I want to talk about “burning your bridges”

I have noticed something in Scripture recently – a truth I needed to be reminded of once again

I believe God brought it to my attention

Abraham was told by God to leave what he knew and was successful in and move out in faith to something new and yet unknown

The future – nothing wrong with the ‘past’ or the ‘present’… Just exchanging the good for the best

Never to go back …

Lot and his family had to leave Sodom and Gomorra and not look back

Move into their future and not look back to what had been

And when his wife did, she died

Israel was delivered from their slavery in Egypt and headed out to worship God and then onwards to the Promised Land

But they continually wanted to go back to Egypt when the going got tough and they were feeling uncomfortable or facing the unknown

And they did not receive the promise and did not enter the land

Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62

The truth I am working with here:

You often need to let go of what you have – to receive what God has spoken and promised

To grab hold of what God is doing – you have to let go of what He has done

You miss the future by holding on to the past and even the present at times

To enter into the fullness of God’s plan for your life (local church) you need to leave the past plans and move into the future He has planned for you

What has worked in the past or is still working even right now will no longer work in the near future

God is always moving forward and society / people / life is constantly changing

A saying I learned a long time ago – with reference to living the Christian faith in a relevant and vital, life-giving way:

“Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be broken”

“Blessed are the fluid for they shall flow and go with God”

“If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten.”

So, we are to:

Not hold on to the past as if it were sacred

Not see what we did or are currently doing as THE answer to anything or everything

Move with God as He is constantly moving forward in the Kingdom / Church

There is no “park” in or “reverse” in your car when moving forward with God

Realize that the Christian faith is a constant and continuing forward journey with Jesus

Realize that to grab hold of the things God is currently doing we often need to let go of what he has done and is doing

Embrace a walk of faith and move forward even when the path and direction is not clear and be sure to not look back as you journey forward

This means,

We are to be constantly “burning our bridges” so we cannot return to what was

Because this is always our natural instinct

To return to what once worked

To turn back to what we considered safe, secure, and comfortable


In the book of 1st Kings we see the appearance of Elisha … a farmer by trade

A man making a decent living farming the land he owns and marketing his crop

One day Elijah, the prophet of God and lead prophet for all of Israel, comes along and speaks to him

Elijah tells Elisha to come with him so that he can train him and that, one day, he might – might – be his successor as the voice of God for Israel – the main prophet of the Jewish people

No details given, no salary negotiated, no road map of his he will be trained,                                   discipled and mentored

No guarantee of success

Elisha is being told that God has a plan and a deeper purpose for his life – no guarantees – but IF he will let go of what he has God’s plan will unfold for him

It’s okay and respectable to be a land owner and successful farmer / entrepreneur

But as a Jew would it not be greater – more successful – to be a prophet?

Would this not be a step up – to lead the nation as God’s representative?

More importantly, if this is God’s plan for your life – would you want to miss the                              opportunity to fulfill your destiny and purpose

Elisha has a decision to make – one that is going to call for total commitment to what God wants IF he decides it is a “yes”

A decision that will be followed by a big step of faith and a major change in his life

So, Elisha decides he will follow Elijah and become his disciple … and, if faithful and a good student, maybe the next full-time prophet of Israel

And thus embrace and enter into God’s plan and purpose for his life!

But, in the story, he does not do what I would do and maybe, just maybe, what you would do…

I know myself – I would pick the wrong place to begin….

I would draw up plans of what I want to do and how I want to do it

I would figure out what I want my life to look like

I would sort out what my ministry was going to look like

I would think about the “what if,” the “what then,” and the “when…”

Things don’t just change because we decide to move forward with God and enter into His plan for our life / church

Being on the move to something better in life / something great with God DOES NOT START with drawing up blueprints for the new you – the new church

Having big dreams

Planning great plans

Working out the details

Your new life of following God into His future for you and the “new you” DOES NOT start with building your dream and planning out your life

Your good life DOES NOT begin with building your dream house, your dream job, dream life or the church of your dreams

It begins with burning down your old house – old life – old church

It begins with an act of arson

1 Kings 19:1 “[Elisha] 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.”

When Elijah comes along and invites Elisha to follow and maybe become the next prophet of Israel – after a long internship – Elisha does more than leave everything he has and follow the prophet of Israel

He makes sure there is nothing to go back to

He removes the option of returning to his old life

First: Elisha destroys – and feeds to his friends – the animals that were his only means of making a living

After all, he could have given away the oxen as parting gifts to his friends instead of having a bar-b-cue and handing out oxen burgers

Hew could have sold them and had money for the new journey

So, I thought … You know – Maybe this is a ceremonial sacrifice to God as a thanksgiving offering for the new             found role he was about to fulfill in Israel

So, you know, it’s seems logical and okay

But then he does something really strange

Elisha burns the plows …

When the prodigal son comes home (Luke 15) the father kills the fattened calf

But he does not throw his toolbox onto the bonfire

But this is exactly what Elisha does – he burns the tools of his old life (The  farm equipment)

We might accept the fact that Elisha slaughtered the oxen

But why burn the plows?

