Friday, June 10, 2011

Acts 20: Paul, Eutychus and William Borden

This chapter highlights the tenacity and godly zeal of the Apostle Paul. His unstinting capacity to focus and work…… it is unfathomable to me. How can I say this…..he is not like me. Or, I am not like him. The Spirit is willing but my flesh is weak. In this story I am Eutychus, the tired chap who falls asleep during one of Paul’s late night sermons, tumbles out of the third story window and has to be resurrected by Paul. The poor lad is then taken home (either then or later). Paul pauses to eat and then preaches until daylight.  

I know this about myself. Working on political campaigns, I have found myself exhausted and just wanting to go home to bed. I greatly admire dedicated workers like Heather Sheppard and Vermont Right to Life’s Mary Hahn Beerworth, a pair of godly Energizer Bunnies possessing never-ending enthusiasm and energy. But I am not like them, either. Is it lack of physical stamina? Self-indulgence? Or is it just “by the grace of God I am what I am”? For the moment I suppose I will glory in my infirmities so that when blessings occur, Christ will be glorified (despite my tendency to hog the stage).

Last night, on the way home from our grief support group meeting (I am so thankful to leaders Rich and Karen Parker and for the good, patient listeners that gather there), I was thinking about Acts 20 and what do you know, Woodrow Kroll of “Back to the Bible” on 91.5 The Light began to preach on it! Well, I am no fool nor am I one to not benefit from another’s efforts – I paid attention. Dr. Kroll told of William Borden (see link for photo, full bio), the heir to the Borden dairy manufacturing fortune who brought revival to Yale University in the early 1900’s and then rejected “fame and fortune” for the mission field – only to contract meningitis and die within a year. One could argue that he “would have accomplished more” by staying home and supporting missions with his millions, preaching, etc.  But one would miss the point! William Borden wrote three statements in the back of his Bible. The first two were written during his Yale years as he grappled with family expectations, the lure of the world and the call of God:

“No Reserves. No Retreat.”

He wrote the third as he lay dying in Egypt:

“No Regrets.”

William Borden and Paul were kindred spirits. At their very foundations, they were not Kingdom Builders. Yes, their hearts burned for the Kingdom, in the spirit of John Knox who groaned “Lord, give me Scotland or I die!,” but even hotter burned their desire to say yes to Jesus. In his goodbye to the Ephesian elders, amid hugs and tears, Paul says: “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”

To his mission career, William Borden could have added a fourth negative R: “No Results.” At least in the outward, human, observable sense. The eternal “Results” produced by the Holy Spirit through the witness of a person committed heart, mind, body and soul to Jesus are glorious, I suspect, and will learn one day.

There is a sister who has intensely loved Jesus and others for almost 40 years. Her dedicated, risk-taking, gracious, loving lifelong ministry has not produced the tangible results for which she had hoped. This grateful Eutychus comments to her and others the witness of Paul and William Borden: “complete the task the Lord Jesus has given you – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” In the words of songwriter Keith Green, “He’ll take care of the rest, he’s gonna do it, he’ll take care of the rest, the Devil blew it, he’ll take care of the rest!”

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