Oswald Chambers (1874–1917)
I remember being a freshman in high school and receiving as a gift from one my Christian friends a copy of My Utmost for His Highest. At the time of my receiving this devotional, I had no idea of the impact it has had, nor much about the author. Years later, as I come across the different pages from that devotional, I see nuggets of truth to be mined. I see why this devotional has lasted so long. I am thankful for Oswald Chambers and also for his wife and daughter, who transcribed much of his writings.
What is interesting about Oswald Chambers is that he was little known in the Christian world at the time of his life. Over thirty different titles are attributed to him, yet he only penned one in his lifetime. His most famous work, My Utmost for His Highest, which has sold millions of copies and is written in several languages, is really a result of Oswald’s wife, Gertrude (who was called Biddy by friends), and their daughter, Kathleen. Though the impact of Oswald’s work during his life may have been limited (he lived only to 43), he is a world changer as he has impacted many believers with his writings.
Oswald was born in Scotland in 1874. His father was a Baptist preacher who moved his family from Scotland to London on two different occasions. His family’s history involves two famous preachers, Charles Spurgeon and D. L. Moody. It was through D. L. Moody, who preached in Scotland, that the family was able to witness a revival in the land. Charles Spurgeon baptized Oswald’s mother and father and personally impacted him. Oswald’s father was one of Charles Spurgeon’s first students at Spurgeon’s college for pastors.
Oswald’s conversion happened as he was walking home with his father after hearing the famous Spurgeon and shared with his father that he would have given himself to the Lord if he had the opportunity. His father said, “Why wait? You can do it now, my boy.” Oswald took his father’s advice and did.
At first Oswald desired to be an artist, yet God had directed him differently and he entered Dunoon Training School, where he felt called into ministry. Though this was beneficial for his growth, Chambers would call this period of his life “four years of hell on earth.”
He did missionary work in Britain, Japan, and the United States, where he would meet his wife, Gertrude. She was a stenographer, which came in handy as she recorded all of Oswald’s messages.
Oswald felt compelled to start a Christian college that emphasized Christian living, not just education, and the Bible Training College at Clapham in Britain was started.
When World War I broke out, Oswald felt compelled to be a chaplain for the troops and he and his family moved to Zeitoun, Egypt, where he would die in 1917 from complications of having appendicitis.
The Written Word Was the Living Word:
Chambers sought to present truth in ways that would excite new interest in listeners. One said, “I wondered, as I drank his message, whether I had the same Bible as he had. The written word became a Living Word, and as I obeyed it my whole life was altered.” When the Word of God is alive for the preacher, the listener can see that God’s Word is active and living (Hebrews 4:12).
I agree with what Chambers said: “You can never give another person that which you have found, but you can make him homesick for what you have.” He portrayed the reality of the gospel in how he lived and what he shared through his sermons. Chambers was the real deal. Who he was in the pulpit was who he was in life. He spent time with the Lord and it showed in what he did.
Chambers also said, “When the heart sees what God wants, the body must be willing to spend and be spent for that cause alone.” This desire to communicate who God is and what He is all about transcends time and generations. A heart that has been impacted can impact others regardless of the era, and that is exactly what Chambers has done.
I am thankful that God can use not only His Word, which is the Living Word, but also the written words of generations past, like those of Oswald Chambers. It is amazing to think that My Utmost for His Highest has been used to encourage and impact so many yet it is not a freshly written work. This shows us that the gospel and the things of the Lord are still relevant today. Oswald Chambers is a world changer and if you have not picked up a copy of the devotional My Utmost for His Highest, I encourage you to do so.
Oswald Chambers (1874–1917)