release your children to where God may be leading them (church work, missionary)? If God has called you, have you responded to God’s call for your life?

Danger and God’s Open Doors

Image result for killer waiting behind doorMost of us run away from troubles. If you see a gang fight, you stay away. If you see a storm brewing, you stay sheltered. If you see mobs burning churches, you stay home. But we might also be missing out on God’s greatest work. What if God’s greatest work coincides with Satan’s greatest opposition? Would you go? Paul was such a person. We read in the last chapter of 1 Corinthians:

For I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.

1 Cor 16:7-9

This is an amazing statement by Paul! He’s giving the Corinthians the reason why he’s choosing to station himself in Ephesus. I understand the first part where he says that “a great door for effective work has opened for me.” If there’s a readiness to hear the Gospel, that’s a good sign!

But the second reason stumps me. Scares me even. “…and there are many who oppose me.” What? Are you serious Paul? Don’t you know that your life is in danger if you stay there? We often don’t see opposition as a sign that God has called us to a place. Instead, we run away from opposition. We bolt at the first sign of trouble. Of course, people should oppose you for the right reason. Right reason – preaching the undiluted Gospel of Jesus Christ. Wrong reason – insulting their religion or cheating them of their money.

When we consider where God may be leading us, it is intuitive to find the place where there is an open door for the Gospel to be shared and churches to be planted. Jesus said that the fields are white for harvest. But what is not so intuitive is choosing to stay in spite of opposition to your message and work. It takes guts, thick skin and God’s divine protection to keep on working in the midst of dangers. When people are maligning you. When people are disturbing your family. When people send you nasty messages. God’s open doors may not be trouble-free.

Paul was that kind of person who entered the open door in a hostile land. He accomplished God’s greatest work in the midst of Satan’s greatest opposition. May God guide you to where he may be calling you to serve him. Do not be afraid. Paul, near the end of his life, recounted the protection of God and may this be true for you too:

But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message would be fully proclaimed, and all the Gentiles would hear it. So I was delivered from the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will rescue me from every evil action and bring me safely into His heavenly kingdom. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

2 Tim 4:17-18

The Call

As the client signed on the dotted line, Sandra smiled to herself. She was her insurance agency’s most valuable employee and on track for a promotion. Maybe to partner even. Her life was going on so well – five-digit salary, a wonderful boyfriend, a thriving cell group in church…but she still felt something was missing. She couldn’t tell what it was.

After Sandra gave her client a warm handshake and smile, she headed towards the carpark. A familiar figure approached her.

“Hey Sandra.” The tall man with dark skin called out, his face lighting up. Sandra paused, her mind whirring. Where had she seen him before?

“Pastor Tim?” she asked.

Tim nodded vigorously and said, “You visited my church in Thailand last year with your church’s mission team.”

Sandra laughed once she remembered. Then she winced at the memory. She had felt God’s strong presence in Pastor Tim’s church and sensed that God might be calling her to become a missionary. That calling seemed like lightyears away since she buried herself in her work.

Pastor Tim was a fellow Singaporean who served as a missionary in a small village off Chiangmai. His whole family was there now for nearly five years. Since they were not in a rush, he bought Sandra a cappucino at a nearby café as he explained what had happened the past year.

“I’m back for a short break,” Tim said between sips of his flat white coffee. “When would you be coming back? We need good labourers in God’s harvest field.”

Sandra rubbed her forehead. “I don’t know. Things have been really busy. I got to check my schedule.” She knew being busy wasn’t a good excuse. You had to make time for the important things in life.

“Ok, let’s see how God leads you.” Pastor Tim prayed for her and left. She sat there for a few minutes pondering and praying if she gave the right answer. She whispered a short prayer for God to open and close the doors in her life. Then she went home.

Over the next few weeks, Sandra got promoted to partner. At her celebration with her family, her boyfriend proposed to her and she accepted it gleefully. But she still felt hollow inside. Pastor Tim’s conversation haunted her again and again. But how could she leave her job at this point? She needed money for her upcoming wedding and the house payments. It was impossible!

How could God call her at this time when it was hardest for her to give it all up? “God, can you call back later, maybe when I’ve retired and my children have moved out?” She prayed. Her boyfriend, Johnny, noticed her stirring the mushroom like a machine, her eyes glaced over.

“Hello, earth to Sandra?” Johnny said, pulling a funny face. Normally she would laugh, but this time she didn’t. “Tell me what’s happening.”