Even after his neighbours had second helping of meat loaf, someone could have benefitted from the plows

I mean, at the very least, he could have donated them to the Salvation Army of his day

What he does appears irresponsible – maybe even selfish

It all seems insane – until you understand that this isn’t a story about how to manage farming equipment

This isn’t really even about plows or oxen

Burning the plows had no practical value to Elisha or anyone else

Symbolically, though, it meant everything!

Elisha is making a statement

He is making a decisive and definite break from his old life – from the source of his livelihood

He is breaking with everything that represents THE STALE STABILITY and                                  PREDICTABILITY of his life as a landowner and farmer

He is burning Clark Kent’s coat and tie so he can wear Superman’s cape

This just appears to be stupid in the eyes of the world

Elisha is deviating from the way the world and society thinks

He leaves everything he has ever known and is comfortable with and reaches for the plan and purpose that God has for his life

He lets go of what ‘is’ to grab hold of what ‘might be’….leaving nothing to return to

Stepping out in total faith

Boldly going where no man has gone before

And, I believe God still speaks through this story and is speaking to us…

To move forward “in God” we are often called to give up / release / let go of / what is familiar / comfortable / considered safe and move into the future without guarantees and often without a full understanding

Burn the plows so that you can’t go back


The way you relate to God – the routine you have and the disciplines you practice in your relationship with Him

The (passionless and purposeless) approach you take towards life each day

Old, small and insignificant thoughts about what God wants to do in and through your life

The conscious choice to continue in sin

A life that’s a little too safe, a lifestyle that’s a little too comfortable and tends to not allow God a role in your life other than a brief listen once a week at church

The traditions of the group we belong to … the way we do things and what we do

When we sense God calling us to something different / something more / something greater

We usually prequalify our obedience before taking the first step and disrupting our routine and life

“Yes, if…”

“Yes, but…”

However, this story we are looking at, tells us that IF we want to follow and fulfill God’s plan for our lives / church

It is not dependent upon us having the information or the equipment we need for this new journey ahead

We can’t get too worried about whether we have read the right books or have the right connections or even know the right “first step” to take

At the start, right now, the only equipment you need is a flame thrower

If that is too extreme or dramatic – a box of matches


You can’t step into the next new things of God

We as a local church family can’t step into our future with God doing what we have always done

Until we have first set fire to whatever is tethering us to our old ways

Before you can go forward into the future that God has for you / for us

We need to offer Him every part of the life we currently have

Example: To minister overseas and walk in God’s plan for my life I had to                                                       be willing to burn the plows

Make major changes in my life

Leave my comfort zone

Do new things and even old things in new ways

Life adjustment

Embrace many things that were not / are not comfortable,                                                                 my preferences, my strong suit

It is really a matter of SURRENDER

The question of surrender is: Will you burn the plows?

You have to be ready to say, “God, whatever it is You are calling me / us into might look like, I’m in. Whether it is a big thing or a small thing You call me to do, I will say ‘yes’ because You are the One calling me and I want only what you want. If this means leaving something behind – done! If this means being more passionate about something where I am, done! I have decided to follow you completely.”

“Here’s my life, Lord. It’s open ended. And it’s pointed in the direction of the next step You are calling me / the church to take no matter what it costs.”

I remember doing this / saying just that the night I was born again – “I am all your’s, Lord”

This is what Elisha did when he invited everyone over for meatloaf and then had a spectacular bonfire well into the evening as everyone partied


Do you have all the details of this new thing – new way of life? – No!

Do you know all that is going to happen before you burn the plow? – No!

It seems that God doesn’t do details…

I’m not saying that He doesn’t care about the details…

Jesus has every hair on your head numbered and is aware of every sparrow that                                     falls to the ground (Luke 12:6-7)

Jesus is meticulous in His managing of the universe – micro-managing the universe and your life


While God is detail oriented, He doesn’t handle details or communicate them in the way most of us would prefer

He doesn’t feel obliged or obligated to walk us through every contingency or provide us with a              warranty in case things don’t work out

He simply tells us to trust Him with the outcome, commanding us to act in faith and obedience

This is what we did when deciding to build this building

And, now that it is built and functioning – it is what God is asking us to do once again

There is always something more out there …

And we have to let go of what was to grab hold of what will be

There is always the next step … another step

God does not necessarily tell you WHAT the plan is or HOW He will do it

He simply asks us to step out in faith knowing THAT He will do it

If you sit around waiting for Him to tell you how He is going to hold up His end before you start torching your plows, you are in for an awfully long wait

Truth be told, you are probably in for a lifetime of waiting

It can be frustrating to follow a God like that….

