22. No longer empty

  Life is full of special times and occasions.

Life would be empty without special events to celebrate:  Engagements, marriages, baby births, birthdays,  graduations, anniversaries, etc.

But life also has its setbacks that cause one to feel empty: Physical handicaps, debilitating diseases, marriage breakups, and death amongst a host of other problems.

In this session, we’re going to briefly look at an occasion when Jesus converted an apparent setback into a miracle

Read the story in  Matthew 14:13-21.

Photo by Leah Kelley:


We all experience those times when, because of circumstances, life seems to be empty and meaningless.

  • What emptiness have you been experiencing lately?
  • Some may have lost loved ones. A brother or sister, a parent or child, a spouse or some other beloved family member or friend. The emptiness left by the one who has gone is traumatic.

I lost Arthur, my only brother, to cancer on 23rd December several years back. Christmas still holds an element of sadness for my wife, Shirl, and me. It’s hard, isn’t it? People try to comfort and say, “He/she has gone to a better place.” That’s true – but Arthur didn’t take me with him. He is no longer a part of my life and I miss him.

  • Many of you have had to say goodbye to your children as they’ve left the nest.

Shirl and I will never forget the day we said goodbye to our daughter Debbie who, with her husband Craig and two small children, took off for the mission field in Venezuela. That was hard. Knowing that it was right because it was the Lord’s will, didn’t make it any easier for us. We still felt that feeling of loss.

  • Perhaps severe illness has brought about emptiness in your life. You can’t do what you used to do before.
  • Some may be experiencing the emptiness of a broken relationship. Perhaps your marriage partner or the love of your life found someone else to love.


In today’s passage we encounter another form of emptiness caused by being without food for a long period.

It had been a long tiring day and it was getting late. Jesus’s disciples tried to persuade Him to send the people off to the villages to buy food. Jesus responded, You give them something to eat. (Matthew 14:16 NIV) Five thousand people and Jesus expected the disciples to feed them all. Come on!

“But Master all we can muster is five loaves of bread and two fish. That will never feed this crowd.”

“Bring them here to me.” (Verse 17) Jesus said, “Bring me what you’ve got.”

The disciples could have reacted, “Forget it! No way. We’re not going to look like fools. We don’t have anything like enough food.” Then the crowds would have gone home hungry. And the disciples would never have witnessed an amazing miracle.

Jesus went on to feed that massive crowd of five thousand from the very tiny offering the disciples had to offer.

We all go through periods when we feel that we have nothing to offer, don’t we? Times when we feel empty—drained of joy, enthusiasm, strength. Empty. So what does He want us to do?


He asks us to bring Him what we have.

All the disciples could muster was in effect one person’s picnic lunch. John tells us that it was a lad’s lunch (John 6:9). Yet from it Jesus fed that massive crowd, with leftovers.

Have you ever stopped to wonder why Jesus over-catered?

Paul tells us that Jesus loves to do – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! (Ephesians 3:20a – The Message)

The disciples only had “five small barley loaves and two small fish’ (John 6:9 NIV). Jesus not only fed the crowd of 5000 men (not counting the women and kids!) yet there were twelve baskets of left-overs.

Why?? Far more than we dare ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20 CEV)


What area of your life feels empty today?

What can you bring to Him so that He can use it to work a miracle in your life?

  • Do you have an empty home?
  • Is your life lacking companionship?
  • Do you have lots of love to share but no-one to share it with?
  • Have you got time on your hands—through illness, or bereavement?

The disciples had no clue how Jesus would feed that large crowd with five small loaves and two tiny fish, but He used what they gave Him.

His (Jesus's) power at work in us can do far more than we dare ask or imagine. Ephesians 3:20b CEV Click To Tweet

You may not know what Jesus can do in your life. But if you don’t offer Him what you have, you may never know.

As we bring this session to a close, whatever the cause of your emptiness bring it to Jesus. Bring Him whatever you have, whatever you’re capable of doing.

Do what He shows you and may you experience many happy surprises seeing Him by means of his power working in you … do so much more than you can ever ask for, or even think of (Ephesians 3:20  GNB).

May you experience the joy of seeing how He uses what you offer Him in an amazing way. He may not do as you expect; He rarely does. But give Him what you have anyway.

Listen to this beautiful rendition of Give Them All by the Gaither Group.

