“As we launch into this New Year of 2022, let us continue to pray that things will ease up and for the borders to re-open and to get back to normal”; but the reality is that we may never fully return to what was “normal” So perhaps it is time to enter a new season, and to do that, we must ‘LAUNCH OUT INTO THE DEEP’.
As I’ve often done during my regular tours to Israel and explored the region of the Galilee following in the footsteps of Jesus and the disciples, I was captivated by David L’Herroux’ recollection as he shared. ..”I strongly felt God leading me to read and study Luke 5:1-11 where Jesus (in verse 4) challenged a professional fisherman called Simon to ‘launch out…into the deep and let down the nets for a catch.’ This account can teach us so much about this new season that God is possibly leading us into, and here are some of the headlines:
- THE MULTITUDE: ‘the size of the crowd’. In verse 1, we read: ‘The multitude pressed about Jesus.’ I think we need to stop and think about what God has entrusted us with: our audience made up of hundreds of thousands of people – what I call the ‘hidden great crowd’. And because we don’t see it physically, it can be so easy to forget the size of our audience.
But if we were standing in front of a crowd the size of the Woolloongabba Cricket ground here in Brisbane, would our attitude, content, preparation, and training of our people be much different?
My guess is that it would be very different. And guess what? Looking at the figures from our annual UCBI productivity report, our combined UCB Asia Pacific audience is even larger than the Gabba. * (see screen shot) Verse 1 also talks of ‘the state of the crowds – a craving crowd’. ‘The multitude pressed about Jesus to hear the Word.’ They were hungry for the Word. Let’s not undermine the state of our audience: they are craving HOPE.
Think about the needs of our audience: many are lost and seeking direction; many are sick and seeking healing; some are weak, seeking strength; many are broken physically, emotionally, mentally, domestically, and professionally, seeking restoration. And the list goes on. Yes, I believe that we have been entrusted with a large crowd who are craving for the truth. What a responsibility we have been given!!
- THE PREPARATION NEEDED –‘THE EMPTY BOATS’. In verse 2, we read: ‘Jesus saw two boats standing by the lake but the fishermen had gone from them.’ Where were they? They were busy preparing their nets for the next trip by washing, mending, and folding them.
Over the last 2 years, many church buildings and ministry offices, both overseas and here, have been empty. Including us here at the Vision and UCB Asia Pacific Brisbane Hub, which for many weeks during the lockdowns parts of the building have been practically empty – with lots of our teams off sick, being forced to work from home or to work differently; and in some respect, we still are. For the most part UCB AP has not been able to travel; so much of our normal activities and plans have largely been put on hold, or we have had to think and act differently to what we have done in the years before COVID.
Therefore, the real question must be this: where was/is the real church who are God’s people? Because that includes us and we are certainly part of the universal Church or body of Christ.
For us here at UCB AP, along with others, we have been busy trying support the existing number of radio services keeping them on air and the printing and distribution of The Word for Today, while at the same time trying to plan and develop multi-media platforms to proclaim HOPE through God’s Word, bringing Hope, encouragement and healing to many broken lives. While its a privilege to be able to reach so many of the regions people as we rise up to the challenge in unprecedented times to let needy people know of the unfailing love of God for every human being through trusted Christian media , for such times as this. However the reality was that more and more of our projects were struggling and the radio services failing and distribution of The Word for Today became difficult as churches ,public transport were closed and the local teams could not met as a regular team and many were sick.
- THE DISAPPOINTMENT TURNED INTO WILLPOWER – ‘THEY CAUGHT NOTHING’. Simon said;
(verse 4)‘We have toiled all night and caught nothing.’ Remember this: they were professional fishermen. It was their business. And if catching nothing was not a disappointment, what was? To add to their disappointment, they were tired, weary, annoyed, and hungry. I’m sure all that they wanted to do was go home, never mind getting back into the water!