God’s directions can be painfully vague and incomplete

After He tells Abraham ” Go to the land I will show you…” He abruptly stops talking                                                                                               (Genesis 12:1)

He doesn’t give him a road map

He doesn’t give him a detailed life plan

He doesn’t give him a GPS

Only a directive – “Abraham – just go.”

If you like things nailed down before you start…

If you are a pragmatic person (and I am)…

This will really bother you – it use to bother me

God wasn’t being cruel to Abraham and He is not being cruel to us…

There is a good reason He doesn’t feel the need to give you a navigational system

It is because He is offering to BE your navigational system

Trust me … He will be faithful to His end of the bargain

He’ll do the showing if you do the going

You just can’t think too far ahead about where you might end up

You can only go where He tells you to go today and do what He tells you to do

When you wake up the next morning, He’ll show you where to go tomorrow and what to do

And the day after that

And the day after that one as well….

If He told you all the details – you would never burn your plows

You would never “let go and let God…”

Why does He seldom do things the way we would really like Him to?

Because He is teaching you / us to walk by faith and not by sight or information

Because He is more interested in us coming to know who He is than simply knowing what to do and how to do it

That’s why He gives you / us a simple, uncomplicated word like “go”

It is God’s method of teaching us to trust Him / to draw near to Him / to listen to Him

As we do we receive much more than guidance – we experience greater intimacy with Him

In the Old Testament, God told Abraham to “go”

In the New Testament, Jesus told Peter to “come.” (Matthew 14:29)

Easy to say when you are in your front room and want your dog to come over to you from the other side of the room, over to you

But Peter was standing in the middle of a boat, in the middle of a terrific storm, in the middle of the sea

Jesus is standing on the water in the storm and simply says, “come”

Abraham at least got a sentence – Peter gets just a word

Peter – his heart racing and his mind working overtime – got only a word

Jesus didn’t offer Peter a water-walking tutorial

Jesus didn’t give him any details

He didn’t show him how to lean into it

or even how to take the first step

Jesus offered only a command – “Come”

And expected obedience

Jesus offered Peter just one word

But when God is the One talking to you, one word is more than enough

Maybe your only word in your situation is “trust”

Maybe He promises to “provide”

If you are going to walk by faith and trust in your Heavenly Father

If you want your life set free from the ordinary and the natural

You are going to have to learn how to obey “a God who doesn’t do details

But, as you obey, you will be placing the results in the hands of a God who knows every detail and has a contingency plan for every circumstance you will ever face

As you read the Bible stories of people like Elisha

You may think that God is winging it

On the surface it might appear that His plan was to deal with the details as they came up

But God never makes up anything as He goes along

He knows the end from the beginning

He had Abraham’s destination mapped out before Abraham ever took the first step

He had His right arm outstretched to yank Peter to his feet before he ever went under the water

Just because He doesn’t show you the details doesn’t mean that He doesn’t know them

Your Father is the micromanager of the universe

If He schedules the worm for the bird and clothes the flower in designer dress – how much more will He do for you?

So, as you look to make changes in your life and in the church that you attend

If you want to reach for the plans God has for you life … and the plans He has for the church you attend

Remember that God has everything worked out in advance

He will tell you each day what He wants you to do and where He wants you to go so that you get to the place He is wanting you to be

He is more interested in full obedience than your full understanding



Go to God and ask Him what personal plow does He want you to burn?

It is not easy to cut ties with the thing that is chaining you to a life you have become comfortable with but that is boring you…

But the real risk isn’t in launching out into a new life and a new path from God – burning the plows

The greater risk is staying in your old life of the ordinary

So, count the cost of burning the plows

BUT, also count the cost of not burning to plows

For the rich young ruler, whom Jesus told to sell everything / all of his possessions – burning the plows was too radical, too decisive an act

That’s why he walked away sorrowful (Mark 10:22)

The rich young ruler had just as much of an encounter with God as Elisha did

The only difference was that he wasn’t willing to burn the plows

The real tragedy for the rich young ruler was that he would never know what he missed out on

Right after the rich young ruler left the scene, Peter asked Jesus what he could expect to get from following Jesus

Jesus answered (Mark 10:29-30):

“No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for Me and the Gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields – and with them persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.”

The cost of following Jesus is great

The cost of not following Jesus is even greater

You may have to give up a lot to pursue God’s calling on your life and His place for this church

You’ll miss out on even more if you stay in the field doing what you have always done and expecting different results