Christopher Columbus' name means "light bearer." Much has been said in modern times about Columbus' greed and sin. But in his early years he felt that he had been truly called by God to take the light of Christ to the remote parts of the earth.
It was his great desire to find a trade route to the Indies (which is what they called Asia) by water. This would be harder to accomplish than he realized.
He would need ships and funding, and he needed God on his side. Through a series of miracles, and after several years of waiting and praying, Columbus was finally granted everything he needed.
He set sail with three ships in 1492. This trip was also fraught with difficulty, and again, the need for God's intervention. One of my favorite stories of God's hand leading Columbus took place after many weeks at sea.
The sailors were all sailing into a new territory. The Atlantic was not by any means a well-traveled ocean yet, and they were looking for land they weren't even sure existed.
So it is understandable when the captains of the other two ships came to Columbus with grumblings and threats if they didn't turn back soon. The sailors were tired of sailing nowhere, and were ready to go back to Spain. Columbus assented, on one condition: that they sail for three more days. If they hadn't sighted land by the third day, they would go home.
You can imagine the prayers that Columbus lifted to heaven that night. Years of dreams and plans would come to nothing if they did not find land soon. Was it all to come to nothing?
God was listening. Suddenly, after many days of calm, the wind picked up and sped the three ships southward at alarming speed. Every sailor was aware of the incredible change in the weather.
At dawn on the third day, guess what they saw? Land! God had granted Columbus his dream! As the sailors went ashore, the first thing they did was to erect a cross and kneel in thanks to God Almighty. They named that island San Salvador (which means Holy Savior).
What happened after this is a sad tale in the life of Columbus. He was overcome by power and greed. He made slaves of some of the inhabitants of the islands he discovered. He refused to keep some of the terms of his agreement with the King and Queen of Spain. He demanded more and more money for his explorations.
What I find most important in the life of Columbus (and in many other tales throughout history) is that God is able to use anyone, whether they remain true to Him or not. Columbus had his heart in the right place to begin with, and like all mankind, he succumbed to self. But God used Columbus to play a mighty part in the history of America, and in the history of the world.
If you'd like to read a great account of God's hand on Columbus, and in the founding of America in general, read The Light and the Glory : 1492-1793 (God's Plan for America) by Peter Marshall and David Manual. You will have no doubt whatsoever about our Christian Heritage.
You can read more about American History here, and of course, on my other blog, Prairie Sense.
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