Before I became a pastor, Zig Ziglar, the famous motivational speaker, signed one of his books and added this from the Gospel of John: “I am the vine, and you are the branches. Those who remain in me and I in them will produce much fruit.” (John 15:5)
Since then, I tried to live guided by that verse, but I often misinterpreted what it meant. What I heard was “produce much fruit.” Like many of you, I worked hard, so it was only natural to apply those same principles to my life as a Christian and later as pastor.
I wanted to be the perfect pastor, the perfect Christian, the perfect husband and father and so on. I was frankly more car salesman than preacher: I could be arrogant, cocky and a little difficult to live with. A pastor was someone on a pedestal, and I intended to be worthy of the highest pedestal of all.
Until one day, I fell off the pedestal and hit the ground hard. My first wife, who never wanted me to be a pastor, packed up much of what we owned in a borrowed pick-up and drove away, leaving behind two crying children and a confused husband.
The next morning, there was a knock on our door. I was greeted by a smiling young couple, there for premarital counseling in preparation for their upcoming wedding.
As I walked them through the disaster zone of my living room, this sweet young couple went from smiles to looks of horror. I told them what happened and if they decided to look for another pastor, I would certainly understand. Surprisingly, they stayed with me.
A few days later, there was a phone call from the owner of several automobile dealerships and my former boss. He could be demanding but we had a close relationship. When he found out what happened, he called offering sympathy and then tempted me with a lucrative job offer. I almost said, “Yes!”
Why am I writing this? Because this is how I identify with Jesus’ disciple, Peter. It is his life experiences that provided the encouragement I needed to continue my ministry. His story changed my perception of what it meant to be a pastor and helped me understand the real meaning behind the Scripture that Zig Ziglar gave me about producing fruit.
Zig wasn’t emphasizing fruit as much as he was stressing the importance of first strengthening your relationship between the vine and the branch. “I am the vine, and you are the branches. Those who remain in me and I in them will produce much fruit.”
Peter was a producing fruit kind of guy. He could be arrogant, cocky, loud, and boisterous. But Peter messed up. He failed Jesus at a critical time by denying him, not once but three times. When Jesus rose from the dead you hear a lot from the disciples, but not Peter. Until a few days later when Peter suddenly says to the disciples, “I’m going fishing!” (John chapter 21)
Pick up a line, bait a hook, drop a net, and go fishing. That’s the answer. Must be safer than being a disciple. After all, look what happened to Jesus!
When you or I talk about fishing, we think of a relaxing time out on a boat catching a few. Fishing is an opportunity to get away, to relax but this kind of fishing is not Peter.
Peter is a pro. Fishing was his livelihood for years. Peter wasn’t going fishing, to relax or get away. Peter was quitting. He was a failure as a disciple, so it was time to pack it in. “I’m going fishing. At least, I can still do that. Yeah, I’m going fishing.”
The other disciples who just don’t get it, eagerly chime in: “Great! Let’s go!”
This professional fisherman is walking away from the ministry to do what he does best. So, they go fishing, all night long, hour after hour, throwing the net out to the water, setting it, hauling it in, time after time, hour after long tedious hour and they get zip, nada. Peter, the expert fisherman gets, nothing.
Can it get any worse? The one thing you thought you could do yields a zero. Sometimes life is like that. Whether its job related, family related, an illness, an addiction, a relationship gone sour. Your life feels so bad, even what you used to do well, the things about yourself you could depend upon yield nothing.
That was certainly me. I knew that going back to the Automobile business was not what God had in mind, but I was still in bad shape. There was a warning in the Bible in 1 Timothy: “If you can’t manage your family, how can you expect to lead a church?”
But, we need to hear the rest of the story. Next: “Fishing from the Other Side of the Boat.”