Very often, I know for a fact that Grant and Rudy and Steve Monro and I have felt like giving up, we are also experienced professional broadcasters and media PR actioners, with many years of experience, but now, it’s all too hard, we can be disappointed and feel that we are doing nothing…having no effect…and if we continue to listen and wallow in that place of despair; the ‘father of lies’ will make sure of that.
Let me encourage us all, myself included: UCB Asia Pacific (and probably the church at large) has yet to discover the extent of God’s work that has been done in this pandemic crisis. Out of this crisis a new opportunity was birthed, Through the steadfastness of the faithful few, a number of innovative churches and media ministries are now compassionately helping their community, and a growing number local churches are embracing the new digital platforms to make sure that their congregation can meet virtually as well as reach many who would never come to a church building.
We have a strong desire to occupy this space, for we see that a great work has and is being done! But how?
For us here at UCB Asia Pacific, we have been called and given substantial resources to help transform and impact these developing nations. It has been, and will continue to be an honour and privilege to serve our isolated and fragmented affiliates and their audiences across the islands and throughout Asia with the message of hope, inspiring and encouraging many to put their trust in Jesus: Who is The Author and Finisher of our faith.
But what is the best way for us at this time, and how can we help our affiliates to do that effectively?
- THE CHALLENGE TO OBEDIENCE– ‘JESUS’ INSTRUCTION’. In verse 4, Jesus said to Simon: ‘Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’ In the middle of their disappointment, Jesus challenged Simon to not give in to his disappointment (despite his feelings) but instead to hear the Word and put it into action.
Here is how Simon replied to the challenge, even though he was tired, fed up, and wanted to go home, he said ‘nevertheless at Your Word I will let down the net.’ We need to notice the difference of the word ‘net’. In Jesus’ challenge, it was plural, and in Simon’s response, it was singular (check it for yourselves in the NKJV). I can just put myself in Simon’s mind: ‘Well Lord, I hear you and I’ll obey, but in my own way: all my nets are ready for my next trip, therefore I’ll just use one of them.’ (The UCB AP team can certainly identify with how Simon and the rest of those fishermen felt).
We see how easy it is to interpret Jesus’ words to suit our own thinking and rob ourselves of the ultimate blessing that God intends for us to have? We need to make sure that we don’t limit God in any way in this New Year, for He desires to do exceedingly abundantly above all what we can ask or imagine. We understand that our obedience to God’s Word and the Vision He has given us, will always determine the size of our blessing.
- THE DIVINE COMMAND – ‘Launch out into the deep’. As we enter this “new normal” season, perhaps God is telling us that it is now time to launch out into the deep. ‘Launching out’ speaks of intentional effort and action, and ‘into the deep’ speaks of direction perhaps beyond our comfort zone.
So right as continue 2022, and look towards 2023 let’s…
- Launch into the depth of God’s LOVE – and to do that, even before we try to serve others, we need to understand that God desires for us to have an intimate relationship with Him, to discover His unlimited, unselfish, impartial, unchangeable, unconditional, and everlasting love, ready to proclaim it like never before.
- Launch into the depth of God’s Redemption – Let’s never undermine the power of the blood of our Lord, the depth of His sacrifice, and the incredible price that He paid for our redemption. We need to have a deeper understanding that nothing but the blood of Jesus can wash us clean from sin or protect us from the enemy’s oppression over our lives.
As I close, I’m reminded of the fact that our ‘media ministry is about Proclaiming the Good News and making disciples through the daily application of God’s Word and it is a ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18)
I sense the Lord saying don’t worry about the setbacks and disappointments of the past fishless nights “I’ve brought UCB AP into a place of blessing from the past few years of wilderness experience (where you experienced a some testing and trials but also a place of miracles and breakthroughs) you’ve got the Vision, write it down and run with it, it’s time to use ALL of your boats and nets, and push out into the deep and see what a great haul the Lord will provide for you and for His glory. Amen.