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Jesus’s 4 Tips for Burning Your Ships

How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.
–1 Kings 18:21

The phrase “burn the ships” comes from the Spanish explorer Hernan Cortes. When he landed in Vera Cruz, he realized the journey ahead would be dangerous, so he burned the ships, making retreat impossible. The only direction he and his crew could go was forward. There comes a time in our relationship with God when we have to “burn the ships” and decide that we are all in.

Elijah did that with the Israelites. In 1 Kings 18:21, he was on top of Mount Carmel with the evil king and queen, the prophets of Baal, and the people of Israel when he issued his own burn-the-ships challenge: “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.”

How did the Israelites respond to Elijah’s challenge? “The people did not answer him a word” (v. 21). I’m convinced that there are many Christians today who, like the Israelites, are in the neutral zone with God. They have never quite decided who is going to be their God: the real God or themselves. It’s time to make up your mind whom you are going to serve. Jesus said the same thing when He issued His own burn-the-ships challenge in Matthew 16:24-25: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” He leaves no room for half-hearted commitment. This is the call for all-in discipleship.

I remember very well the first time I ever heard my own burn-the-ships challenge from God. I was sixteen years old, and I had accumulated quite a bit of money by playing my accordion for various events. I used my earnings for my spending money. Then I started volunteering for a little church. One Sunday night, the pastor shared a vision God had given him to start a bus ministry where kids from the inner city could come, hear the gospel, and be saved. It was a great vision; the only problem was that the church had no buses. But the pastor was sure this was a vision from God, so he announced, “Next Sunday, we are going to take an offering to buy buses, and I want you to pray about what you will give.” God’s instruction to me was clear: “I want you to give everything in your bank account to the bus ministry.” I protested, “Wait a minute, Lord, that doesn’t make sense.” But He said, “I want you to give all of it.” That was the biggest decision I had ever made up to that point: Was I going to listen to God or not? Finally, I wrote a check for all of it and put it in the offering plate. I can’t tell you the relief I felt in giving that money to God. And more valuable than the money was the lesson I learned that when God speaks, you better answer completely to His call.

God makes those calls to all of us from time to time–a challenge to see if we are all in or not.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Jesus’s 4 Tips for Burning Your Ships” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2017.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.


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