Sandra sighed and told him about her conversation with Pastor Tim and it kept gnawing at her again and again. Johnny folded his arms and leaned back. “So God might be calling you to full-time missions?”

Sandra nodded, unsure how Johnny would take it. She decided to plunge in. “I might need to give up the job at the firm.”

Johnny’s face turned red, his nostrils flaring. He slammed his hands on the table, shaking the bowls and cups. “What? You just became partner and now you’re giving it all up? Think about the wedding and house installments.”

Sandra gulped. She almost didn’t recognise this side of Johnny. He had been on a few mission trips before too. Why would he react this way?

Johnny said, “Let those missionaries do their thing. You can serve God in many other ways.” With that, he continued eating his Vongole pasta. Sandra lost all appetite.

That night, she prayed a few hours. She was reminded of Jesus, who was the Father’s first missionary. Who gave up his place in heaven to come to earth in the form of a baby. Who suffered and bled on the cross for her sins. If God gave up so much for her, her sacrifice seemed almost pitiful in comparison.

Sandra wept and asked God for forgiveness. But what about her career? Her boyfriend? So many uncertainties. As tears rolled down her cheeks and onto her handphone screen, she wrote a message to Pastor Tim.


This is a story I wrote in relation to my previous blog post “God, can you call back later?”. It’s fictional but the struggle is real. Many have sacrificed in order to heed God’s call. Not everyone will be called into full time ministry. But everyone is called to be a disciple of Jesus.

“God, Can You Call Back Later?”

God sure knows how to pick the worst timing to call.

Jesus called a few fishermen to become his disciples. They had their fishing business and hired men working for them. Fishermen weren’t illiterate people as we often think. In all likelihood, they had literacy skills. That’s how they wrote the gospels.

One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!”

Mark 1:16 -17 NLT

Jesus met them at their workplace one day. They were hard at work fishing or mending their nets when he called them to follow him. The Gospels record that there were multiple times that Jesus called them. Can you imagine a pastor showing up at your office one day and calling you to follow him at once for a healing rally? What would you do? If you’re like me, a million thoughts course through your mind – “I’m working can’t you see? My boss will fire me! Can you call back me at 5 pm when I’m off work?”

That’s the thing about Jesus. Jesus doesn’t call people when they’re most free. He calls them when they’re most occupied. He doesn’t call people when they’ve nothing to lose. He calls people when they’ve everything to lose. You see, God often calls at the worst time to see whether we would step out in faith in spite of the challenges. That’s true faith.

The fishermen had to choose their business or Jesus. Apparently, they weren’t too serious at first. Just following Jesus for kicks. Seeing his miracles firsthand were pretty amazing. But Jesus, wanted more from them. He wanted them to give up fishing fish totally.

And they left their nets at once and followed him. A little farther up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee’s sons, James and John, in a boat repairing their nets. He called them at once, and they also followed him, leaving their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men.

Mark 1:18-20 NLT

You have a choice to make. Will you give up your job, your family, your business, your security to follow Jesus? Maybe the sacrifice seems too great. Even Peter felt that way after following Jesus for awhile.

Then Peter said to [Jesus], “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?”

Matthew 19:27 NLT

Jesus’ answer is comforting to us all.

And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest.
Matthew 19:29-30 NLT

A hundred times return! You will not be shortchanged by God. He is the best boss and master to work for. Though you may seem to be last by this world’s standards, you’re rich in God’s eyes. Are you willing to respond in faith to God’s call even in the midst of uncertainty?

​The Thin Line Between Calling and Desire

“There’s a thin line between calling and desire.”

My supervisor’s words rang in my ear. In my heart. In my spirit. Just because I want to do something for God doesn’t mean that it is what God wants me to do for him. Will you do out of desire or out of calling. Desire is what I choose to do. Calling is what God chooses me to do. That’s a tough decision you need to ask yourself. It might clarify your heart’s motivation and life direction.

Desire cannot be sustained forever. Calling can sustain you through dark times when you question God, “Did You really call me?”

