Yes To Jesus Every Time
By Lois J. Stucky (1928 – 2014)
In the book, Borden of Yale ’09, by Mrs. Howard Taylor, published by Overseas Missionary Fellowship, is found the remarkable story of a young student who had a passion to know and to do God’s will. For years, every morning before the young man dashed off to school, he and his mother would kneel together for a brief prayer, and one of the petitions on which they were united was that God’s will be done in his life.
William Borden was born in 1887 to parents who were descendants of the Pilgrims and the Puritans, people of staunch faith in God and strong character, who passed on valuable traits to their posterity. During William’s early years his mother became an earnest, rejoicing Christian. She took membership in the Moody Church in Chicago where they lived, giving her children the advantage of a church where the Bible was clearly taught. It was here, as a lad of about eight years of age, under the preaching of R. A. Torrey, that William put his trust in Christ as Savior. Not long afterward, he stood with those who were witnessing to their decision to serve the Lord all the days of their life. Although William was young to make such a decision, he understood and never drew back from that dedication of himself to the Lord. As his love for the Word of God grew, Bible reading and prayer became an important part of his day.
Around the World Tour
His parents sent him to a Christian high school in Pennsylvania. A godly professor there made a valuable contribution to the lives of the students as he encouraged them to make Christ the pattern for their lives. After graduation, since he was sixteen years of age and young for entering college, William’s parents chose a fine Christian young man as a traveling companion, and sent he and William on a trip around the world. In the numerous countries visited, William was deeply impressed with the spiritual destitution, the idolatry and the superstitions of the masses where Christianity was practiced by only a small minority. This started him thinking about becoming a foreign missionary. He prayed that God would use his life for the furtherance of His kingdom as He saw best.
When their world tour took them to London, the two young men attended a service at which R. A. Torrey was a visiting speaker. Torrey called for those who wanted to surrender their lives fully to God to stand, and William stood and affirmed his decision that Jesus would be Lord of his life. William also accepted the challenge of Torrey to “Go to work,” and though he was a somewhat reserved young man, he began right there in London to speak to souls about Christ.
Student at Yale
Returning to the States, William entered Yale University. At once he became active in the Christian activities on campus. In addition to supporting the regular religious services of the university, he and a friend, Charlie Campbell, formed a prayer meeting and soon were joined by two others, to pray regularly just before breakfast. Their burden was for campus friends they wanted to bring to Christ. William would read a portion of Scripture and point out a promise in it and then proceed to confidently claim the promise. The freshman prayer group was the beginning of daily prayer groups being formed in the other classes up through the senior class. Blessings followed as God answered prayer, and a number of their fellow students were converted.
Following his freshman year, at a summer conference for training Bible study leaders, Borden wrote in his notebook: “Say ‘No’ to self, ‘Yes’ to Jesus every time…If Jesus is on the throne, you will go where He wants you to go. Jesus on the throne glorifies any work or spot…Lord Jesus, I take hands off, as far as my life is concerned. I put Thee on the throne in my heart. Change, cleanse, use me as Thou shalt choose. I take the full power of Thy Holy Spirit. I thank Thee.”
It was obvious that William was a young man greatly gifted of God, and he sought to develop these gifts to the fullest. He had high ideals for himself and endeavored to live them out. This helped to keep high the spirit and standard of those religious activities in which he participated. William was a careful steward of his time and was ever about his Father’s business. At the same time, he excelled as a scholar, and he participated enthusiastically in athletics, to keep his body strong. He was respected and admired by his classmates, and one friend wrote that he put “backbone” into those participating with him who were not as strong in character as he was.
Mrs. Taylor points out in her book a key aspect of his life: “Prayer was to him his most important work, as well as the breath of his life.” He was quick to pray throughout the day with his friends as they engaged in activities together. A carefully recorded list of prayer needs indicated that he also had a private prayer life of great depth and breadth.
William was a key worker in praying for and helping to start The Yale Hope Mission, a city rescue mission. As an avid worker in the mission, he faithfully took his turn in speaking and in praying with those who came for help. It was great joy to him when he was able to help get converts established in a better life. Though a young man of wealth, he was ever ready to humbly serve others, and he took care to use his wealth wisely and in a quiet and inconspicuous way.
Committed to Foreign Missions
A missionary convention of the Student Volunteer Movement during his freshman year introduced William to Samuel Zwemer. Zwemer was a man with a passionate love for Christ and for souls. He spoke forcibly about the challenge of the Islamic world, quoting figures and pointing out on a map the areas where Islamic people were largely unreached for Christ. He urged that when the way opened, missionaries should be ready to press in, sacrificing their lives if need be to reach them. From that time on, William had a quiet resolve to give himself for that work if the Lord confirmed that He wanted it, and he began to study the Arabic language.
After graduating from Yale University, he studied at Princeton Seminary. Here he continued to distinguish himself as a scholar, although his schedule was incredibly full of religious activities as well as family business matters. In addition, he was selected by several outside Christian organizations to serve on boards or councils. His wisdom and mature judgment, gained from his deep knowledge of Scripture, made him a valued and respected companion to the older men with whom he served.
In 1912 William was accepted by the China Inland Mission (now Overseas Missionary Fellowship), as a prospective missionary and he openly declared that he intended to go to Northwest China. A short time later he was ordained by Moody Church and set aside to minister in a foreign land. Like the Apostle Paul, he was “constrained,” “compelled” by the love of Christ to do and to go even to extremes to win for Christ the souls for whom He died, if that is how God led. To him, being a missionary was not a sacrifice but a privilege; knowing and loving God and doing His will in the power of the Holy Spirit to him was life in its fullest sense. He chose not to marry because he did not feel he should take a lady into the hardships that he expected to encounter in the remote place in China for which he was heading. William faced the formidable task that loomed ahead of him with confidence in God’s Word that “the things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27).
His All for Jesus
In December 1912, William departed for Egypt, where he teamed up with Samuel Zwemer, to learn more about Islam and to study Arabic more intently. Every phase of missionary work interested him and his eagerness to learn won him many friends. He was soon distributing khutbas (little sermons in booklet form) and trying to start conversations on the streets of Cairo. He also organized a door-to-door distribution of the tracts enlisting the help of seminary students. This outreach led to many opportunities to share the Gospel.
Who can measure the shock that went around the world when this highly esteemed young man of 25 years, so full of divine love and faith and hope, contracted cerebral meningitis and was taken to his heavenly home only four months after launching out on this first leg of his missionary journey to China? Multitudes mourned his unexpected death. Newspapers across America carried the story of William Borden’s homegoing, and testimonies from around the world poured in to his family carrying testimony of how William had impacted their lives for Christ.
Borden’s life preaches to us that as Christians, purchased by the precious blood of Jesus, our lives are not our own (1 Cor. 6:19). We are accountable to God for the gifts and graces He bestows upon us (Rom. 14:12). It is our reasonable service to yield willingly, gladly and lovingly to our Lord’s will for us (Rom. 12:1-2). It takes time and prayer and thought to discover His leading for us. We must purpose to stand strong and not break when He drills and disciplines us to fit into His perfect plan (Heb. 12:5-11). Jesus said, “If any man desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). Might God’s grace enable each of us to dedicate or re-dedicate to find and do God’s will.