Remembering William Borden

In 1904, William Borden (1887-1913), heir to the Borden Dairy Estate, graduated from a Chicago high school, already a millionaire. His parents’ graduation gift to him was a trip around the world. That trip changed his life. Traveling through Asia, the Middle East, and Europe gave Borden a burden for the world’s hurting people. Writing home, he said, “I’m going to give my life to prepare for the mission field.” When he made this decision, he wrote in the back of his Bible two words: NO RESERVES.

Borden arrived at Yale University in 1905. During his first semester, Borden started to pray group and Bible study with a friend. A short time later, a third student joined them. By the end of his first year, 150 freshmen were meeting for weekly prayer and Bible study. By the time he was a senior, 1,000 out of the 1,300 students were meeting for weekly prayer and Bible study. Borden was pleased because his goal was to win every soul at Yale University for Jesus. That wasn’t enough for Borden. Off Yale’s campus, he went to the darkest parts of New Haven, Connecticut to help those individuals’ society had forgotten. After graduating from Yale, Borden turned down many well-paying jobs and began studying for the mission’s field at Princeton University. At that time, he wrote two more words in his Bible: NO RETREATS.

After leaving Princeton, he dreamed of evangelizing the Muslims in China. He sailed toward China but stopped in Egypt to study Arabic. It was there the unexpected happened. He was diagnosed with spinal meningitis and died at the age of 24. Life can be so cruel. During his illness he wrote two more words in the back of his Bible, NO REGRETS. Those six words written in the back of William Borden’s Bible act as the perfect outline for this blog. That takes us to our scripture reading.

We are in the tenth chapter of John. This is not a pleasant time for Jesus. He is surrounded by conflict by conflict. He tells us something our generation still believes. Actions speak louder than words. His miracles and his teaching state the obvious. Jesus is the Messiah. However, it is not just true of himself. It is also true of his disciples. Actions do speak louder than words. It is one thing to say you are disciple of Jesus Christ, it is something else to act like a disciple of Jesus Christ. If you didn’t speak a single word about Jesus, would the people in your life know you are a disciple? To answer that question, let us look at William Borden’s six words and examine your own life.

No Reserves

The first two words William Borden wrote in his Bible were the words: NO RESERVES. In other words, he was totally committed to serving God. Mark Twain once said, “Traveling broadens a man.” Today, he would have said, “Traveling broadens a person. If you want to experience true poverty, travel outside of the United States. It is shocking at the level and the amount of poverty that exists in the world. When William Borden experienced true poverty, he had to respond. He knew he had to respond with his life. There would be no reserves. He was totally committed. Are you totally committed?

Recently my wife and I started attending our local Lutheran Church. It is odd sitting in a pew after leading worship for forty years. I am doing my best not to evaluate the service, the sermon, or the church. I am simply there to worship and feed my soul. On our first Sunday, a gentleman stood up in the front pew and announced he was looking volunteers to serve on a stewardship task force. Then, he went on to talk about the church’s budget. It was my first Sunday, so I didn’t have the heart to tell him that stewardship is not just about money. Christian stewardship is about maintaining and using wisely the gifts that God as bestowed. Annually, I asked my church this question: if everyone volunteered as much time, shared their God given abilities, and gave as much money as you, would the ministry of your church contrast or expand? It is my experience that 80% of everything in the life of the church comes from 20% of the people. It is an issue of true commitment. Are you totally committed? The first two words in William Borden’s Bible were NO RESERVES! How many reserves do you hold for yourself?

No Retreats

The second two words William Borden wrote in his Bible were the words:  NO RETREATS. He was always finding a new ways to serve God. The world is filled with needs. Some of those needs are physical. For example, many lack food, water, and shelter. Some of those needs are spiritual. Jesus is our only hope of salvation. Those words are offensive to our politically correct world, but that does not change the truth. If we don’t have Jesus, then we have nothing at all. What are you doing to combat the needs in our world. Are you still advancing or has your momentum ground to a haunt?

This is a hard time for the United Methodist Church. The denomination is dividing, and many congregations are opting out. The topic is sexuality, but there are many reasons to leave. Some churches are leaving because they are closing. Once crowded churches are down to a select few. The only generation that remains tells stories of events that happened years ago. The problem is not a lack of devotion or commitment. The problem is not Jesus. The problem is their lack of flexibility. Society changed, but they refused to change. They offer traditional worship to a society who continues to grow more informal. The truth be told, they have decided to close, instead of changing to speak to our new society. At some point all the energy stopped moving outward and started going inward. All the energy is needed just to exist. It has been said, the mainline Protestant church is on the verge of becoming the Amish of the twenty-first century. The second two words in William Borden’s Bible were NO RETREATS. When was the last time you attacked?

No Regrets

This week I found a list of ten things you will never regret. Maybe you can relate to one of these?

          1. Showing kindness to an aged person.

          2. Destroying a letter written in anger.

          3. Offering an apology that will save a friendship.

          4. Stopping a scandal that was ruining a reputation.

          5. Helping a boy or girl find themselves.

          6. Taking time to show consideration.

          7. Refraining from gossip.

          8. Refusing to do a thing which is wrong.

          9. Living according to your convictions.

          10. Accepting the judgment of God.

William Borden had his whole life in front of him. He was only twenty-four years hold when he died. To us, it really doesn’t seem fair. However, William Borden trusted God. The only one he was trying to please was God. The last two words he wrote in his Bible were the words NO REGRETS. How far do you trust God?

I have said it a million times. The only things that really matters are those issues that will matter in one hundred years. What is going to matter in one hundred years? The only thing that really matters in one hundred years is your relationship with Jesus! Are you living for Jesus or are you living for someone or something else? In the back of William Borden’s Bible were written these words: NO RESERVES, NO RETREATS, NO REGRETS. Those words summarized his ministry.

Can I ask you a really difficult question? What words would you write in the back of your Bible? What words summarize your service to God? Would you write down LOCK THE DOORS! Would you write down TURN OFF THE LIGHTS! Would you write down WE HAVE NEVER DONE IT THAT WAY BEFORE! Would you write down SAVE MONEY! Would you write down one word, NO! Could it be you have no words? What words summarize your service to God? Perhaps a better question. How serious are you about serving God?

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