Last week, I was speaking to my good friend, mentor and fellow Catholic Evangelist Richard Lane. As is usually the case when I speak with Richard, I was feeling energized and inspired when I hung up the phone. In particular, he told me a neat story about the importance of “not looking back” once you commit your life to Christ. A few days later, I was listening to the radio and I heard the exact story. Considering that I’ve never heard the saga in my 50+ years, I assumed that there is a reason I heard it two times in a week.
The story involves Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes and his arrival in Mexico in 1519. Along with 600 men (none of whom had protective armor), Cortes prepared to conquer the land that for the past 600 years had been unconquerable. As they marched inland to battle their enemies, the conquistador uttered 3 shocking words to his soldiers:
“Burn the boats!”
This radical command left this Spanish soldiers with only two choices: emerge victorious or die! The lack of an exit strategy caused these outnumbered warriors to fight as if their lives were at stake…and they were! As a result, Cortes became the first man in 600 years to conquer Mexico.
While it’s a great history lesson, what does it have to do with our faith? In reality, it has EVERYTHING to do with it! One of the costliest mistakes that we make as followers of Christ is failing to “burn our boats”. Although we profess to follow the Lord, we often have a tendency to “look backward” and hold back a bit. We’re afraid that if we get too close to Him, we might have to suffer excessively. We’re nervous about giving too much to charitable causes because we might “need that money one day”. We fail to expect miracles when we pray and often pray for “safe things” in order to avoid disappointment. While we want to be called Christians, we’re sometimes unwilling to speak out and defend our faith when necessary. If we say too much, people might not like us or think we’re strange. By holding back in these ways, we never really FULLY commit our lives to Jesus and always entertain the possibility of reboarding our boats if the Christian life becomes too challenging. What did the Lord say about this?
As Jesus and his disciples were proceeding
on their journey, someone said to him,
“I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus answered him,
“Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”
And to another he said, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”
But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead.
But you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.”
And another said, “I will follow you, Lord,
but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”
Jesus answered him, “No one who sets a hand to the plow
and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57-62)
Once we make the decision to truly follow Christ, there can be no turning back. Even though we’ll be tempted to backslide and “take the easy way out”, we have to remain firm and not look to the past. We all have “boats” or “safety nets” in our lives…those tendencies, possessions or attitudes which hold us back from following the Lord as fully as possible. If we truly expect to be “fit for the Kingdom of God”, we must cease looking at what was left behind and start looking at what lies ahead.
Have you identified your “boat”? Once you do, burn it and remember that when it comes to following Christ and one day living with Him in Heaven, failure CANNOT be an option!