In his wonderful book, Serious Times, pastor and author James Emery White records one of my favorite stories—the story of William Borden.
Borden was the heir to the Borden Dairy estate, which means he was a millionaire by the time of his high school graduation. As a graduation gift, Borden was sent on a trip around the world. As he traveled throughout Asia, the Middle East and Europe, he experienced a growing concern for the hurting and the lost in the world. Gripped by this concern, he wrote home to say, “I’m going to give my life to prepare for the mission field.” After making this decision, he wrote two words in the back of his Bible: No Reserves.
From there Borden went to Yale University filled with a sense of purpose. Not one to waste time or opportunity, he began a campus wide student movement that met regularly to read the Bible and pray. By the end of his first year, 150 fellow freshmen were involved. By the time he was a senior, 1,000 of Yale’s 1,300 students joined together in these groups. Beyond his work on campus, Borden founded the Yale Hope Mission to reach out to those on the streets of New Haven, Connecticut.
His skills for motivation and organization did not go unnoticed. Consequently, he received numerous offers for high-paying jobs. Yet he declined them all to pursue his missionary call. At some point during this time, he wrote down two more words in the back of his Bible: No Retreats.
Borden’s next stop was Princeton Seminary and was eventually ordained to the ministry. After he finished his studies, he set sail for China through the China Inland Mission, stopping first in Egypt to study Arabic. While there, he contracted cerebrospinal meningitis. In less than a month, William Borden died at the age of twenty-six. What thoughts raced through his mind during those last days? We have some insight, because before his death, knowing that the steps of his life would take him no further, he wrote two more words in his Bible. Beneath “No Reserves” and “No Retreats” he wrote “No Regrets.”
I love this story for two reasons. First, I love it because it reminds me that pursuing God’s call is more about a lifestyle than a destination. I have met far too many people who are doing nothing while feeling extremely spiritual because they are waiting to discern God’s call. Most often, however, we discover God’s call while we are living faithfully as part of God’s mission. Second, I love this story because it reminds me to take advantage of seemingly small opportunities while you have the time to take it. I do not want to miss a chance to teach, to coach, or to influence. I want to live with “No Reserves.” I want to serve with “No Retreats.” And I want to die with “No Regrets.”