In Gladiator, Russell Crowe tells his troops before a battle that regardless of what happens their sacrifice will never be forgotten. They will leave a mark on eternity. He is telling them that, forever, people will say, “If it were not for you …”
Have you ever asked yourself the question, “Is it really worth it to follow Christ?” Do you ever think about how some of your friends seem to be enjoying life more and getting things that give them a life of “pleasure,” yet you are not so fortunate? They seem to be prospering and enjoying life, but you have too many other things to be doing that limit the fun in life. They get to spend all their money on themselves, but you have decided to be generous to others.
However, George Barna did a survey of 152 separate items comparing the lost world and the life of church members. He found that there was virtually no difference between the two as to how they lived. Their values were the same and their goals were similar.
Christ calls His followers to cease their self-centered lifestyle and dreaming of possessing more “stuff.” He said, “No one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions” (Luke 14:33 NAS). We cannot love the things of this world on the one hand, and God at the same time (1 John 2:15). If we are going to be a Christ-follower it is going to cost us. There can be times when we ask ourselves, “Am I making a mistake to give up all this to follow Christ?”
In 1905 William Borden, heir to the Borden dairy fortune decided to give it up to prepare his life as a missionary. His friends said Bill was “throwing himself away as a missionary.” As he entered Yale College he wrote in his Bible: “No Reserves.”
His exposure to the Yale faculty and student body left him disillusioned as he observed the end result of an empty, humanistic philosophy: moral weakness and sin-ruined lives. He started a prayer meeting before breakfast his first year, which grew to 150. By the end of his senior year, more than 1,000 of the 1,300 student-body met weekly for prayer.
Borden’s global focus led him to the Muslim Kansu people in China. At graduation, he was offered some high paying jobs, but he refused them all. He wrote in his Bible: “No Retreats.”
Because he was going to work with Muslims he sailed for China, with a stop in route to learn Arabic in Egypt. While there he contracted spinal meningitis. Within a month the 25-year old Borden was dead. Before he died he wrote two more words in his Bible: “No Regrets.” A hundred years later we are still talking about his brief but impacting life.
And so it is with all who give up their lives to live for their Savior. Anything done for the Lord is never a waste of time. Do we believe that it will be worth it?
There was a time when the disciples heard Jesus tell the rich young ruler to sell everything then give the money to the poor and follow Him. If he did he would have treasures in heaven (Luke 18:22). The rich ruler walked away sadly unable to give up his wealth.
Peter, watching this scene, exclaimed, “We have left our own homes, and followed You” (Luke 18:28). Matthew records that Peter added, “What then will there be for us?” (Matt 19:27). He was saying, “What do we get for following Christ” “Is it really worth it to make the sacrifices we are making? Have we foolishly thrown our life away for Jesus?”
With grace and great patience Jesus answered Peter, “I tell you the truth: in the age when all things are renewed, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones” (19:28). Jesus wanted Peter to be anticipating His millennial reign as the scene where he will be richly rewarded, then throughout eternity, such sacrifices will be honored by the King of kings forever. Amazing!
Paul wrote, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:58 ESV). This is probably the greatest understatement in the Bible.
When Jan and I headed to the Amazon jungle as missionaries I did not expect I would survive as a bush pilot (and I nearly did not), so I took as my life verse Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us”(Rom. 8:18 ESV). This “glory” is not in this lifetime, but in our glorified form during the millennium and beyond. This thought often made our difficulties seem trivial and worthwhile.
If we “keep seeking those things above where Christ is” (Col 3:1), that is, we can choose to make heavenly rewards and recognition by Christ Himself the most important things in our lives, then we will do all we can to please our Savior by partnering with Him in whatever He is doing in the world today. It will not matter whether we are ever recognized in our lifetime or not.
We serve a God who never forgets anything done in His name: “Can a woman forget her baby who nurses at her breast? Can she withhold compassion from the child she has borne? Even if mothers were to forget, I could never forget you!” (Isa. 49:15 NET).
Not only will He not forget what we have done in general, He promises never to miss a single thing that we have done however insignificant, like giving a refreshing glass of water in His name. Hebrews 6:10 tells us, “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do” (Heb. 6:10 ESV).
Even the things done in private that no one else sees or knows about will never be forgotten. Not only will our Savior never forget anything done in our lives for His honor and glory. But He also promises to reward us greatly. Jesus said, “Your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matt. 6:18).
Indeed, Jesus wants His rewards to be a foundational part of our motivation to give up a selfish lifestyle or to face a dangerous or risky situation with courage in order to build up His church. It is not the reward itself that is so important, but what they will mean in His kingdom and for all eternity, as we will see.
It is not easy to make disciples and mentor them in how to apply their knowledge of God’s Word to their lives. It takes our time and patience. The challenge of explaining Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world, especially if you have to learn a new language to do so, can mean hundreds of hours invested with individuals. Is it going to be worth it?
This purpose can cost us everything. But that would be okay.
To be clear, this is not the task of a select few, but for every Christ follower. Every effort for this purpose will never, never be forgotten.
It has been a hundred years since William Bordon sailed for China and we are still honoring his sacrifice for the Lord.