Burn the Ships! A New Year’s Devotion

How many of you have made New Year’s resolutions? The real question is:

How many of you have already blown New Year’s resolutions?

I have read that in America, 25% of us blow or discard our resolutions by the end of the first day. Change can be so difficult that even people who want to change will most likely fall back into old patterns and not make change permanent.

One reason permanent change is so hard is that we continue to hang around people who knew us before the change—we maintain old relationships and life patterns that don’t allow or recognize change in us! It’s often easier to change who you are when you make a clean break and get a fresh start. No one knows your old mistakes or the way you used to be. You get a chance to make brand-new mistakes!

In the Bible, Paul writes:

“But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith.”
–Philippians 3:7-21

Paul had everything going for him from a human point of view—he was THE guy and had it all. But nothing he could DO could make him right in God’s eyes. Paul had to change his perspective—to reframe the things he thought were important. He goes on to say:

“My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead. Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”
–Philippians 3:10-14

Christians are given a new goal—to know Christ and to be conformed to him. And, just as Paul had to change his orientation, we need to change ours. Fixating on the past prevents us from focusing on the now or moving forward into tomorrow. Turn around—refuse to go back. It means we know where we’ve come from but focus instead on where we are headed (it’s like Lot’s wife yearning for the old life when God was trying to move them forward).

There’s an old legend about the Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortés. While many history books gloss over the dark elements, the nitty-gritty was like this. While on a mission in the New World, some of his men were loyal to the Governor of Cuba and conspired to seize a ship and escape to Cuba. Cortés moved swiftly to squash their plans. Two ringleaders were condemned to be hanged, two were lashed, and one had his foot mutilated. To ensure such a mutiny did not happen again, he decided to scuttle his ships on the pretext that they were no longer seaworthy. There is a popular misconception that the ships were burned rather than sunk. With all his ships scuttled, except for one small ship with which to send his representatives and booty to the King of Spain, Cortés effectively stranded the expedition in Mexico.

Dark, yes. But it’s the kind of mentality we need to have when we think about moving on in our own lives. We’ve come to a new point with God. Why would we even consider going back?! Deliberate living requires that we model the apostles’ behavior and take steps to live a godly life. We can shake free from last year’s crud.

One of my favorite songs is the worship anthem I Am Free. It proclaims that, in Christ, we are free from everything that used to have a hold on us.

2024 is here. Admit that it’s time for a change. Go ahead and make resolutions that take you from where you are to where you should be going. Be intentional about taking steps toward the coming future. No matter what, refuse to let anything pull you back. Walk in the freedom and newness that comes from a life following Jesus. Burn those ships.

Happy New Year!



Chaplain Chris Linzey
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