The Life that Counts


Missiologically Aware by Marv Newell 

William Borden was a 25 year-old handsome bachelor, bright, cultured, and refined at the time of his death in Egypt in 1913. If alive today, he could readily qualify for the TV reality show, The Bachelor, as he was the perfect picture of the millionaire that he actually was, with the promise of success ahead of him.

Known as “Borden of Yale,” he was indeed a wealthy young man who had inherited millions from the family’s business empire – inventors of condensed and evaporated milk. But Borden also grew into a passionate follower of Jesus Christ under the teaching of R.A. Torrey while a parishioner at Moody Church, Chicago. There he made his commitment to be fully surrendered to Christ.

When he did that, he took out his Bible and wrote on one of its pages the words “No Reserve.” With that commitment he gave away his fortune to the cause for world evangelization. But he gave even more with the consecration of his own life to Christ. He felt called to evangelize the Muslims of N.W. China and so, renouncing the rest of his inheritance, he set sail for China to serve under the China Inland Mission (OMF International today).

By intent his journey to China took him via Cairo, Egypt to study Arabic and Islam with the famous Islamist Samuel Zwemer. However, not long after his arrival, while immersed in study, he was struck down with spinal meningitis. He could have had himself rushed across the Mediterranean to receive premier medical treatment in Europe, but instead he insisted on staying in Egypt.

As he lay stricken on his hospital bed, he took out his Bible and where he had penned the words “No Reserve” he added the words, “No Retreat.” Tragically, there was no relief from his illness, and just before he passed away two weeks later, he wrote a third time in his Bible, scribbling the words “No Regret.” There he died and was buried having never reached his place of calling.

“No Reserve…No Retreat…No Regret.”

As we ponder the sacrifice of this amazing young man, some might say, “what a waste!” “What a waste of such a promising life!” But wait – giving up one’s small ambitions and selfish goals for eternal benefits should never be thought of as a waste. On the contrary, self-sacrifice brings much eternal gain. That is why Jim Elliott, another promising young missionary killed in his prime, could confidently say some 40 years later, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Remember this important life principle: there are no losers in the work of Christ; there are no losers when walking with Christ, no matter how many or how few the years He may give.

Those six words: “No Reserve…No Retreat…No Regret,” speak of resolve, resilience, and of a life well-lived – a life that counts!

I know there are some reading this blog who have reservations about serving Jesus, especially in a foreign setting. Questions arise. “Will He take care of me,” “Is this really worth my life,” “Will my serving Him count all that much?” “Will taking this path be detrimental to my family?” “Will this perhaps cause my untimely death?”

Yes, those doubts are real and only by walking closely with Jesus will you resolve these questions for yourself. Someone has insightfully said, “If Christ is at the center of your life, then the circumference will take care of itself.”

There will come a time in your serving that you will be sorely tempted to retreat from both your calling and your Lord. It is inevitable that you will face this challenge. But may your resolve be so strong that you have a resilience that keeps you rebounding each time you get knocked down or suffer a set back. Remember this: life is too short to speed up and too precious to mess up. But above all, do not give up – do not retreat from your commitment to Christ in exchange for something other than walking with the Lord you love so dearly.

At age 16, upon graduating from high school, Borden took a year off before entering Yale, spending the year on a round-the-world tour. While in Japan, his mother sent him a poem that he prized his entire life. He referred to it frequently throughout his university and seminary days. It was found among his personal affects at the time of his death and returned to his family.

Just as I am, Thine own to be,
Friend of the young, who lovest me,
To consecrate myself to Thee –
O Jesus Christ, I come.

In the glad morning of my day,
My life to give, my vows to pay,
With no reserve and no delay –
With all my heart, I come.

I would live ever in the light,
I would work ever for the right,
I would serve ever with all my might –
Therefore to Thee I come.

Just as I am, young, strong and free,
To be the best that I can be
For truth and righteousness and Thee –
Lord of my life, I come.

As you go on your way in crosscultural service, you too need to first come. Come to a place of unwavering resolve to follow Jesus with “no reserve…no retreat…and no regret.” And if you will, like Borden, you will look back with satisfaction on A LIFE THAT COUNTS.

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