Yet William Borden would die at the age of 25 in Egypt, thousands of miles from his family, without a fortune, and with a father who banned from working in the family company. By every worldly standard of success, Borden's life was a resounding failure. It fell far short of what is seen in most motivational articles and on the covers of success magazines.
But that's because success magazines and motivational articles don't ever see the whole picture. Inside Borden's Bible, which was mailed to his mother after his death, there were three quotes. The first was dated just after he had given away his entire fortune in order to pursue overseas missions. "No reserve."
Simple words. But they're words that sent a rich young man walking away from Jesus very sorrowful. No reserves was a line he wasn't willing to cross. We're willing to sing "All to Jesus, I surrender" every Sunday during a somber invitation. We're willing to make a lot of sacrifices to Jesus. But have we ever really gone so far as to look into the eyes of Jesus and say that we will hold nothing back?
Because that's what Jesus demands. You can't follow Jesus with reserves. You can't follow Jesus without a cross. A cross wasn't a singular analogy of a trial. The cross was a symbol of death. To follow Jesus was to die, to die in order to find life in Him. But that death is not just a symbolic death. It is a real death to the flesh, a real death to what I find attractive as a human who desires the flesh. It is a real death of my own ambitions. It is a real death of my own plans and my own desires so that I can find my life in Him, His plans, and His desires.
No reserve? Isn't that a bit harsh? Just a bit demanding, maybe? Perhaps. But that's the call. "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." Denying yourself is never enjoyable. Carrying a cross is never enjoyable. This is harsh language. This is demanding language. If you want to follow Jesus, it means self-denial. It means death in Him.
There's a second quotation in Borden's Bible, dated sometime recently after his father had told him that he would never be welcome to work in the family's extremely successful company. The quote reads quite simply: "No retreat."
This was Borden's line in the sand. From this point onward, he had no other option. He saw no other goal but Jesus Christ. Retreat, falling away, going anywhere but after Christ wasn't even an option. Retreat wasn't even up for discussion. No retreat.
This is a look into the mind and heart of a radical. There is a point when as a follower of Christ, we have to decide how far we will follow Jesus. Will we follow Him when it hurts? Will we follow Him if it doesn't make sense? Will we follow Him despite everything yelling at us not to?
Eric Ludy probably says it best when he says (here, honestly, you guys need to check this out) "Do you have a limit to your obedience? It's like, 'I will follow God, to this point. But anything beyond this point is extreme.' Who came up with that? Doesn't God own you? Don't you realize that He purchased your body? You belong to Jesus Christ. You submitted your life to Him; He can do with you what He wishes. So who are you to give your life to Jesus Christ and then define the terms of how He will use your life? Do you have a limit to your obedience? Because if you have a limit to your obedience, something's wrong with your Christianity."
No retreat. Somewhere in our minds, we must purpose that to be a radical follower of Christ, there is a point of no retreat. There is no going back to what I was. There is no decision I am called to that I won't make, there's no place I'm called to go I won't go, there's not trial I'm called to face I won't face. Retreat is not an option.
Borden's final quote is found close to before he died at 25 years old. It simply reads: "No regrets." That's a stunning statement. What's the fruit of a life that's lived with no reserves and no retreats? Well, from the earthly perspective, it's an irrationally wasted life. From our human standpoint, the fruit for Borden was death.
But what instantly comes to mind here is Paul's words, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which will be revealed in us." To the normal person, this is irrational. To a radical, this is a war cry.
This is the passion that drives us to carry a cross, to carry the gospel without retreat or reserve. The passion is the glory of our God that will be revealed in us. And Paul, with the scars on his back from the beatings and the memories of his shipwrecks, with the knowledge of the Sanhedrin's plots against his life, with the knowledge that his life was constantly at risk, assesses the cost vs the gain.
His conclusion? That the glory to be revealed in us, the glory of our God, is so great, that the sufferings and the pain isn't even comparable. God's glory to be revealed in us is so great that the pains, the trials, the cross, pale in comparison. He is worthy of it all! And whatever we experience here is not worth to be compared with how great the glory of our God is, the same glory that will be revealed in us.
No reserve. No retreat. No regrets. That's what a radical looks like.