A passage in Mark 5 shows us the difference. Jesus had cast a legion of demons from a man. Naturally, this man desired to follow Jesus. Isn’t that logical? This man would need time to go through Alpha, join a Bible Study and hear some good sermons. That was his desire. But Jesus was calling him elsewhere. Check it out:

Mark 5:18-19 

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

Jesus wanted him to go home! Why? To share how much Jesus had done for him. He “begged” to follow Jesus but was instead sent back on a mission. You might have certain ideas on what you want to do for God. Be a missionary? Be a pastor? Start a bible school? I’m not saying these are wrong, often they are good! But is it a desire or a calling? Take note: A good thing is not always a God thing. Has God called you to do that? If not, would you reconsider seeking God’s face?

I’m not sure whether this man struggled with this decision. I certainly would have. But he obeyed Jesus at once. It says:

Mark 5:20 

So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

The man simply did what Jesus told him to do. Was it a success? Yes! The Bible says “all the people were amazed.” They were amazed at the power and mercy of Jesus because of this man’s testimony. You might desire to go full-time ministry, but like the man who was sent back to the Decapolis, Jesus might be sending you to the marketplace. Jesus would have said, “Tell your friends, your collegues, your clients how much I’ve done for you.” Who knows what might have happened if he followed his desire rather than his calling?

If you are unsure if it is a desire or a calling, I advise you to seek God. Ask him to confirm it for you. Don’t lean on your human understanding. Just because you want it doesn’t mean it is what God wants you to do. He might be leading you in a direction you never imagined. 

Give of your best to the Master

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Upon the call of God, many people say:
– “I’ll serve God when my career is stabilised.”
– “I’ll serve God when my children has started working.”
– “I’ll serve God when I retire.”

And most never serve eventually. They never leave their job or step out of their comfort zone to serve God. They have pushed God’s call to the back lines like a faded box of old toys in the storeroom.

I wonder how many have lived to regret not fulfilling their calling. It’s so easy to ignore God and do what you’ve always done.

But in the end, what have you really accomplished of eternal value?

What if youths thought about their studies in terms of kingdom effectiveness? Instead of just choosing any course, choose the studies that you could use to minister later. Don’t think of what could make the most money. Think of what could make the most impact.

I also wonder how many young adults meander through the dense concrete jungle of work, aimlessly moving as the years roll by. These are the best years of our lives and few would give it up for God’s work. In the name of uncertainty, instability, many dare not take the risk.

I’ll say not fulfilling God’s call is even more risky. Jesus said it best:

Mark 8:34-36
And calling the crowd to him (Jesus) with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

Lose your life for Jesus’ sake and the gospel and you will gain life. I dare you to use your best years full of strength and vitality for Jesus.

Don’t give Jesus your leftovers when you can give your best right now.

May the immortal words of this old hymn ring in your heart and mind till you fulfill God’s call right now. Don’t delay or you might never get to it.

Give of your best to the Master;
Give of the strength of your youth;
Clad in salvation’s full armor,
Join in the battle for truth.

Will you obey God’s calling right now?

 

‘Brother, did you receive God’s call?’

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Photo credit: Kathea Pinto (Flickr)

‘Brother/sister, did you receive God’s call?’ That’s a common question asked whenever one aspires to go into Christian service. Be it becoming minister, missionary or even administrative worker.

It sickens me at the hypocrisy of it all. Let me explain. When I was young, my grandparents and parents warned me that if I don’t study hard, I would end up as a butcher or road sweeper. It was meant to scare me into studying more, but often did not work.

Then the next thing implied was that there were good professions to aim for. Namely, becoming a lawyer or doctor. Always these two, apparently there’s a parental conspiracy going around. There’s nothing wrong with being a lawyer and doctor, I think they are very noble professions.

But I want to highlight that the question of calling is not asked. If you want to be lawyer, well done, go ahead. If you want to be a doctor, well done, go ahead.

Then comes the crux of the matter. Let’s say you want to become a missionary to Iran/India/Indonesia (Three countries starting with I’s is coincidental). Your parents or pastor might take a few minutes to reply. And eventually the question pops up – ‘Did you receive God’s call?’ If you say no, they’d probably advise you not to do it.

Now, why is serving God as a missionary requiring such a crystal clear call from heaven than being a doctor? Why don’t people ask, ‘Did God call you to be a doctor?’

The Great Commission commands us to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth.

Matthew 28:18-20
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

If that is Jesus’s command, do we need to ask if we are called? I believe God still calls today. Especially, when we are headed in the opposite direction and God steers us back to His divine plan. And His divine plan might even be bringing you away from being a missionary to secular work. Whatever the case, let’s not use calling as an excuse to prevent us from doing God’s revealed will.