At its height in 1519, the Aztec Empire covered some 80,000 miles in central and southern Mexico and ruled between 5 and 6 million people. That same year, when Spanish Conquistador Hernando Cortés arrived to begin his conquest of this vast empire, he brought with him only 508 soldiers, 100 sailors and 16 horses. Not exactly an army – or at least not one likely to be feared by what was then the Western hemisphere’s most powerful nation.
As legend has it, after his men got ashore, Cortés burned the ships that brought them. He wanted his men to understand fully that their only option was to win or die – there would be no retreat. Knowing their options were limited now, the Spanish army would fight harder and with more determination.
Interestingly, though, the message Cortés sent was not just intended for his army. After word of what happened on the beach spread, the Aztecs knew that the Spanish were literally fighting for their lives at every juncture. This meant that the Aztecs would be unable to force the Spanish to retreat because there was nowhere for the invaders to go. On the other hand, with an entire empire behind them, the Aztec forces would always be aware of their own option to retreat. In the face of the Spanish commitment to total victory, the Aztecs would themselves be more inclined to retreat and less inclined to fight hard to hold ground.
By 1521, Cortés and his small army had conquered the Aztecs. While it is clear that superior weaponry and military training gave the Spanish certain advantages in this situation, it is also clear that Cortés’ strategy and the value of his commitment to it, was invaluable to the final outcome.
BURN THE SHIPS MEN! No turning back! No retreat! Surrender it all! Don’t look back! Men, we have great days ahead of us. God has called us to a task to great for us to do. We must cut every tie with this world and press on knowing this battle is not ours, but the Lords. Seek Christ! Seek Him! Nothing is Greater! It truly is in seeking Christ that we are at our most powerful. In the gospel of Luke it says Herod, a king, greatly feared John the Baptist. Not because he was at the head of a great army, but because he was righteous and holy.
Burn all ties with this world…seek Christ first with reckless abandon! And watch your greatest enemies fall at your feet. Watch your greatest temptations fall by your sword. Watch the great work of God unfold in front of you! And if you want overseas adventure, consider the Men on Missions SEALS team or the Mediterranean Traveling Team with Adventures in Missions!