6-Week Series: Against All Odds


Summary: This message describes how we are to approach our Christian life based on the philosophy of missionary William Borden.

Scripture Ref: Revelation 3:15-16, 19-21

Mark 12:28-30

Joshua 24:14-15

2 Corinthians 7:10-11

1. Introduction—Read the story of William Borden

In 1904 William Borden, heir to the Borden Dairy Estate, graduated from a Chicago high school a millionaire. His parents gave him a trip around the world. 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 (Connecticut) in 1905. During his first semester, Borden started the movement that transformed the campus. His friend wrote, "It was well on in the first term when Bill and I began to pray together in the morning before breakfast. We had been meeting only a short time when a third student joined us and soon after a fourth.

Borden’s group was the beginning of the daily groups of prayer that spread to every one of the college classes. By the end of his first year, 150 freshmen had become interested in meeting for weekly Bible studies. By the time he was a senior, 1,000 out of the 1,300 students were meeting in groups like these.

Borden made it his habit to choose the most "incorrigible" students and bring them to salvation. "In his sophomore year we organized Bible study groups and divided up the class of 300 or more, each man interested taking a certain number, so that all might, if possible, be reached. The names were gone over one by one, and the question asked, ’Who will take this person or that?’ When it came to one who was a hard proposition, there would be an ominous pause. Nobody wanted the responsibility. Then Bill’s voice would be heard, ’Put him down to me.’"

However, Borden did not confine his work to Yale. He rescued drunks on the streets of New Haven and founded the Yale Hope Mission to rehabilitate them. "He might often be found in the lower parts of the city at night, on the street, in a cheap lodging house or some restaurant to which he had taken a poor hungry fellow to feed him, seeking to lead men to Christ."

Borden had already formed his purpose to become a missionary to the Muslims in China, and that purpose never wavered. He inspired his classmates to do likewise. "He certainly was one of the strongest characters I have ever known, and he put backbone into the rest of us at college. There was real iron in him, and I always felt he was of the stuff martyrs were made of, and heroic missionaries of more modern times.

"Although he was a millionaire, Bill seemed to realize always that he must be about his Father’s business, and not wasting time in the pursuit of amusement." Although he refused to join a fraternity, "he did more with his classmates in his senior year than ever before." He presided over the huge student missionary conference held at Yale and was elected president of Phi Beta Kappa.

Turning down high paying job offers after graduating from Yale, Borden entered two more words in his Bible: NO RETREATS. Completing studies at Princeton Seminary (New Jersey), Borden sailed for China to work with Muslims, stopping first in Egypt to study Arabic. While in Egypt he was stricken with spinal meningitis and died within a month at the age of 25.

"When the death of William Whiting Borden was cabled from Egypt, it seemed as though a wave of sorrow went round the world...Borden not only gave his wealth, but himself, in a way so joyous and natural that it was manifestly a privilege rather than a sacrifice."

A waste, you say! Not in God’s plan. In his Bible underneath the words No Reserves and No Retreats, Borden had written the words NO REGRETS.

2. No Reserves

a. We are called to life a life of total commitment, not only in our faith, but also our total existence.

b. Read Rev. 3:15-16, 19-21

(1) Taken from the letter to Laodicea, the worst of the seven Asian churches. Laodicea was the reverse of Philadelphia—Philadelphia was convicted of nothing, Laodicea was commended for nothing.

(2) The heavy charge drawn against this church, ministers and people, was by one who knew them better than they knew themselves.

(3) Lukewarmness or indifference in religion is the worst temper in the world. If religion is worth any thing, it is worth every thing; an indifference here is inexcusable. Christ expects that men should declare themselves in earnest either for him or against him.

(4) We may call lukewarmness charity, meekness, moderation, and tolerance; however, it is nauseous to Christ, and makes those that allow themselves to part of it equally nauseous.

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