Expecting the Unexpected

Sometimes God appears to us in unexpected ways, at unexpected times, giving us unexpected tasks that yield unexpected results.

Imagine the scene. Dawn is just beginning to appear on the horizon. The darkness is fading as the fishing boat drifts closer towards the shoreline.

I imagine that it was fairly quiet on that boat. There would have been the gentle lapping of the waves against the side, maybe the occasional cry of a seabird, the periodic throwing out and hauling in of the fishing nets. But for much of the time, Peter and the other six disciples would have been lost deep in their thoughts. That was understandable. For three years they had been followers of Jesus. They had almost believed, with increasing excitement, that he might be the Christ – the Messiah – the one who would deliver their nation. As he had entered Jerusalem for the Passover feast he had been greeted wildly by the crowd, who cheered and shouted and waved palm leaves. Surely this was Him!

Then, unexpectedly, during 24 terrible hours, he had been arrested, given a mockery of a trial, crucified an agonizing death, and buried in a tomb.

But that wasn’t all. Three days later they had found the tomb was empty – and then they had seen him again! He had appeared to a woman at the tomb on that Sunday morning, then two men on a road near Jerusalem, followed by further appearances to the disciples in the Upper Room.

What was next? What did it all mean? What was going on? Where did it all lead them? The disciples had no idea. Their confusion, their uncertainty, their need for practical reality drove them back to what they knew best – fishing. Again, this was understandable – but it hadn’t got them anywhere.

They had been out in the boat all night and had caught nothing. Then a man appears in the half-light on the shore about 100 yards away. He calls out to them. “Hey there! Have you caught anything?”

“Nothing – it’s been a disastrous night!”

“Then throw your nets on the right side of the boat – there you will find fish”.

Recognition hits. Peter, ever impulsive, wraps his cloak around him and leaps into the water. The others trail back to shore hauling the huge catch behind them and find that Jesus is already busy preparing breakfast. (Read John 21 for the full story!)

Sometimes Jesus shows up in ways, and at times, that we don’t expect. Peter and friends certainly had no expectation that Jesus was to be their chef that morning. Yet, He may speak to us in countless ways – through His Word, through another person, through nature, through a vision or dream. He wants to speak into our lives – and He can do that at any time and in ways that are boundless! Are we watching and listening for this?

There may be times when Jesus calls us to do unexpected things. Throwing the nets over the other side of the boat must have sounded like a bizarre suggestion to the disciples. What did this guy standing on the shoreline think that they had been doing all night?! Yet sometimes Jesus will call us to do things that don’t fit in with our own plans, or that we don’t immediately understand. At those times, we must choose to follow and obey – or we will miss out on His good plans.

Obedience to the call of Jesus often yields results that are unexpected. The disciples were obedient and threw the nets out on the other side of the boat – and the fish obligingly swam straight in! That was certainly not what the disciples had expected. And there may be times for us all when a situation looks totally hopeless and yet, when we listen to God and follow his commands, He can produce amazing and unexpected results.

Sometimes God appears to us in unexpected ways, at unexpected times, giving us unexpected tasks that yield unexpected results. We must allow these times to build our faith. As we grow in relationship with him, we should expect to encounter His presence, expect to hear His call, and expect to experience His power more and more in our lives.

That was certainly the case for those first disciples. Within weeks, empowered by the Holy Spirit, they had started declaring Jesus to the nations, performing miracles, and enduring hardship for His name with boldness and courage.

How are you expecting to see God working in your life, and in the situations around you, in the coming week?

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