by Bernard R. DeRemer
Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) has the unique distinction of never having written any of his books, though they all contain his exact words! Their publication is due to the faithful, dedicated labors of his wife and daughter—and what an enormous contribution to deeper Christian living they continue to make!
Chambers has been called “one of the greatest Christian thinkers of our time.” He was born in Aberdeen, Scotland. Through his godly home and the influence of Charles H. Spurgeon, he early came to know the Lord.
A gifted artist, he first entered art school. However, in 1897, after a definite call to the ministry, he began studies at Dunoon Training College in Scotland. “Not only did he have an outstanding record as a student, but also he remained after graduation to teach. He had a special interest in philosophy and psychology, and taught these courses.” 1
In 1901, a special experience with the Lord transformed his life. This filling with the Holy Spirit gave him new insight into both the Christian life and his teaching.
Soon he began an itinerant ministry in Britain, the U.S., and Japan, where he taught at the Oriential Missionary Society Bible School in Tokyo. He married Gertrude Hobbs in 1910. Her expert stenographic skills would figure prominently in the years ahead.
Chambers loved books and read widely. His biography refers to many authors, ranging from Alexander Maclaren and John Henry Jowett to Ralph Waldo Emerson. He always integrated his wide reading with the Word of God, “which he considered the only test for spiritual truth.”
He founded the Bible Training College at Clapham, London, which “operated on faith and prayer.” He even refused an endowment for it, saying, “No, if you do that it will probably go on longer than God means it to.”
Then he became a military chaplain during World War I and sailed with troops to Egypt. He ministered effectively until his untimely death in 1917 because of appendicitis.
Afterward, his wife, Gertrude (“Biddy”), became providentially all important. She had taken stenographic reports of his messages over the years and at the request of friends began to edit and publish them.
Concerning the great all-time classic, Wiersbe declares, “Each time I read a page in My Utmost for His Highest I am reminded of a forgotten nugget or I see something new that previously had eluded me. It is a book to grow with and…is unique.”
Wiersbe shares these quotations which he hopes will whet your appetite for more:
“If we are saved and sanctified, God guides us by our ordinary choices; and if we are going to choose what He does not want, He will check and we must heed.
“Every doctrine that is not embedded in the cross of Jesus will lead astray.
“Our Lord’s first obedience was to the will of His Father, not to the needs of men. The serving of men was the natural outcome of His obedience to His Father.”
Wiersbe also quotes this selection which has been especially meaningful in his life:
“The snare in Christian work is to rejoice in successful service, to rejoice in the fact that God has used you…. If you make usefulness the test, then Jesus Christ was the greatest failure that ever lived. The lodestar of the saint is God Himself, not estimated usefulness. It is the work that God does through us that counts, not what we do for Him.”
Mrs. Chambers died in 1966 after she had begun preparing the 32nd volume for the publishers. Her daughter, Kathleen, completed that work. Thus the ministry of Oswald Chambers “goes on triumphantly.”
1. From Victorious Christians You Should Know, by Warren Wiersbe; excerpts used by permission.