Whose Flag Are You Flying?


“We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners: the LORD fulfil all thy petitions.” -Psalm 20:5

In 1588 King Philip II of Spain assembled 124 battleships in of the largest planned naval invasions in history. The ‘Spanish Armada’ as it was known was an impressive sight to see. Spain had organized the attack for one purpose: convert England back to Catholicism. Except God had intervened, England as we know it today would not exist.

There was ironically little difference in the rhetoric of Queen Elizabeth of England and King Philip II of Spain. Both of them vehemently believed their way of worship was God-ordained, and that every other opinion was immoral, and damnably wrong. Both had their final authorities, (for Spain, the Pope, and for England, her Bible) and both claimed to be defending the honor of God. I’m sure there was an unsaved third party who concluded that all ‘Christians’ do is argue! What a mess it was!

On May 30, 1588, the Spanish Armada began their journey up the English Channel toward the Eastern coast of Scotland. The English navy, led by a fiery sea-dog named Sir Francis Drake, frantically mustered to confront the massive force in a desperate effort to protect their homeland, their families, and their beliefs.

Ships in those days were all sailboats, meaning they employed masts and rigging and large sheets of fabric called sails to capture the wind to blowthem where they needed to go. Without favorable winds, the best artillery would be rendered useless; “stuck in the doldrums,” the mariners would say.

The Armada had sailed with favorable winds behind them every step of the way. The English had to fight to maneuver their ships into an effective defense. June and July were bloody, blistering months of battle as both sides raced against time and tide for the upper hand. It seemed as though the fighting would go on forever. The winds were unreliable, and what seemed to be an advantage one moment would have sailors doubting their lives the next.  And then, as if in answer to someone’s prayer, it happened.

On August 6, 1588, the winds shifted toward the northeast, drawing the large galleons of the Armada safely into deeper waters,  and the English away from their docks and supplies. The Spaniards rejoiced: God, in His mercy, had breathed, they claimed, in order to save them!

But it would be the English who later picked up the motto as inscribed in Latin:  Flavit Jehovah Et Dissipati Sunt. “God breathed, and they were scattered.”

The Spanish, though safe from the shoals where changing winds might have wrecked them, were blown far into icy northern waters. There all favorable winds ceased, and they were left to take the long, cold road home. Of the 124 ships that sailed proudly in the Armada, by that winter only half had returned, and many of them never sailed again.

The English ships were blessed by the return of a favorable breeze, and English sailors celebrated the fall in the safety and warmth of their own homes.

How did this happen? Didn’t the Spaniards pray to God also? Does God take sides?

The issue is: whose flag are you flying? You may talk the right talk, but whose side are you on? Are you representing the Lord, or do you just want His approval for your plans?

Both the English and Spanish had elaborate ensigns for their flagships. Bold and colorful, they would easily distinguish the commanders’ vessels. But the rest of the fleet would have to be identified also, with a sign that would be easily replaced if damaged, and simple enough to be recognized at a distance. Each of them chose a cross to display.

English Naval Banners

The English displayed a simple red upright cross (t) on a white banner. The Spanish chose what is called a saltire: a St. Andrew’s cross which resembles the letter X. Yes, I’m telling you the difference between the two was only a 45-degree slant, but one represented the upright intentions of God Almighty, and the other DID NOT.


Banners of the Spanish Armada

It matters what flag you fly. Until God breathed and separated those fleets, one may have said, “Well, their version of Christianity is just as good as another,” or “Who cares” or “No one even notices the difference.”

It matters when you have run out of backup plans, and you need God to move on your behalf. God chose to answer the prayer of the captains under the right banner. Whose flag are you flying today?

“We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners: the LORD fulfil all thy petitions.” -Psalm 20:5

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