“Clear for action and beat to quarters!” I liked the movie so much I got the T-Shirt! The movie is ‘Master and Commander’ (2003) and it chronicles the adventures of Captain Jack Aubrey in the Napoleonic naval warfare of the early nineteenth century. The movie begins with the ship, HMS Surprise (28 guns, Crew: 197 souls) off the coast of Brazil 1806 under Admiralty Orders:
To Cpt. J. Aubrey,
‘Intercept French Privateer ACHERON en route to Pacific
INTENT ON CARRYING THE WAR INTO THOSE WATERS
…Sink, Burn or take her a Prize’
All seems quiet on board the British Naval vessel until the ship’s officer of the watch thinks he may have spotted a sail in the distant fog, but he is unsure and vacillates over the decision to act. The Captain is called and before an order can be given an orange flash burns in the haze… it’s too late, they are under attack. A cannon ball rips its way through the deck, splintering everything in its path. The Captain roars the command: “Clear for action and beat to quarters!”
Clear for action and beat to quarters!
Painting: ‘Days of Adventure’ by Montague Dawson
I sense there is a prophetic mandate in this old naval command this year. For many this is a time to make some radical changes and get serious about pursuing God-given goals and assignments. To make space in our lives for what we should be doing instead of complaining about being too busy or not having enough time. There are some great changes coming up this year but they are not going to happen to us – they are going to happen because of our determination to make some changes and step out in faith. It’s going to be challenging and stretching but immensely rewarding.
This war cry is a twofold command:
Firstly: clear the ship of everything that will get in the way of battle action,
And secondly: assume your assigned place of duty.
A scene from the movie when the ships drummer ‘beats to quarters’.
When the captain gives the command the ship’s drummer beats out a loud rhythm to make sure everyone aboard is spurred into speedy activity… living quarters and decks are cleared, wooden panels are removed below decks, tables and instruments stowed, the guns are untethered and run out, gun powder and cannon balls distributed to each one. The surgeon’s table is prepared with his instruments. All paraphernalia on the deck and below deck must be cleared for action. If they are not stowed, they can be lethal in the battle – not simply becoming obstacles to movement in the confusion and smoke but also potentially becoming missiles in oncoming fire; a sailor was more likely to be injured or killed by flying debris than the canon ball itself.
Clearing for action
The Bible has a lot to say about ‘clearing for action’. For example, letting go of superficial things (Matthew 6:19-21), addressing unhelpful relationships (1 Corinthians 15:33) and not being tempted to look back (Luke 9:62). Many things are good in season but once the season has passed we must be ready to move on. The Lord is highlighting areas that need our attention: on our finances, relationships, activities, ministry, property or any number of things in order to free us up for what He wants to do in our lives. As we enter this new year many things that have been necessary and needed in the past may no longer be important – not for the battles ahead. In fact, if not laid down or stowed, these aspects of life can actually hinder us moving forward.
Not Business as Usual
This is a good principle to start off the new year with. Not a ‘business as usual’ attitude but a ‘time to get ready and engage’ attitude. To let go of those things which may hold us back and then “beat to quarters”: make purposeful, deliberate steps towards our goals with all the passion and strength we can muster. Both are essential.
Using the resources we have
In the golden age of wooden war ships every inch of the vessel was fully accounted for. Space was so precious that nearly all areas served multiple purposes. When it came time to engage another ship in battle, every space was needed for the fight. Even the hammocks (beds) would be tied up on the sides of the deck to provide some protection from oncoming fire. In the busyness of family life many of us do not have the luxury of disposable time or income but need to fall back on creativity and flexibility to rearrange priorities. There is always something we can do to make the most of what we have (or don’t have). Don’t let your circumstances dictate your choices but have faith that even the smallest changes you make to the ships rudder will have massive impact on your direction.
Go for it!
So wake up, brush the dust of the old years off those dreams and goals; because the captain is commanding, “Clear for action and beat to quarters”. What radical changes do you need to make? What do you need to lay down and what are you going to pick up? Where are you going to serve? Do you need training, education or experience? Pray about these big life decisions and see what God may be saying to you.
As for me and Aliss, we’ve determined this year to make space for more praying and writing… literally investing in a place (where there is no internet or TV) for getting back to basics – and then from that hidden place to go out energised to engage with our mission to equip the equippers…
So we’re excited to see what God is going to do this year – in you and through you, as you let go of some of the things that need to go and make space to pick up those things that God has made to burn in your heart – to win the goal and take the prize for Christ Jesus.