Twice in the Gospels, Jesus gives an instruction to His disciples to do something that they initially wonder about. In Luke 5, after going out in Simon Peter's boat to address the crowd that has followed Him to Lake Gennesaret, He tells Peter to "launch out into the deep and let your nets down for a draft" (Luke 5:4 KJV).
Peter reminds Him that they'd been out fishing all night and had caught nothing. "Nevertheless," he says, "at Thy word I will let down the net."
And what happens? They catch so much fish the net breaks and they have to call over another boat to help haul in the catch and the boats are in danger of sinking.
In John 21, Jesus calls to Peter and John and the others, "have you caught anything?" They say no, so He tells them to drop their nets over the other side. According to John, they didn't know it was Jesus, but they do it anyway. And again, they bring in an enormous haul.
Both times, Peter is overwhelmed at the presence of The Lord: in John 21, as soon as John recognizes Him, Peter -- who was, apparently, naked (one of those fishermen's superstitions, I gather), throws on his robe and leaps into the water. In Luke 5, he flings himself at Jesus' feet and says, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!"
We'll sit on that one for a bit, but right now, let's look at the idea of casting your net on the other side of the boat. Peter and company were plying their trade as commercial fishermen; but this time, they were having little success. Along comes Jesus, an outsider to their trade, with some simple advice: do what you're doing, only do it differently. And the result is overwhelmingly successful.
Do what you're doing, only do it differently. Don't we run into situations like that from time to time? We have God-given skills and knowhow, but get into a rut where we seem to be going nowhere using our own measure of success. It certainly happened to me. I'd spent over a quarter-century writing, broadcasting and occasionally dabbling in acting, and had been successful enough to make me think I had something to contribute. Then one day, about a year after the call to Ministry had become too strong to ignore -- and about six months after I'd prayed to God to take over my life and move me to the place He wanted me to be -- I heard Him say, "I want you to take those gifts I have given you for writing and communicating and give them back to Me."
And as I did that, little by little, I found my groove -- and my Ministry. And little by little, God started weaning me away from the worldly measure of success to the point where working at a major-market broadcast outlet is no longer my life's ambition.
I'm using the same gifts He gave me, but for Him now. He has blessed me in myriad ways, both in the success of the Ministry and in my personal life. I dropped my net over the other side of the boat -- and I also rowed out into deeper water: beyond my comfort zone.
(Believe me: going into Skid Road and telling people they don't need to live the way they're living, or going up to a drug dealer and asking him if this is what his life will look like in 10 years -- assuming another drug dealer hasn't blown him away -- is Beyond My Comfort Zone.)
When you combine your God-given gifts with the leading of the Holy Spirit, the results can be overwhelming -- as Peter found out.
But there's a reason why we need to listen, not be overwhelmed, and follow that leading -- and it's not just because we want a new way to be personally successful.
It's because others around us benefit, as well. Peter's net (in Luke 5) broke and he had to call over another boat to help (James and John, in fact). The blessing that came on Peter for being successful literally and figuratively spilled over and started benefitting others. In other words, others around us benefit from our own obedience. God doesn't bless us in order to benefit us solely: we are expected to make sure others get spilled-on.
I know of others who have allowed God to "tweak" their gifts: businesspeople, for example, who bring their leadership and management skills into Ministry; the pastor at the church where I fellowship -- Westpointe Christian Centre -- is also the Worship leader, and he told me he played in a reggae band in his pre-saved days. (He shaves his head now, but I keep trying to imagine him in dreadlocks ... nope, not happening ...) Now he uses those same gifts for the Lord, and we have some of the most awesome Worship times I've ever experienced.
So what about you? Have you dropped your net over the other side of the boat? Have you been led in a different direction with your gifts, once you gave them to the Lord? Have you thought you needed to re-invent your life, only to find that all God needed was to "tweak" your gifts?