“What happens to a dream deferred?” asked Langston Hughes.
In Matthew 4:19, Jesus meets a man named Simon Peter – one of my favorite biblical figures. The story that is recounted by all the gospels goes a little something like this: Jesus sees Peter and his brother Andrew out on the water. They are fishers, but aren’t catching any fish. Jesus hops on the boat, tells them to cast out their nets on faith, and by his word, they have more fish than they can handle. Then Jesus pitches his plan for their lives: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”
A lot of people talk about chasing dreams and achieving success, realizing what you’ve been working hard toward. That all sounds good, but I had this revelation this morning: Would you give up on your dreams in order to chase what God has called you to do?
Peter (and Andrew) had a dream of being a fisher, but not just any fisher. Peter wanted, all his life, to be the best fisher the world had ever seen or would ever know. He wanted to be the model fisher for all other aspirant fishers to follow. Peter wanted to grow old and wealthy, passing down his trade to his descendants. He wanted to re-write the handbook on fishing based on his own hard work and experiences in the field. One could say that Peter was on his way to a self-help industry conglomerate – how to catch fish the right way. Peter had his ups and down. He had won his competitions and lost his share. But Peter had never achieved his dreams, his goals. But he wasn’t done yet.
When Jesus finds Peter, Peter has not given up on his dreams. This is important. Sometimes, we tend to believe that God calls us when we are down and out, when our back are up against the walls, when we’ve exhausted all the other options. But look closely and you’ll see that Peter is still out on the water, chasing his dreams. But God.
Jesus shows up and shows him another path and places a calling over his life that he can take or leave. Jesus tells him that he’ll make him “fishers of men” which, of course, is a metaphor for what Peter will become later. But he’s speaking to Peter (and Andrew) in a language they can understand. He tells Peter that he’ll have everything he’s ever wanted, IF he would just follow him. Jesus tells Peter that the calling that God is placing over his life is more important that the dream Peter set out to achieve for himself. The calling will reap greater rewards than Peter’s dream ever could.
Often we have big plans for ourselves and often these goals are molded by what we expose ourselves to in this world. Your dream might be to own your own business. That’s awesome. But guess what, if that’s not what God has called you to do, then you’re going to fail. Peter wasn’t catching any fish. He had been working toward his goal, his dreams, for years and still nothing. He’d been to fishing school. He’d read all the fishing books. He’d done this and done that. He might as well have had a PhD in the psycho-economics of fishing.
We have to be conscious that our goals and God’s plans are aligned. We must keep praying that what we do is in accordance to His Will and for His glory. When we set out to achieve anything, we should first pray that it is in God’s will that it be done, and if we don’t get that confirmation from the Holy Spirit, then maybe it’s not for you to have. Not yet anyway.
You see, Peter got the confirmation when Jesus stepped aboard his boat and told him that he’d become a fisher of men, if he chose to follow. Peter wanted to be a fisher, Jesus said, “I’ll make you a fisher…” just a new and improved kind – one that you may not be used to, that may ruffle your feathers a bit, that may cause you to think outside your comfort zone, that may tempt you to doubt and deny Christ, but one that will connect you to the promises, protection, riches and glory of the kingdom of God.
Here’s another question: When you set out to chase your dreams, are you doing it for God’s glory or for your own? When you reach that level of success toward which you strive, will you be satisfied with sacrificing it all for God?
That’s why I asked the initial question. If you are out there grinding trying to shine, make sure that you’re in prayer about it. And if God tells you to stop, do something else, then you’ve got to switch gears. Trust him.
Peter trusted Jesus and all he had was his word. He saw Christ work wonders, and he believed in Him to guide him in the right direction. Did Peter understand what he was getting into? No. Did Peter understand who this man was who climbed into his boat and made them catch a bunch of fish? No. Could Peter see the future? No. When God placed a calling in Peter’s life, Peter jumped up and changed his course instantly. No hesitation. On Faith. On Trust.
When God calls you to do something, will you drop everything you’ve worked all your life to achieve, your dreams, your goals? Will you forsake your degrees and your money? Will you leave behind your biological family to join in the fellowship of Christ? When Christ climbs aboard your vessel, will you accept his call to follow him? Will you trust him enough, if only on a word, to defer your dream and make you a fisher of men?