If you haven’t yet read the Introduction to Encounters with Jesus, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.

Nets full of fish

Habakkuk 1:16 GNB

‘They even worship their nets and offer sacrifices to them, because their nets provide them with the best of everything.’

Image by Quang Nguyen vinh from Pixabay

Continuing with the theme of fishing, Habakkuk adds that the Chaldeans attributed their gain (their netted catch) to their own military strength, their weapons of warfare and their false gods, rather than to the true God.

They Idolised their nets.

The picture of the net in Habakkuk 1:16  is related to what we saw in the previous two verses—the idea that men were reduced to the level of fishes and creeping things. So the net then speaks of the instruments used by the Chaldeans by which they subdued the opposition. Because these were the means of their success, they also became a focus of their worship. 

Matthew Henry comments, “They admire their own cleverness and contrivance” (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary)

Whatever we place our trust in becomes a god—power, popularity, prosperity, performance, etc.

  • By this standard, is there anything in your life that might be catagorised as a god?
  • Where might you be tempted to take the glory for some outward success,  when in fact it is God who enabled you to obtain the achievement in the first place?

We find numerous illustrations of this attitude in the workplace. Intoxicated by pride, the worldly see the increase of their wealth and power as evidence of their own personal skill and strength. They couldn’t be more wrong.

Taking precautions

Unfortunately, even among those who claim to be Christians, there are people who forget God’s encouragement in His Word: “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:6 ESV) when it comes to secular matters. 

  • In what types of situations are you tempted to rely on your own resources, rather than seeking the help of the Holy Spirit?

Self-reliance, self-conceit, self-exaltation, self-seeking, self-worship, are evils that intrude— even into the church and our Christian lives.

We all need a deeper awareness of God’s presence, and to allow Him to permeate our lives.

Let’s move away from the Chaldean problem for a moment.

  • Take a look at the above picture of fishermen drawing in their nets.What thoughts come to mind?

An Amazing Life-changing Catch.

Can you think of two occasions in Scripture when Jesus blessed those fishermen-disciples who had toiled all night and yet caught no fish (Luke 5:5-10; John 21:3-11)?

The first occasion was in the early days of Jesus’ ministry. Following Jesus’ instructions, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break (Luke 5:6 NIV). This had an amazing effect on the disciples. (Did you get that one?)

Jesus followed that miraculous catch with their new calling: “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people” (Luke 5:10 NIV). 

A Miraculous Catch

The second occasion came at the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, after His resurrection from the dead. Jesus had instructed His followers to meet with Him in Galilee. They waited, but Jesus delayed His arrival. Impatient Peter could not bear being idle, so he announced that he was going fishing, and six others decided to join him. They went out in a boat. Although they fished all night, they did not catch even one single minnow.

Jesus appeared on the shoreline and asked, “Friends, have you caught anything?” ( John 21:5 CEV). When they admitted their failure, Jesus instructed them to “Let your net down on the right side of your boat, and you will catch some fish” (John 21:6 CEV).

Their catch was enormous. “The net was so full of fish that they could not drag it up into the boat”(John 21:6 CEV). When they finally beached their boat on the shore, Jesus instructed them to bring some of their fish so they could have a fish braai (barbecue). “Simon Peter got back into the boat and dragged the net to shore. In it were one hundred fifty-three large fish, but still the net did not rip” (John 21:11 CEV). (How did you do? Did you get both occasions?)

Like the early disciples we still have a job to do - continue fishing for people for the kingdom. Click To Tweet

A full net of fish.

F C Payne has written a fascinating book entitled ‘Seal of God’, in which he teaches about Bible numerics. His comments relating to John 21:11 are extremely enlightening. He points out that the Greek word for ‘fishes’ is ICHTHES with a numerical value of 1,224 (8 x 153). While the Greek word for ‘net’ is DIKTOUN which has the identical value 1224 (8 x 153).

Now then what is the significance of the numbers 8 and 153? Payne points out that the number 8 symbolises ‘reurrection or new begining’ while 153 symbolises the ‘completed church’. So if there had been one fish less in the net, the picture would not have been complete. Once the completed catch had been drawn up on the shore, Jesus said, “Come and dine,” which Payne associates with the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. (Adapted from ‘Seal of God’ by F C Payne)

So then, until God’s appointed number of Christ’s followers has been reached, like the early disciples we still have a job to do— to continue fishing for new additions to the kingdom. 

