Burning Your Ships
by Ryan Duncan, crosswalk.com
“In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14:33
Every now and then, when I’ve got some time to spare, I’ll turn on the History Channel and let myself get lost in the past. Recently, I started watching a documentary on the Age of Exploration, when the kingdoms of Europe were sending out ships to explore the Americas. To the Europeans, the New World was a place of limitless promise but also great danger. Faced with new cultures, strange animals, and deadly plagues, many explorations returned home in failure.
Then in February 1519, an explorer named Hernando Cortez was commissioned by the Spanish Crown to sail to the Yucatan and conquer it in the name of Spain. Cortez and his army set out at once, and when they reached the shores of the Yucatan, Cortez turned to his men and said,
“Burn the boats.”
Cortez refused to let turning back be an option. For the sake of his mission, it would be all or nothing. To many of us, this may sound a bit extreme, but as it turns out, Jesus had the same principle when he started his ministry.
“As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He said to another man, “Follow me.” But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-bye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’” –Luke 9:57-62
Being a true Christian is something bold and dangerous. We live in a world that loves compromises, and teaches us that we are free to pick and choose what parts of religion we want to follow. Christ is different. When we become his followers, he tells us to take up our crosses and never look back. To follow him is all or nothing. So take some time today and renew your relationship with Christ, because God never claims a victory until he finally gets it all.
God’s Provision in Our Moment of Greatest Need
“He does not ignore those who need help. He does not hate them. He does not turn away from them. He listens when they cry for help.” Psalm 22:24 (ERV)
My mom has Alzheimer’s.
It’s rare for me to say it out loud. The label. The diagnosis. This was not the plan for my parents’ golden years in retirement. This is a shattered dream.
Alzheimer’s is a slow, painful process of dying that forces family members to continually grieve each and every stage of loss. There is no ripping off of the proverbial “Band-Aid.” And just when you think you have figured out your new normal, it changes again.
For many years, my approach to my mother’s Alzheimer’s was to try to “fix” her. I’m a financial advisor by trade, and people come to me to create plans to “fix” and manage their financial lives.
I treated my mom’s diagnosis just like a client case study. I had action plans and spreadsheets listing the contact information for the very best people to care for her emotional, physical and financial needs. I thought if I worked hard enough, we could change the trajectory of her future health.
But none of it worked the way I thought it would, leaving me devastated. I begged God to explain to me why she had to continue to suffer. Like David in Psalm 22, I cried out to Him, and as David testifies in Psalm 22:24, God stepped in to my moment of greatest need: “He does not ignore those who need help. He does not hate them. He does not turn away from them. He listens when they cry for help.”
God told me through His Holy Spirit that my job was not to fix her. My job was to love her well through every stage and to listen. Don’t correct her when she repeats herself or asks the same question over and over. Do help her live as comfortably as possible with the correct care. But don’t think for one minute that I needed to fix her.
God is the only one in the business of “fixing” people. Even then, He loves us well through every stage of our lives — through the messes and confusion and in our moments of greatest need.
And you know what else I soon realized? My mom doesn’t need the fixing I can provide. She knows exactly who her heavenly Father is and that her salvation is real and her eternity in heaven is secure. She would love to tell you all about it. This is a truth that she still knows, understands and lives out each and every day. She is at peace.
Helping care for her has changed me — making me a better friend, parent and advisor to others. I am more empathetic and authentic. It has drawn me closer to my heavenly Father and kept me on my knees praying for wisdom and guidance, dependent on Him.
God has also reminded me over and over that He loves us through the helpers He’s brought to our family. We are reminded often that He “… does not ignore those who need help” (Psalm 22:24) through the care my mom receives from nurses, therapists and other caregivers at her nursing home. They are truly acting as the hands and feet of Jesus.
God will provide for all of our needs. It may look different than what we ever imagined or even planned for. It certainly may not be glamorous, but God will provide.
For example, my parents bought long-term care insurance many years ago just after my father had triple bypass heart surgery. We thought he might be the one who would need long-term care one day. That insurance has been a monumental financial blessing to our family. We never imagined my mom having Alzheimer’s or being the recipient of the insurance when it was purchased many years ago. However, she now benefits financially and is very well taken care of.
Friend, while I don’t know your specific situation or what your “greatest need” is right now, God does. He is intimately acquainted with your struggles, and He sees the ways you may be trying to fix them on your own. Choose to surrender those struggles and the fixing to Him today … and then watch how He draws you close and provides just what you need at just the right time.
“Take handfuls of soot … The ashes will spread like fine dust over the whole land of Egypt, causing festering boils to break out on people and animals throughout the land.” – Exodus 9:8-9 NLT:8-9 NLT
God asked Pharaoh to let His people go. It seemed like a simple request. But Pharaoh refused. In response, God sent a series of plagues. The first plagues were inconvenient and irritating to Pharaoh, but he found them relatively easy to resist.
Then came the sixth plague, as boils broke out on people and animals throughout the land. Boils are known to be particularly uncomfortable. For the Egyptians, these would have been horribly painful. We get some idea of the impact when we consider the suffering of Job, who was struck with “terrible boils from head to foot” (Job 2:7).
We can be sure that God had no delight in sending boils. But Pharaoh remained stubborn and refused to listen or change. He was prepared to let his people suffer rather than yield and respond to God.
Many people are like this, refusing to listen to God. They continue to go their own way, blind to the impact of their disobedience. The Bible makes clear that God desires to bless us and help us make the right decisions. But this means cooperating with Him, not insisting on our own ways but listening to Him. It means obeying His Word and being sensitive to His correction.
Learn from Pharaoh’s experience. Submit your ways to God. Let Him direct your path. As He leads, be ready to change. Always seek to do things His way and listen to Him.