Orthodox America


  Labor Not in Vain


      Once the Lord Jesus Christ was talking to the people on the shore of the Lake of Galilee, in the Gospels sometimes referred to as a sea because of its great depth and frequently rough waters. Having finished His discourse, the Saviour turned to Apostle Peter and said: "Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught" (Luke 5:4). Peter and his brother Andrew (the First called) were fishermen by profession. At that time they were not yet regular followers of the Divine Teacher and still attended to their trade. In response to Christ's command to take to their boats and cast their nets, Apostle Peter reasoned: "Master, we have toiled all the night and have taken nothing." Those who understand anything about fishing know, that it is more profitable to fish with a net at night rather than by day, for at night the fish do not see the net which threatens their freedom, whereas in the daytime tine visibility of the nets gives fish fair warning. Bearing this in mind, it is clear that the words of the Apostle spoke not only about the failure of the night's expedition, but further implied that to venture out during the day would surely be futile. Out of obedience, however, Peter added: "Nevertheless, at Thy word I will letdown the net."

And when the net was cast, it appeared that such an enormous quantity of fish was caught that the net began to tear, and Peter and Andrew had to call their friends James and John who were fishing in another boat nearby. The two boats each became so weighted down with the catch of fish that they all but sank. And then what happened? Apostle Peter fell to his knees before the Teacher and implored Him: "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord." "For," explains the holy Evangelist Luke, "he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fish which they had taken."

    As an experienced fisherman, Apostle Peter knew better than most that in the normal source of affairs it would be impossible to have found such a quantity of fish. There was no doubt in his mind that what had happened was a tremendous miracle. And he, humbly acknowledging  himself to be unworthy even to be in the presence of the One Who accomplishes such things, prayed: "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man..." All night these professional fishermen, masters of their trade, had toiled and caught nothing. But a single word from the Lord wrought something far beyond man's natural comprehension.

     An almost identical miracle is described in the Gospel of St. John (2L:5-12), the only difference is that the miracle discussed above occurred at the beginning of our Lord's ministry, while- the second took place already after His Resurrection. Thereby, both at the beginning and at the end of His soul saving ministry, the Lord, anticipating the labors and sorrows ahead of them, strengthened His disciples with these miracles in which He showed them how, vain and fruitless their labors were without this blessing, and how successful and productive they were when given His blessing and all-powerful aid.

 

 Without Me you can do nothing.

      These Gospel accounts serve also to strengthen us in our weaknesses. If your labors seem to come to nought, do not despair; remember that the Lord acts to discourage you from relying on  yourself and your own strengths, on your own talents and learning; He desires that you come to realize your utter weakness and powerlessness without God's help: He would have you understand through experience the practical significance of His words spoken to the disciples at the last Supper: "Without ,Me you can do nothing.''

We see here how important are God's blessing and God's help. Each time you encounter little or no success in your labors, never fall into despondency; call upon God to help you. No matter how persistent your failures appear, continue to work and to entreat God's help, the Lord ,will answer--and everything will be according to His word; you yourself will be amazed at how fruitful and successful your labors will become--provided you draw upon yourself God's mercy. This can be done only through humble faith and the acknowledgment of your unworthiness. While a man thinks highly of himself, while he seeks in others the cause of his failures rather than in himself, he cannot expect to receive the help of God. We read in the Gospel of a man who brought his demon-possessed son to the Saviour; he blamed not himself but the disciples for his son's continued madness. But when the Lord Jesus Christ made clear to him the reason his son was not healed, the man humbly cried out: "Lord, I believe; help Thou my unbelief" (Mark 9:2a). And at that instant God's help appeared, and the Lord healed his son.

     You should likewise place all your actions, all your undertakings into the right hand of God's Providence, and pray that the Lord Himself bless you and help you in your labors. Then He who said "He will call unto Me and I shall hearken unto him" (Ps. 90:i5) --will also hear you, and it shall be unto you according to your faith and according to your prayer. 

Metropolitan Philaret
late Chief Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad

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