Pastor's Blog

Eyes on Eternity Posted 1.22.2016

On Sunday, I will refer to William Borden, his story is compelling.  Here is what I learned about the background of his life.  It is challenging.  Thought-provoking.  And I most just edited this from other sources to make it fit the space on the Back Page.  But, listen to his life still speak to us today, 104 years after his death.


In 1904 William Borden graduated from a Chicago high school.  Heir to the Borden family fortune, he was wealthy. For his high school graduation, his parents gave 16-year-old Borden a trip around the world. As he traveled through Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, he felt a growing burden for the world's hurting people. He wrote home about his "desire to be a missionary." One shocked friend wrote that he was "throwing himself away as a missionary."  In response, Borden wrote two words in the back of his Bible: "No reserves."   


Even though young Borden was wealthy, he arrived on the campus of Yale University in 1905 trying to look like just one more freshman.  He wasn’t.  But they didn’t notice his wealth. One student wrote: "He came to college far ahead, spiritually, of any of us. He had already given his heart in full surrender to Christ."  During his college years, Bill Borden made an entry in his personal journal that defined what his classmates were seeing in him. That entry said simply: "Say 'no' to self and 'yes' to Jesus every time."


Borden's first disappointment at Yale came when the university president spoke in convocation about the students' need of "having a fixed purpose." After that speech, Borden wrote: "He neglected to say what our purpose should be, and where we should get the ability to persevere and the strength to resist temptations." Surveying the Yale faculty and much of the student body, Borden lamented that what he saw was the end result of an empty, humanistic philosophy: moral weakness and sin-ruined lives.


During his first semester at Yale, Borden started something that would transform campus life -- he prayed with a friend each morning before breakfast.  Two soon became three by the end of his first year, 150 freshmen were meeting weekly for Bible study and prayer. By the time Bill Borden was a senior, 1,000 of Yale's 1,300 students were meeting in such groups.


Borden's missionary call narrowed to the Muslim Kansu people in China. And he never wavered. Although a millionaire, Bill realized always to ”be about his Father's business, and not wasting time in the pursuit of amusement." Upon graduation from Yale, Borden turned down some high-paying job offers. In his Bible, he wrote two more words: "No retreats."


William Borden went on to do graduate work at Princeton Seminary. When he finished, he sailed for China.  Hoping to work with Muslims, he stopped in Egypt to study Arabic. While there, he contracted spinal meningitis. Within a month, 25-year-old William Borden was dead.


When the news of William Whiting Borden's death was cabled to the U.S. and nearly every American newspaper carried the story. "A wave of sorrow went round the world . . . Borden not only gave (away) his wealth, but himself, in a way so joyous and natural that it (seemed) a privilege rather than a sacrifice" wrote Mary Taylor in her introduction to his biography.


Was Borden's untimely death a waste? Not in God's perspective. Prior to his death, Borden had written two more words in his Bible. Underneath the words "No reserves" and "No retreats," he had written: "No regrets."

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