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Six Words

William Borden was the heir to an enormous family fortune. When he graduated from high school in 1904, his parents sent him on a trip through Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The experience changed William profoundly. The pain and suffering he saw compelled him to give his life to missionary work.


His family and friends couldn’t believe that he would “throw himself away as a missionary.” But, he was determined. In the back of his Bible, he wrote, “No reserves.”


William returned to the States and began taking courses at Yale. It was evident to everyone that he was different. His faith surpassed that of his classmates. He once invited a friend to meet him each morning for prayer and Bible study. Within four years, it had led to over a thousand students meeting daily in study groups.


After graduating from college, Borden was offered a number of high-paying jobs He turned them down. He went instead to Princeton Seminary to prepare for the mission field.


He wrote two more words in his Bible. “No retreats.”


When he finished his studies at Princeton, he set off to China. He hoped to work with Muslims and, so, he stopped first in Egypt to study Arabic. There, he contracted spinal meningitis and, a month later, William Borden was dead at the age of 25.


The news was cabled back to the United States and, as Borden’s biographer, Mary Taylor, wrote, “A wave of sorrow went round the world… Borden not only gave (away) his wealth, but himself, in a way so joyous and natural that it (seemed) a privilege rather than a sacrifice.”


His Bible was recovered. He had written two other words underneath “No reserves” and “No retreats.”

“No regrets.”


Six words. Three resolutions. One purpose.


What would happen if we all could live with such a determined and clear purpose?

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