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Secret #4: Decide to Burn the Ships

It is evil and bitter for you to forsake the Lord your God.
–Jeremiah 2:19

On April 22, 1519, Spanish explorer Hernan Cortes landed in Vera Cruz, Mexico, to claim the land. But Cortes and his men faced a daunting challenge: they had to travel 200 cactus-filled, snake-infested miles to the capital city of the Aztec Empire, where Montezuma reigned. There were no supply lines and scarce water and food. Realizing that his men might be tempted to turn back, Cortes did the unthinkable: he ordered his ships to be set on fire, making retreat impossible. They would either conquer the land or die in their attempt to do so.

Today, we use the phrase “burn the ships” to describe a decision that is “all in” to a commitment. Occasionally in life we have to make a burn-the-ships decision. Are you going to stay in a difficult marriage or bail? Do you continue an immoral but fulfilling relationship or risk a life of loneliness? Do you accept a risky job offer or stay where you are? Will you obey God unconditionally or stay lukewarm in your commitment to Christ? That last decision has an impact not only on this life but in the life beyond. Are you going to burn the ships and be “all in” in your commitment to God?

We have been discovering the seven secrets for a successful and significant life using the story of Elijah. We have seen the first three secrets for a truly extraordinary life. First, discover your unique purpose. Second, determine to influence your culture. Third, learn to wait on God’s timing. This week, we will see in Elijah’s story a fourth secret for a significant life, and that is the decision to burn the ships.

Now, when it comes to our relationship to God, making a burn-the-ships commitment is not popular. In our culture, many people treat faith like a spiritual buffet: they pick and choose world religions and life philosophies that they like and find tasteful to their lifestyle. That is how people decide their belief system. Scratch the surface of most Christians’ faith today, and you’ll discover it may be one part biblical Christianity, two parts new age theology and mysticism, and one part positive thinking pinched with a little sprinkle of American patriotism. That’s how people manufacture their own faith.

But biblical Christianity demands that we be all in when it comes to our relationship with God. The Israelites during Elijah’s time were trying to blend their faith in God with the worship of Baal, and because of that God made this pronouncement against the Israelites: “Your own wickedness will correct you, and your apostasies will reprove you; know therefore and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the Lord your God, and the dread of Me is not in you,” (Jeremiah 2:19). God demands a total commitment to Him, not just a partial commitment.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Secret #4: Decide to Burn the 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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