Burn the Ships
In 1519, the Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés set sail for Mexico with 11 ships and between 600 and 700 men. His goal was to conquer the Aztecs and establish a Spanish settlement. The Aztecs were a very cruel people and performed thousands of human sacrifices to their gods every year. They also captured and possessed many slaves. Their population upon Cortés’ arrival was approximately five million.
Mathematically, the odds were stacked against Cortés and his men by a ratio of 7,541 to 1. Two previous expeditions had failed, yet he succeeded and conquered much of the South American continent.
What Cortés did at the beginning of this endeavor is the stuff of legends. Some say the actions were a result of his men becoming so intimidated by the odds and hardships that they decided to give up and go home. Others say Cortés didn’t even wait for that to occur before taking this drastic measure. Either way, Cortés left no doubt that they were staying. “Burn the ships!” he commanded his officers. Cortés removed the option, turning the mission into an all-or-nothing proposition.(1)
In the 1990s, Steven Curtis Chapman released a song about this action of Cortés, comparing it to the Christian faith. Our entire family loved the song. I’ll provide a link for you to be able to listen to it at the end of today’s post. Here is the first verse and chorus:
“In the spring of 1519, a Spanish fleet set sail
Cortés told his sailors this mission must not fail
On the eastern shore of Mexico, they landed with great dreams
But the hardships of the new world make them restless and weak
Quietly they whispered, ‘Let's sail back to the life we knew’
But the one who led them there was saying
"Burn the ships we're here to stay
There's no way we could go back
Now that we've come this far by faith
Burn the ships we've passed the point of no return
Our life is here so let the ships burn and burn."
Life gives us many opportunities to burn the ships. The ships aren’t physical, of course, but are in our minds and hearts. We are saying, “I’ve made my decision, there is no reversing it. I’m not going back.” We may remove the option of returning to bad habits. Or we close the door to the pain of yesterday’s losses. We move on from setbacks, hope deferred, failed dreams. And we burn the ships of retreat to our old life of sin.
We must also burn the ships at times when we set our sails toward great endeavors and dreams. Along the way, we will always be met with adversity, detours, and failures. The best way to keep from giving up is to enter the sanctum of our hearts at the onset and remove the option. Our Founding Fathers were burning the ships when they signed their names to the Declaration of Independence: When they pledged their “lives, fortunes and sacred honor;”(2) when Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death”(3) when Lewis Morris said, “Damn the consequences, give me the pen,”(4) they were all burning the ships.
When Jesus said, “No man, having put his hand to the plow and turning back, is fit for the kingdom of God,” He was saying, “Burn the ship.” When He became a microscopic seed and was planted in the womb of a virgin teenager, Christ burned the ship.
When Johann Leonhard Dober and David Nitschmann, two young Moravian Brethren from Herrnhut, Germany, were called in 1732 to minister to the African slaves on the islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix in the Danish West Indies, they were told they would not be allowed to do such a thing. So Dober and Nitschmann sold themselves to a slave owner and boarded a ship bound for the West Indies.(5) As the ship pulled away from the docks, they called out to their loved ones on shore, "May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering!" When they sold themselves to preach the gospel to an oppressed people, they were burning the ships.
The generation of Israelites that came out of Egypt failed to burn the ships. When times got tough they said to Moses, “We want to go back to Egypt.” Only Joshua and Caleb had burned their ships. (see Numbers 14:4)
Esther burned the ship when deciding she would risk all for her Jewish family. “If I perish, I perish,” she said. Then she broke protocol, approached the king, and saved a nation! (see Esther 4:16)
When William Wallace said, “Every man dies, not every man really lives…they may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom!”(6) he was burning the ship.
When God imparted his heart for America to me in 2000; when He showed me His great need for a strong America, loyal to Him; when He made it clear to me that America’s destiny, given by Him, was to trumpet the gospel of the Kingdom to all the nations of the earth; when He and I wept together for three and a half hours over her fallen condition; when I accepted the mantle to see her return to Him through a third great awakening…I burned the ship.
Revival in America is not optional. Intercession to birth it isn’t, either. Some who have prayed in the past have given up. They have gone back to passivity and complacency. We must count the cost, commit to the cause, and determine that we will see this assignment through to a restored and revived America.
Pray with me:
Father, Thank You for Your determination to redeem us. Lord Jesus, we thank You for persevering through the incarnation, Cross, and punishment for our sins. Thank You for burning the ships. Likewise, we pledge our allegiance to You and Your cause around the world. Indeed, may You receive the reward of Your suffering.
Father, we ask for an infusion of new strength and determination to see America revived and transformed. May we be found faithful to serve Your purpose in our generation. We thank You for the incredible calling You have on this nation. We are so, so sorry we have rejected it and turned from You. We have trampled under-foot the blood of Your Son. Cleanse us, we pray. We appeal to You, just as our Founders did, deliver us from the strongholds of evil that have us bound. Give us a fresh start. Cause the fires of revival to burn in our nation as they never have before. We pray for the children, youth, and young adults of America. We have allowed filth and lies to be poured into our nation for six decades. This caused such severe spiritual decay and loss of truth that most of this young generation has seen no true representation of You. They have been fed lies and deception. They need Your powerful intervention and rescue. Come and save them!
We pray for these revival fires, the river of Your Spirit and the wind of awakening to be released throughout the world. Send revival to Asia. Pour out Your spirit in the Middle East. Send revival to Europe, as well. We pray especially for Ukraine. Deliver them from the oppressor, and retaliate against the evil with an earth-shaking revival. We ask for this, in Christ’s name. Amen.
We declare that we will never turn back, we will never give up on seeing America saved. And America SHALL be saved.
You can listen to Steven Curtis Chapman’s Burn the Ships here.
Click on the link below to watch the full video.