Where does faith begin? Is it when our heart’s questions find their answers? Is it at the point at which we surrender ourselves fully to God? Or does faith come by degrees—with each answer and each tiny new sense of dedication revealing faith where it once did not exist?
In Luke 5, Jesus interrupts a sermon on the lakeside to call some new disciples. Simon Peter, James, and John were all at the shore, having been out fishing all night. Jesus invites them to cast their nets in a new place, and, despite the unlikelihood of catching anything, they haul in two boats full of fish. The sight of the fish was enough to convince Peter, who falls on his knees in devotion to Jesus.
Although his reaction was one of surprise, I don’t think this moment caught Peter completely off-guard. His words to Jesus, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” suggest that there are some background details to which we aren’t privy. Otherwise, Peter’s reaction seems even stranger. But, for whatever reason, the enormity and strangeness and surprise behind the catch of fish was enough to bring brash and bold Peter to the ground in a confessional moment. Something happened that hit Peter squarely in his heart.
I think that’s where faith comes from. Peter had been fishing and catching nothing—all night and basically for his entire life. Jesus stops and meets him right where he is—still in the boat, wrapping up the nets after a fruitless night. Then, Jesus enters Peter’s life right at that critical point of need and reveals a new connection. The circumstances were begging for an intervention, and Jesus provided one that translated into faith.
Faith comes when something is missing and that greater power beyond our control reveals to us a bridge across that gap. Life catches us up short, and God extends his hand to us. A huge catch of fish may have represented a worldly success, but, if the miracle behind that catch was limited to a financial or professional gain, Peter and his companions never would have made the connection. A good night’s catch might have kept them in the boat. But Jesus showed them that he had more in store for them than that. He was offering them something more—to meet a deeper need that a lifetime of fishing couldn’t meet. And so he offered to make them fishers of people, and they said yes.