Thursday, June 26, 2014

MISGUIDED ZEAL (Romans Chapter 10)

Romans 10:2, “They have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.”

“Zeal” is defined as having “a strong feeling of interest and enthusiasm that makes someone very eager or determined to do something” (Webster’s Dictionary).  Prior to his conversion the Apostle Paul had been a zealous persecutor of the church (Cf. Philippians 3:6).  But afterwards, having been saved by grace, he enthusiastically devoted himself, in Christ, to a worthy cause.  He could thereby relate to his lost Jewish brethren, theirs was a misguided zeal.

William Borden was from the wealthy Borden family.  For his eighteenth birthday he was given a trip around the world.  That trip changed his life.  There is a tragic story in his biography about a Hindu woman in India, whom William Borden came across in his travels.  Having means of her own, she had visited all the most important temples in India to try to escape the burden of sin.  She carried awful guilt over her husband’s death at a young age, when she was only a child of thirteen.  She attributed it to some wickedness on her part in a previous life.  To atone for this unknown sin and to obtain relief for heart and conscience she spend seven long years traveling on foot from shrine to shrine, facing untold hardship and danger; but the burden grew only heavier as time went on.

She then determined to become a fakir (a Hindu ascetic).  Deciding that she had not suffered enough, she gave three years to self-inflicted torture, honoring the formulas in the sacred books for pleasing the gods.  She carried out her plan, though the sufferings she endured seemed incredible.  For one period of six months she sat without shelter in the sun all day with five fires burning around her, perspiration streaming from every pore.  Wealthy men brought wood and kept the fires burning as an act of merit.  With no clothing but a loin-cloth, her body smeared with ashes, and her long hair dubbed with cow-dung, she was an object of veneration to the pilgrims, many of whom worshiped her as they fed the fires.  At night she took her place in the temple, standing before the idol on one foot from midnight until daylight, her hands pressed together in the attitude of prayer, imploring the god to reveal himself to her.

Then, to increase her sufferings, when the cold season came with chilly nights, she went down at dark to the sacred pond and sat with water up to her neck, counting her beads hour after hour till dawn appeared.  And so she called upon Ram day and night with no response.  “If thou art God,” she used to plead, “reveal thyself to me.  Reach forth and take the offering I bring.  Let me see, hear, or feel something by which I may know that I have pleased thee, and that my sin is pardoned”--but there was no sign, no rest, no peace.

When the years of her long struggles were finished, she went to Calcutta, cut off her once-beautiful hair, and threw it into the Ganges as an offering, exclaiming, “There--I have done and suffered all that can be required of mortal man, yet without avail!”  She lost her faith in the idols and ceased to worship them.  “There is nothing in Hinduism,” was the conclusion forced upon her, “or I would have found it.”

There is no record of what became of her, but his witness of her experience was a part of what God used to change William Borden’s life.  He returned home with the desire to become a missionary.  He went off to Yale and as a student zealously devoted himself to sharing the gospel with his fellow students.  He formed Bible studies, started prayer meetings, and shared the gospel with the homeless and in the rescue missions.  He gave himself to the preaching of the gospel.  Why?  Because God had saved him and burdened him with compassionate concern for lost souls (like that woman he had come across in his travels).  Upon graduation from Yale, Borden turned down some high-paying job offers.  In his Bible, he wrote two more words: "No retreats."

His zeal for sharing the gospel was so intense that upon his father’s death, and with his family then begging him to take over the Borden Empire, he refused, thus turning his back on the corresponding wealth and prosperity.  He ventured on to missionary endeavor, but died prematurely at the age of 25 of spiral meningitis.  In his abbreviated life he faithfully served God and had a fruitful ministry.  Guided by Spirit-revealed truth he zealously devoted himself to the most worthy cause (Cf. Titus 2:14).  Prior to his death, Borden had written two more words in his Bible.  Underneath the words "No reserves" and "No retreats," he had written: "No regrets."  Well-instructed zeal towards a worthy cause is a good thing, misguided zeal is a waste.  (William Borden’s experience based on excerpts from the book, “Borden of Yale,” by Mrs. Howard Taylor; Bethany House Publishers).

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