Burn the Ships!

Philippians 3:13-14  Brethern, I count not myself to have apprehended, but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before.

v .14) I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.


On the coast of Spain is one of the world’s most well- known natural landmarks, The Rock of Gibraltar. It is often associated with strength or determination or stubbornness. People will often refer to something that is difficult to move as a “Rock of Gibraltar”. Or if we consider someone to be especially strong, perseverant, or dependable we may say they are like “The Rock of Gibraltar.” Gibraltar is loosely translated as “the mountain of Tariq”, and for good reason too. In 712 AD, and Islamic mercenary named Tariq bin Ziyad stood atop the Rock of Gibraltar and made an astounding decision.

The prince of Spain at the time was terrified that he was about to lose the throne, since his father had died. In a moment of rash desperation, he decided to hire Tariq bin Ziyad and his “army for hire” to come help the prince establish himself as the rightful ruler of Spain. Tariq was a ruthless warrior that had been making his way across North Africa capturing land for the Islamic Empire. When the prince sent word that he wanted his “help” he couldn’t believe the prince’s stupidity and his own good luck. Of course he would come “help”. He was in the Northern African city of Tangier, just over the Mediterranean Sea from Spain, and he had been waiting for an opportune time to move on into Europe and continue his conquest in the name of Allah. This was his chance.

He and his seven thousand men set out for Spain. Tariq was in the lead ship, and could see the Rock of Gibraltar rising up. When he landed, he quickly climbed to the top of the rock so that he could watch the other ships land. As his soldiers began pouring onto the coast, he turned to his next in command and said, “When all the men are safely ashore, burn the ships.”

The officer stared at him in utter confusion. “But…but sir, how will we return?”

Tariq turned on him, “There is no plan to return! We will either conquer this land or perish. Burn the ships!” The soldiers did as they were commanded, and as they watched their option of returning to their old lives, go up in smoke, they realized the level of commitment that was being asked of them. No plan B. Conquer or perish.

With that sense of determination the small army made short work of Spain, and Spain remained part of the Islamic Empire for many years.

There are many situations in life in which a “Plan B” is a wise thing to have simmering on the back burner. But the things that are of sacred importance will require a level of commitment and determination that leaves no retreat option. When we set out to conquer the land of our marriage, our parenting, our calling of God upon our lives, our holiness, our sanctification, our service to others, we must burn the ships that have brought us this far and declare to ourselves and those around us, “There is no plan to return. We will conquer this land or perish!”

Are you planning any retreats today? Are you up against some challenge and everything inside you says, “Let’s just turn around. This is too tough.” You must ask yourself: is this of sacred, infinite importance? Will turning back destroy the respect and confidence of those who truly love me? If God tells you to go forward, do not go backward! Burn the ships and conquer the land!




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