Two Generals, Julius Caesar and Vera Cruz, employed similar tactics when their armies landed on distant shores. Both assembled their men on the cliffs overlooking the harbor where their ships were moored ... to watch the entire fleet burn behind them. The path of return or retreat disappeared as the burning ships sank beneath the water. The past was gone and only an uncertain future remained. The only choice was to move forward and conquer, or perish on the beach.
John felt compelled to more fully commit his life to Christ's ministry. It was what he valued in life and this world, above all else. He gave himself one year to make a firm decision and actually start the transition. During that year, he pondered leaving his thirty-year career to become a full-time Bible teacher, evangelist and street minister. He would either spend the final fifteen years of his career in a corporate position, or dedicate the rest of his life to God's service. At fifty, it was a serious 'ship burning' decision between a comfortable life and retirement, and a financially uncertain future. John prayed and watched for God to open or close doors. He secretly hoped God would ease the decision, by showing him a safe path to both full-time ministry and retirement security.
In his heart, John knew that God had already spoken. For over fifteen years, God had fruitfully blessed John's part-time ministry. He had repeatedly allowed John to be part of his work of drawing the lost to Christ, making disciples (Mat 28:18-20) and touching lives with new hope and power. John knew that the path ahead was entirely his choice and that God would faithfully bless either full or part-time ministry. Still, the words of David rang in his mind, "I will not offer unto the Lord that [burnt offerings] which cost me nothing" (2 Sam 24:24). John had tasted the sweet fruit of God's faithfulness and nothing this world offered could compare. Nevertheless, it was comfortable to rest by a warm fire on the beach of a new land, dreaming of future conquests. As long as the ships were moored safely in the harbor, there could always be another day of 'preparation' for the conquest.
As the year approached, John still had no clear idea of how, when or even if a transition to ministry might actually occur. A door finally opened! He asked his company for a three-day work week; the company rejected the idea and then suddenly offered four, eight-hour days. It meant an immediate twenty-percent pay cut, yet answered many unresolved questions. John recognized God's hand on the open door and quickly walked through. Almost immediately a torrent of financial problems challenged his resolve. "If one day and a twenty-percent pay cut was this tough, how difficult will five days and a hundred-percent pay cut be?" he thought. The battle began!
All faith journeys, like the conquest of a new land, are not completed in one day, but must be traveled or fought one day at a time. It is the daily part of "if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23). There are no shortcuts. Christ's true disciples must put aside self-reliance, along with daily concerns and priorities, and walk into an unknown land by faith alone. As John looked toward the harbor, the first of the ships that might return him to the relative safety of a world he had known for thirty years, burst into flames.