A fourth element of the Williams Way is what I call selfless sacrifice. This is closely tied to the previous trait of courageous faith, but selfless sacrifice is different in emphasis and expression. Selfless sacrifice refers to a commitment motivated by loving God and loving others expressed in compassionate action for the well-being of others.
I believe this type of commitment requires a strong faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and is expressed in the sacrifice of self-interests, self-concern, and self-focus. The focus is upon the good of others for the glory of God. Selfless sacrifice flows from courageous faith in actions that seek the good of others. This type of leadership requires an intentional, deliberate, daily act of self-denial in order to love God and work for the good of others.
To make this kind of commitment – to sacrificially seek and work for the good of others at the expense of personal well-being, comfort, benefit, and safety – requires a daily surrender to the command of the Lord Jesus:
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ’If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it. For what will it benefit someone if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will anyone give in exchange for his life?’” — Matthew 16:24-26
There are numerous examples in the Williams story that illustrate how faithful followers of Jesus embody this teaching. One such story is found in a letter in our library archives written by Mrs. Brickell Davis. Her letter captures the essence of the Williams Way of selfless sacrifice.
Mrs. Davis was a well-to-do citizen of El Paso, Arkansas, and was a faithful contributor and supporter of the college. On the occasion of this letter, she wrote to Dr. Williams, “I have been informed by the Doctor that I must have a very expensive operation . . . or I may go blind.” In the following lines of her letter, she stated that she declined to have the operation which might, after all, only provide temporary relief. She stated bluntly, “I had rather go blind so that I can leave more for the college.”
Mrs. Davis’s story is not an appeal to be careless or reckless. I am neither suggesting that any of us forego needed, prescribed medical treatment nor neglect our health. Nor am I advocating that we should not be wise, careful, and deliberate in our plans and our actions. However, I am saying that sometimes we will face trials, challenges, or even opportunities that require us to sacrifice our own needs, our own desires, our own dreams, our own aspirations – and yes, sometimes our own comfort and well-being – for the good and well-being of others.
Authentic faith in Christ is expressed in commitments that seek the good of others. This type of commitment is an act of love and requires sacrifice. To love like this, to make these kinds of commitments, to sacrifice our own wants and desires for the well-being of someone else, requires courageous faith and a Christ-centered identity.
These are the kinds of leaders we desperately need today. Like you, I grow weary, if not angry, when I see leaders who “lead” in ways that benefit themselves at the expense and well-being of others. Like you, I long for leaders in all areas of our culture who make decisions and act in ways for the good of others, even making personal sacrifices to achieve this goal. Followers of Christ should lead like this. These are the kinds of leaders we aspire to educate and equip at Williams.
As was the case with the previous Williams Way traits (Christ-centered purpose; unwavering tenacity; courageous faith), we seek to instill the trait of selfless sacrifice in our students. Williams Baptist University does not exist solely to educate students, although we do provide an exceptional Christ-centered education. Our goal is for all facets of the university to focus upon building Christian leaders who lead – Christian leaders who lead through their work.
This is our purpose. Selfless sacrifice is a necessary trait of Christian leadership. This is the Williams Way.