At the Feast of Tabernacles this year I heard an excellent short message by Don Turgeon about a topic I’d never heard of called the “burning platform”.
The analogy really struck home for me, and I wanted to do a deeper study into how God’s people should be applying this to our lives.
What is a burning platform?
When an explosion ripped apart the North Sea oil platform called the Piper Alpha and the rig caught fire, a few workers were trapped by the fire on the edge of the platform.
Contemplating certain death in the fire versus likely death (and the general unknown) by jumping the 100 feet into the icy waters, one of them chose the latter and jumped.
The term “burning platform” is now used to describe a situation where people are forced to make a particular dramatic choice, in the face of an alternative that is even more extreme (source).
It has become a shorthand in the business world for “helping people see the dire consequences of not changing”, and motivating people to move beyond the status quo to embracing drastic change.
As Turgeon explained, this type of situation has an urgency that pushes you to transform your behavior. Because if you don’t—even though that change is scary or painful or difficult in the moment—not doing so could have long-lasting negative consequences.
A good business example in the last couple decades is Blockbuster, who (mind-bogglingly) could not read the signs of technology and consumer behavior shifts, which ultimately plunged the company from being completely ubiquitous to entirely irrelevant and out of business in a very short span of time.
How does the “burning platform” apply spiritually?
Make no mistake, this world and this present age are a burning platform. And we need to jump.
Those men knew they weren’t jumping into something that would save them, and believed probable death awaited them in the icy sea. But they also knew that staying where they were was certain death, and so staying was the wrong choice.
What was interesting about that message was that it felt very prescient. Because just that week I’d been thinking about my own relationship with the world, and realizing that I’d finally reached a place where I truly, viscerally wanted God’s kingdom to come as soon as possible.
After the last several months of bitter political rhetoric, government overstep, neighbor turning on neighbor, racial division, cities burning (including my own), and just generally looking at the state of the world…I’d finally had enough.
Sure, I’ve always wanted God’s kingdom to come…but as a young person that wish is sometimes a bit more theoretical (and scary as well). You want to grow up, live a life, get married, do things. My life is pretty comfortable in the grand scheme of things, with a good job, snuggly pets, the ability to travel.
The whole principle of the burning platform is that only the most dire circumstances and imminent mortal peril would induce you to jump. It’s hard to contemplate leaving the life we’ve known, the comfort of our daily routines, our conveniences, the people we love.
The difference for us is that we aren’t jumping into the unknown, or to probable death. Just the opposite—the only means of (eternal) survival for those of us called to God’s truth today is to jump. To stop clinging to this world, trying to save it, and to cut the ties it has on our hearts.
(Because of the world we live in, I feel like I have to make a very strong caveat statement here that I am obviously not talking about physical life…this is adamantly not some kind of macabre statement regarding killing ourselves or dying prematurely. I’m speaking of our mental and spiritual state, and whether we’re invested in this current world above God’s coming kingdom.)