Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Burn the SHIPS

In the Spring of 1519, the conquistador, Hernando Cortez and his troops landed on the shores of Mexico. He commanded 11 ships, more than 500 soldiers, 100 sailors, and 16 horses. When they began, they were men on a mission, searching for the untold riches that were rumored to be hidden deep in the Mexican landscape. Precious jewels, gold, and silver were calling their name. The prospect of gaining enormous wealth was enough to encourage many to sign up for this risky endeavor. They were excited. They were going to be rich!

But by the time they actually landed on the shores of Mexico, the attitude had shifted, and there was a problem. Some who began the journey with energy and excitement were now grumbling and longing to return home. Cortez did all he could to motivate the troops and remind them of the riches that were ahead of them. But some continued to long for home, and they fixed their gaze on the ships anchored in the harbor. Some were longing for the life they used to have. And the morale of Cortez's troops continued to weaken. If things continued this way, the mission would fail before it even began. Cortez needed to act, and he needed to act quickly.

"Burn the ships," he commanded his men.

"Do what?" they surely asked.

"Burn them. Burn the ships. We've come this far and we're not turning back."

And upon his command, the men set their ships ablaze. And they watched any connection to their past lives literally go up in smoke as the fires consumed the vessels. They had eliminated any options. There was nowhere to run. They were forced to embrace the new lives they had chosen. Instead of longing for the past, their focus became the mission at hand. When things became difficult and their opponents seemed too overwhelming, they couldn't turn around and run away. There was nowhere to run. Moving forward was their only choice. Instead of re-treading old paths, they were forced to create a new path - one that would lead to victory. It was a defining moment in the lives of Cortez and his men.

As Christians, we have signed up for a similar mission. We have been given the option of following Jesus wherever he leads, or longing for the life we have left behind. A few months ago I read a book by Mark Batterson entitled, Chase the Lion. This book discusses how God can use the obstacles in our lives as a means to accomplish amazing things. Towards the end of the account of David's reign, found in 2 Samuel,there's a quick explanation of the exploits of a man named Benaiah, the chief of David's bodyguard. He fought two Moabites at one time. Armed only with a club, he took on an Egyptian giant who had a spear. He chased a lion into a pit on a snowy day. You might be like me and think, "Snow? Isn't the Middle East pretty much desert? Isn't it hot and dry?" When we think of the region, we don't really think of it as being snowy - even in the winter. Apparently, snow is quite common in the hill country of the region. It's not very deep snow, however that doesn't mean it's not slick. And there are some winters where they don't get any snow at all. The mountains, of course, are covered with snow most of the year. This snow becomes the source for much of the water in the region

Benaiah had a choice when he encountered these obstacles. No one would blame him when he added up the odds he faced when the two Moabite warriors showed up. 2-on-1 is not favorable odds. He could have waited for reinforcements to arrive. Or he could have run.

No one would have blamed him when he assessed the situation with the Egyptian giant. A spear has a much larger range than a mere club. Benaiah could have retreated and waited until he had the high ground or had a more sophisticated weapon.

And when the lion fell into that pit on a snowy day, common sense says to just walk away. Instead, he chased the lion into the pit. And despite the odds, despite the fact that each event looked like lost causes, Benaiah emerged victorious.

In the same spirit of Benaiah, God is calling us to be Lion Chasers. The lions that we face could be the very obstacle that God will use to bring Himself glory through your life. That means He wants us to take some risks - to step out on faith and watch how God will work. He wants us to leave the comfort of the old life we knew before beginning a relationship with Him and blaze new trails, forging a new path. That's one of the keys to being a Lion Chaser - stop repeating the past and start creating the future.

I believe that God is calling His people to "burn the ships" of your past. For some, these ships represent your comfort zone. It is so easy to just coast through life, living to "arrive safely at death." That is not what God has called us to be or do. Just like Jesus did to Simon Peter, in the middle of a storm, He is doing the same to us… He is asking us to"GET OUT OF THE BOAT", take a step of faith. It is easy to talk of faith, but God is calling His children to walk out faith! To do that, you have to do some things that a few would think is CRAZY. When Cortez instructed his men to "burn the ships," I am certain some thought he was a nut case! I truly believe that some of us will go to our grave with REGRETS if we do not make a decision to "burn the ships!" Step out by faith…go against the odds…as the Lord leads you, and you just might be surprised at what God has in store for you. I would like to share with you the "Lions Chasers Manifesto" from In a pit with a lion on a snowy day":

Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Grab life by the mane. Set God-sized goals. Pursue God-ordained passions. Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention. Stop pointing out problems and become part of the solution. Stop repeating the past and start creating the future. Stop playing it safe and start taking risks. Expand your horizons. Accumulate experiences. Enjoy the journey. Find every excuse you can to celebrate everything you can. Live like today is the first day and last day of your life. Don't let what's wrong with you keep you from worshipping what's right with God. Burn sinful bridges. Blaze a new trail. Criticize by creating. Worry less about what people think and more about what God thinks. Don't try to be who you're not. Be yourself. Laugh at yourself. Quit holding out. Quit holding back. Quit running away.

Lion chasers face fears. Do not run from fears. Do not bow before them. Do not submit to them. Our fears are ultimately as powerless as the false gods they represent. Fear the Lord--nothing else. Worship the Lord and no one else. Worship the Lord who is able. Worship the Lord who is worthy. Worship the Lord…and follow where ever He leads…regardless of the cost! Blessings!

Pastor Rusty


Anonymous said...

what a word. that was powerfull and that was a real challenge. we are a people who love our security. the sad thing is that many times that security has nothing to do with the Lord. i agree with you...burn the boats and totally depend on God.

Leigh Ann Kennedy said...

I was just about to go to bed tonight, but something told me to go to the computer to check my e-mails before bed - which I never do. And here were words of encouragement which address my present state of being as clearly and closely as possible - as if Pastor Rusty knew what I've been experiencing for the past three months.
I read today in Brennan Manning's "The Importance of Being Foolish" that no matter how often Jesus associated with social outcasts or spoke out against hypocritical rulers, He never became insecure about His mission - and there were plenty of important people lobbing criticism and threats His way. In fact, Jesus encouraged his disciples over and over and over "don't have any fear or anxiety about anything." And that's what I've set my mind to do.
Right now, I'm living on hope and faith, having struck out to fulfill a dream God has placed in me. And right now, I don't see anybody headed my way with a paycheck. But I can't go backward. I can only move forward in faith, believing that God already has His plan in motion to fulfill this hope, this dream He put in my heart. I've just got to keep alert and praying another hour in that garden. Please pray for me that I'll trust God enough to wait on His plan.

macymiamom said...

Mmmmm...good stuff!

Pastor Rusty said...

Thanks Anonymous! I am so thankful that it ministered to you. rlb

Pastor Rusty said...

Leigh Ann, please know that Dorinda and I will certainly be praying with you. Thank you so much for sharing your heart in your comment. I am memorizing the Lion Chasers manifesto that I put in my blog. It is so challenging to me. It is such a temptation to live the "easy life" without stepping out by faith and just stay back in our comfort zone. I believe as we "burn the ships" God will lead us, provide for us, protect us, and ultimately reward the faithfulness! No telling what God has in store for you just around the corner! Blessings! rlb

Pastor Rusty said...

Thanks for your comment macymiamom!!! rlb