Praise the Lord, we who have opened our lives to Jesus are already in His net. Let us not idolise anything, or anyone, above Him. 

If you are not sure that you are in His net, please contact your pastor or someone you know to be a committed Christian, who will be able to help you.

Will you share the significance of the number 153 with someone in the next 24 hours? Please share with me in the comment section.

P.S. If you haven’t yet read the background to the prophecy, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.

A joyful fisherman – fishing for fish

Habakkuk 1:15 GNB

‘The Babylonians catch people with hooks, as though they were fish. They drag them off in nets and shout for joy over their catch!’

Image by fikret kabay from Pixabay

Fishing for Fish   

You will remember that in the last session I asked you whether you had done any fishing. 

  • So remind me, Are you, or someone you know, perhaps a keen fisherman?

It amazes me the patience men and a few women exhibit. They will spend hours on end alongside a river or the shoreline with a rod and reel fishing, hoping that a fish would bite. As I mentioned the last session I lack the perseverance to spend time in that way.

Again in this study, our verse focusses on fish and fishing. We saw in the last study how Habakkuk likened people to fish. Here in this verse, he follows up on that picture by referring to Judah’s enemy as evil fishermen.

Gone fishing

Once again I am about to give you some indication of my age. Two of the old-time greats, the crooner Bing Crosby and the trumpeter Loius Armstrong, recorded a duet song entitled Gone Fishin. The one complains that when he calls, the other is never at home and the notice on the door inevitably states “Gone Fishing

Photo by Matt Hardy from Pexels

I love the story from a book, source unknown, that says, A lady giving her testimony commented, “Jesus said, ‘I will make you fishers of men’ and I have been fishing for men ever since.”

Habakkuk pictures Nebuchadnezzar and his army as fishing in the sea of the Middle Eastern world. Their intention being the capture of people, as if their opponents were fish and the army was taking control. In particular their fishing expedition is to catch all the inhabitants of Judea, good or bad, big or small, without exception.

Our adversary has the same goal in mind. He wants to capture us and take control.

  • Are you perhaps on the hook of some habit which you cannot break free of?

Share it with someone you can trust for prayer backing to break the habit.

Satan’s Fishing expedition

A skirmish took place in the heavenlies when Satan sought to usurp God’s authority and was banished to our world (Isaiah 14:12-15; Luke 10:18: Revelation 12:7-9). Since his banishment, along with his band of rebellious angels he has concentrated on seducing mankind to live lives apart from God. Let’s make sure he doesn’t get away with it in our lives.

Like the Babylonians, the devil and his cohorts rejoice at their catch when they are able to seduce men and women to disobey the principles of God contained in the Word. More particularly, they want us to reject the Saviour whom God sent to set us free from his bondage.

At times, his enticements are so desirable that it is easy to be tempted. 

  • Is there an area in your life where you battle to resist Satan? Again, ask for some prayer support. There is no Christian who doesn’t do battle with Satan on a daily basis. “All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory” (Romans 3:23 CEV). Even Jesus was tempted. He just didn’t fall.
  • Do you feel as if the evil one has you on his hook and you cannot break free? Christ came to rescue us from satan’s power over us. “No, in all these things we have complete victory through him (Christ)who loved us! “(Romans 8:37 GNB)

Bad fisherman

My wife Shirley and I recently watched a movie entitled ‘Blue Miracle’ involving a group of orphans who served as the crew to a deep sea fisherman. They were participants in a competition to catch the biggest blue marlin. On the second day of the competition, they caught a large marlin on their line but lost it when two of the youngsters fell overboard and had to be rescued.

The good news is that the devil may have us on the line and he may be trying to reel us in but Jesus is available to rescue us if we allow Him to. You see our enemy is a bad fisherman.

Satan is a bad fisherman! Jesus is our safety raft. Click To Tweet

Our adversary IS poor at fishing

Never forget he is a defeated foe. Defeated by Christ on the cross of Calvary.

”We are people of flesh and blood. That is why Jesus became one of us. He died to destroy the devil, who had power over death.” (Hebrews 2:14 CEV.)

“Anyone who keeps on sinning belongs to the devil. He has sinned from the beginning, but the Son of God came to destroy all that he has done.” (1 John 3:8 CEV.)

