I had a fishing dream last night. It is a reoccurring theme in my dreams. I don’t know if it is because I like fishing or God uses that backdrop to teach me stuff. It’s probably both. In this dream I was in a new place. Think new territory like “I just arrived in Lone Pine and wanted to check out all the fishing spots.” So I am moving from spot to spot and I come across a “special” place in the creek where the water is really deep. There are people gathered around fishing this spot but it is different from other places. These guys are catching these huge fish. I had been fishing for trout, you know those whopping 8-10 inchers and these guys are pulling out 50-100 pounders. So obviously I am pretty interested. They called these big fish Alpers which is actually a trout planted in the eastern Sierras by the Alpers family. They said these fish where pre-historic which explained their size. So I walk up to the hole and inquire about how one would get access to these fish. It was obvious that it took special equipment and some kind of permission. There was a guide there who said you had to pay to fish. It was expensive at about $500 per fish. You were guaranteed to catch a fish but there was no guarantee on the size. Some were not much bigger than the trout but others were really huge. So quickly I do the math and decide that the expense is worth it. I like to eat fish so I can buy it or catch it. I determine that if I catch a big enough fish it would actually be less expensive than buying at the store. (Sorry, it is the way my brain works even when I am dreaming.) So now I am “wagering” on a big fish.
Have you ever wondered if maybe this is one of our worldly taught hang-ups; wagering on the possibility of a good thing? Think about this everyday situation. You have a mom taking her 5-year-old daughter Sally to the store. Mom needs to do some shopping. Let’s say that Sally sometimes misbehaves in the store. Maybe Sally really wants mom’s undivided attention but mommy is distracted by the much-needed shopping chore. So Sally acts out by nagging, begging, fussing, crying, or a myriad of other options. So mom knows this about Sally and uses some well know parenting techniques and tools to help the situation. She says to Sally before they go into the store “if you misbehave you will get a timeout.” That’s called a threat. The next option may be “if you are well-behaved you will get a treat.” That is called extortion. The next option might be “here is a treat and there is another in your future if you behave.” That is called bribery. Any of these tools or techniques or parenting skills actually teach conditional behavior. I’m not saying that any of this is explicitly wrong, the child is 5 and reasoning about the finer points of honor and character probably won’t work, but just pointing out an example of trained conditional thinking.
Now back to the big fish. Can you see that my reasoning is conditional with the element of chance? Then I had a thought this morning…what part did God play in my dream? I felt like in the dream He was trying to show me something and that “feeling” lingered this morning. “How does Grace apply to fishing?” I pondered. Then I had an image of being on a deep-sea fishing boat like we did on my honeymoon. Yep, went Halibut fishing on my honeymoon. Isn’t my wife awesome?! You know they catch really big Halibut in Alaska. Halibut is expensive. What if we hooked a 120lb Halibut and took it home? That would offset some of the cost of the trip. Again, conditional thinking with limited resources. Then it hit me hard. What if I asked God for a big fish? Don’t you know that God could command the big fish to find my hook? What would happen if I actually believed that God would supply a big fish on the end of my line? I already know He can, but would He?
Let me ask you. Why wouldn’t He? This is when the conditionals hit and I guarantee that every single one of them has everything to do with YOU (or ME). The reality is everything actually and exactly and precisely has to do with JESUS and not ME. When you understand Grace you will see that Jesus paid it all. His work is done. My deservedness has absolutely nothing to do with it. That is why it is called unconditional and unmerited. God is not waiting to see if I behave. That would say that Jesus didn’t do enough and I need to do more. God is not bribing me to behave. That would say that God is a manipulator and Jesus was some enticement. God is not threatening me with punishment if I don’t behave. That would say Grace is conditional on my performance. So unconditional and unmerited mean exactly that.
Do you know that Jesus was presented with this very situation? When He met Peter He told him to let down his nets. Check this out:
Luke 5:4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken
I don’t believe that Jesus had a word of knowledge. I don’t believe He had seen the future. I believe He knew that God would provide because that is what He does. I believe that Jesus was absolutely certain in who He was as the Son of God that He knew His Abba in Heaven would bring Him the “big fish.” Do you know that we should have the same understanding? Because of what Jesus did we have access to everything that Jesus did. So why do we generalize and say “if it’s God’s will” He will give me a fish. Do you know that isn’t real belief? You know that “provides an out?” I’m not being mean here just making a point. What if we actually believed in how amazing our Daddy is and He loves us just like Jesus. Would we think and ask differently? What if our “out” is actually “doubt” and the door is only open when we really believe “without”? What if a big fish is only one belief away? Here is the best news. If I don’t have that kind of faith yet, He is faithful to give it to me. God really smiles when I recognize my weakness and His strength. The enemy loves for us to live in doubt. Go for it. Believe in the amazing goodness of God and His desire to provide, even fish. I bet if we believed that truth, then the $500 investment isn’t a wager but a guarantee. No more wagering, Big fish for all my friends!
Yay Jesus! Fisher of Men.