On February 19, 1519, the Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés set sail for Mexico with an entourage of 11 ships, 13 horses, 110 sailors, and 553 soldiers … what Cortés is reported to have done after landing is an epic tale of mythic proportions. He issued an order that turned his mission into an all-or-nothing proposition: Burn The Ships! As his crew watched their fleet of ships burn and sink, they came to terms with the fact that retreat was not an option.
There are moments in life when we need to burn the ships to our past. We do this by making a defining decision that will eliminate the possibility of sailing back to the old world we left behind. We read in 1 Kings 19 that this is exactly what Elisha did when Elijah approached him as he was plowing his fields with 12 yoke of oxen –
“21 So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.” (1 Kings 19:21NLT)
Elisha said good-bye to his old life once and for all by throwing a party for his friends. He turned his plowing equipment into kindling and braai’d his oxen. It was no doubt the most meaningful and memorable night of his life up until that point because it symbolized the last day of his old life and the first day of his new life. By burning his plowing equipment Elisha couldn’t go back to his old way of life because he destroyed the time machine that would take him there. It was the end of Elisha the farmer and the beginning of Elisha the prophet.
What does this Scriptural account mean in your life as a believer? The apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Colossians,
“3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3NLT)
Similarly in his letter to the Church at Ephesus he wrote,
“22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4: 22 – 24NLT)
In order to begin a new chapter, you must end an old chapter.
While I obviously can’t generalise, I think that one of the fundamental problems with a lot of believers is that they, or dare I say we, want God to do something new while they keep on doing the same old thing. But, change is a two-sided coin. Out with the old is one side, in with the new is the other side. Albert Einstein said that insanity can be defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. In other words we’d be nothing short of insane to think that we as believers are going to experience the fullness of the new life we have been promised in Christ, if we continue living in such a way as to feed the worldly desires of our flesh.
Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew,
“25 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” (Matthew 16:25NLT)
To die to self is to set aside what we want in this moment and focus instead on loving God with everything we’ve got. When we trust in God as our Lord and Saviour, the message of the Gospel changes us as a person, through the work of the Holy Spirit. If we trust in God and don’t see both inward and outward changes in our lives, we aren’t truly living out what we believe in. When we die to our “old self” with all the sin, and desires of the world, we are called to leave it behind and not look back. We cannot think that we can be Christians and still dabble in the ways of the world.
So in closing I want you to seriously consider today what ships do you need to burn in order to destroy the time machine that will keep you from retreating to your former way of life, habits, and behaviours?
May God’s blessings surround you today; trust Him and walk in His way.
May His presence within, guard and keep you from sin.
Know His joy, know His peace, know His love.