Summary: Are you ready to leave 2020 behind for good? As much as we'd like to cut COVID off and put it behind us, we won't be able to quite yet. But there are other things that we can break free from. But if we're going to do it the right way we'll need to burn the ships.


As we get ready to go into 2021, I'm sure everyone is ready to leave 2020 behind for good. Unfortunately, 2021 doesn't look like it's going to be much of a fresh start; we're still dealing with COVID in a major way. So it looks like we won't be able to get rid of the horror of 2020 so easily. As much as we'd like to cut it off and put it all behind us, we won't be able to quite yet.

Cutting COVID off and starting fresh is something that's outside of our control. However, there are other things that are within our control to break free from and start fresh. There may be some other burdens we will need to release ourselves from as we start 2021. And if we're going to do it the right way we will need to take some drastic measures.

1) Burn the ships!

Although there are different accounts of a ship commander doing this, the most famous account is that of Spanish explorer Hernan Cortez. In 1518, Cortez was ordered to explore the interior of Mexico. At the last minute, Velázquez cancelled the order but Cortez ignored it and went to Mexico to conquer the Aztecs.

They landed in Mexico in 1519. Worried that his crew might desert him and go back to Spain, Cortez wrecked his ships and left the men no choice but to follow him. He wanted them to realize there was no opportunity to retreat, they had to give this fight everything they had. Failure was not an option; we win, or we perish! They won.

The concept of “burning the boats” goes further back in history. Napoleon Hill writes, "A long while ago, a great warrior faced a situation which made it necessary for him to make a decision which insured his success on the battlefield. He was about to send his armies against a powerful foe, whose men outnumbered his own. He loaded his soldiers into boats, sailed to the enemy’s country, unloaded soldiers and equipment, then gave the order to burn the ships that had carried them. Addressing his men before the first battle, he said, “You see the boats going up in smoke? That means that we cannot leave these shores alive unless we win!"

That's a very extreme way to do things, isn't it? You'd have to be ready to give yourself completely over to the cause because once you burn the boats there's no going back. But taking extreme measures can give us the motivation to succeed, too. Sometimes, anything less than burning the boats won't work.

In the situations above the commander burned the ships and the crew had no choice but to follow their leader if they were going to succeed. But Jesus, our commander, calls us to make that decision for ourselves. He won't make it for us; we need to determine if we're ready to take on that challenge. Making a commitment like this would show how serious we are at leaving the old behind and embracing the new.

Elisha was such a person. Someone shared a devotional with me that helped to inspire this sermon. It was titled, "How Serious Are You?" It talked about Elisha's actions after Elijah commissioned him to be his successor. Let's look at what happened when Elijah ceremonially passed the torch to Elisha.

1st Kings 19:19-21, "So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother good-by,” he said, “and then I will come with you.” “Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?” So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant."

"Threw his cloak around him." Elisha knew that this meant a passing of the torch. The garment of the prophet was being given to him. As the garment was placed upon his shoulders, the duties of being a prophet would now be on his shoulders.

"Twelve yolk of oxen." That was a large amount of oxen and thus a lot of land to farm and harvest. Elisha was well-to-do yet he didn't hesitate in leaving it all behind to accept his calling. Sometimes material things can get in the way of being willing to leave the old behind and embrace the new.

We may have a very lucrative income but what if it's in a vocation that doesn't honor God? What if we work in a bar, strip-club or casino? What if we work on Sundays? What if honoring God meant changing jobs and making less money? Would we be willing to "burn that ship"?

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