If you are on the devil’s line or if you know of a family member or friend who has been caught by him won’t you pray this prayer.

Prayer :

Gracious Heavenly Father I realise that I/ that …………………. has/have been caught in Satan’s net. I praise You that You have provided the means of our being set free when You sent Your Son Jesus into the world to be it’s Saviour. Thank You Jesus’ for the sacrifice you made on my/…………..behalf. Now I ask that I/that …………………/ may be set free from bondage to Satan and live life in the future to Your glory under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


If you haven’t yet read the background to the prophecy, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.

Or would you rather be a fish? – Big Fish or little fish?

Habakkuk 1:14 CEV

‘You have made people like the fish in the sea, like the sea creatures that have no ruler.’

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Have you ever caught a fish?

  • Have you ever gone fishing? What was your experience?

A neighbour here at our retirement village is very keen on fishing. However, I have only participated in a fishing trip twice. On the first occasion, as a youngster I was taken fishing at the seashore near Gordon’s Bay in the Western Cape, by two uncles. They loaned me a rod but sadly I lacked the patience to persevere, caught nothing, gave up, and instead explored the rock pools.

Years later I was invited by a colleague to minister at his church in Sinoia (Zimbabwe). At one point over the weekend, we went fishing at the Kariba Dam. I caught two angelfish whilst my colleague, a keen fisherman, caught nothing.

Mankind likened to fish

The late Bing Crosby had a popular tune entitled ‘Swinging on a star’. In the song he asks whether you would like to swing on a star or be a … and he goes through various creatures. In one of the verses he asks, ‘or would you rather be a fish’. He describes a fish and concludes  though he’s slippery, he still gets caught.’

In Habakkuk’s second complaint to God about the use of the Chaldeans to punish Judah, the prophet likens all men to fish – speechless and helpless, with no power to resist who therefore soon get caught.

  • Can you recall an occasion when Satan has tricked you into believing that you have no power to resist?

‘He [Habakkuk) compares the world to the sea; men to fishes; Nebuchadnezzar to a fisherman’ (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary), constantly casting his nets and capturing his prey.

Big fish eat little fish

We live in a society today where the big fish eat the little fish, and the even bigger fish eat the big fish. The same was true of Habakkuk’s day. Babylon was gobbling up the smaller nations, and God was seemingly not taking any action to establish justice.

  • Can you think of a present-day example of this in practice?
  • Into which group would you place yourself – big fish or little fish?

Scripture teaches us that God is not blind to the evil in our world. God constantly warns evil-doers throughout Scripture.

“They have left the true road and have gone down the wrong path by following the example of the prophet Balaam. He was the son of Beor and loved what he got from being a crook…These people are like dried up water holes and clouds blown by a windstorm. The darkest part of hell is waiting for them.” (2 Peter 2:15,17 CEV)

Fish without a ruler

Habakkuk asked the Lord why He had made people like fish and other sea creatures, apparently without a ruler.

‘You have made people like the fish in the sea, like the sea creatures that have no ruler.’ over them.

Mankind, in general, may be likened to fish without a ruler because without Jesus in their lives they are a law unto themselves. We continue to see clear evidence of this during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown protocols. Despite numerous appeals by our state president here in South Africa, many folk still refuse to wear masks covering both nose and mouth, to sanitise their hands regularly, to keep their social distance, and avoiding mass gatherings. 

  • Is it the same in your country? Share in a comment below, and tell us where you live. 

Many who have opened their lives to Jesus as their Saviour have yet to yield to him as their Lord.  They still fail to allow His Holy Spirit to guide and direct their words and actions.

  • Is there perhaps an area of your life where you are still very much in control?
  • Can you honestly say Jesus is Lord of your life? If not why not? How can you rectify this?

God has made us for Himself and we are incomplete until we are complete in Him - St Augustine Click To Tweet

Please join me in prayer:

Gracious Heavenly Father I realise that there are areas in my life where Jesus is not Lord of my words or my actions. Please forgive me. Holy Spirit, please help me to be so guided and directed by you that Jesus is seen to be, not only my Saviour, but also Lord of my life. These things I ask in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Don’t forget to tell me what country you’re from. I’d love to know.


If you haven’t yet read the background to the prophecy, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.