King Hezekiah had a life that began well. He was a model of godly kingship, all in total dependence on God.
Then while still relatively young, Hezekiah was struck down with an incurable illness. He wept bitterly and prayed: “Remember, O Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” He begged for an additional 15 years and God granted it.
But the additional years for Hezekiah were neither good nor godly years, rather faltering and regrettable ones. For one thing, Hezekiah became foolish. In his pride, he showed off all his treasures and even his country’s defense. And when God told him that the kingdom would be invaded as a consequence, Hezekiah replied: “The Word of the Lord you have spoken is good”, Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?” (2 Kings 20:19)
Secondly, his son and successor, the ungodly Manasseh was born during this period and “He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, following the practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites” (2 Kings 21:1-2) In short, Manasseh restored all the idolatry his father had tried so hard to eliminate.
Now fast forward to 1913, just a century ago. “No Regrets” were among the last words the young missionary William Borden of Yale scribbled in his Bible. It was 1913, and at age 25, he was dying of cerebral meningitis, caught as he was preparing himself to enter Lanzhou, China. William Borden might have begged, like King Hezekiah, for more years. Instead he recognized the Sovereign will and purpose of God for him (Psalm 57:2).
Today, on a hill-slope overlooking the Yellow River in Lanzhou, stands the William Borden Memorial Hospital (renamed No. 2 Hospital) built by grateful missionary colleagues with his generous gifts from his inheritance.
A tragic end for a godly servant whose life-aim and mission was to be “a light for a land in darkness”? Perhaps. But again, did not our Lord Jesus himself say: “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single seed. But when it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)
Indeed Borden’s life, though cut short, helped stir up a glorious wave of missionary fervour for China amongst the universities in North America and UK, being part of the great revival of that period. Many inspired by his sacrificial life of “converting his many possessions of talent, vigorous strength and wealth into eternal values” followed in his footsteps.
Reported one US newspaper “..no young man of his age had ever given more to the service of God and humanity; for Borden not only gave his wealth, but himself, in a way so joyous and natural that it was manifestly a privilege rather than a sacrifice.”
Today in China, one can still hear stories of someone, some grandparents perhaps, who were influenced, treated, trained and subsequently served in the hospital.
Literally thousands of Han Chinese and other ethnic groups over several generations became the legacy of one faithful man of God.
Two Lives… Don Carson comments on the span of our lives are thought provoking: “Far better to die young after genuine godly achievements than to die old and embittered, passing, poisoning your own heritage.” The lesson for me is: Sovereign Lord, teach me to number my days, and live purposefully for you, O Lord and Giver of life. (Psalm 90:12)
By Dr Leong Chee Lu (YCKC Bulletin 28&29 December 2013)