A Life Without Regrets

Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.

–Mark 16:15

William Borden grew up an heir to a great fortune. By the time he was in high school, he was a millionaire–which in the early 1900s was a lot of money. He and his family assumed that he would one day take over the family business. So after he graduated from high school, before he was to enroll at Yale University, his family sent him on an around-the-world trip. He visited Egypt, Syria, China, Japan. And while he was traveling, God called him to spend the rest of his life as a missionary.

His father told him to wait a few years before making any big decisions; a friend told him not to throw his life away. But Borden was so certain of God’s call on his life that in the back of his Bible, he allegedly wrote these words: “No reserves.”

Borden went to Yale, where he organized weekly Bible studies and opened the first rescue mission in New Haven. During his freshman year, he went to a conference where he learned about millions of Chinese Muslims who were not served by any missionaries. And Borden decided he wanted to spend his life serving Muslims in China. Instead of taking over the family business after college, he enrolled at Princeton Theological Seminary. He would not be deterred from his calling. In the back of his Bible under the words “No reserves,” he is said to have written two more words: “No retreats.”

After graduating from Princeton Seminary, Borden said goodbye to his family and friends and set sail for China’s Gansu province. He stopped in Egypt to learn Arabic and study Muslim customs so he could minister to them more effectively. But while in Egypt, he contracted cerebral meningitis. He died nineteen days later at the age of twenty-five. “What a tragedy,” you might think. “What a shame that somebody who was willing to give up so much died even before he got to the mission field.” But tracts about his testimony were distributed in several languages, and in 1914, China Inland Mission founded the Borden Memorial Hospital in the very province he had been hoping to serve. Because of Borden’s story, countless missionaries have been inspired to share the gospel around the world.

Borden did not live long enough to see the full results of his obedience to God. But as he lay dying in that Cairo hospital, he is said to have added these words to the back of his Bible: “No regrets.” The kind of faith that endures problems is a faith without reserves, without retreats, and without regrets.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Against All Odds” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2020.

Jayson Casper, “The Forgotten Final Resting Place of William Borden,” Christianity Today, February 24, 2017, https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2017/february/forgotten-final-resting-place-of-william-borden.html.

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