Faith to the Utmost

THE NAME OF Oswald Chambers is well known to millions of Christians for a collection of notes gathered by his wife from his sermons and published as a devotional reader in 1927, 10 years after his death, under the title My Utmost for His Highest.

Like many Christians, I first read this devotional guide while still in college and harbored the suspicion that this man must have been a somber if not puritanical pillar of the faith. The gaunt, almost cadaverous portrait of him included in many editions of his most famous work contributed much to these impressions of mine. It turns out, though, that I did not know the human being who was Oswald Chambers.

I recently stumbled upon a crumbling book in the library stacks of a local university that greatly altered my perceptions of him. It was an out-of-print collection of tributes by those who knew him best, along with his personal diaries from his travels abroad as an itinerant preacher and as a YMCA chaplain in World War I until his sudden death from complications following an emergency appendectomy at the age of 43. As I read through these documents, I found myself strongly attracted to Chambers as a person and captivated by his vision of what it means to be a believer in the modern world.

AS A STUDENT of art at the University of Edinburgh, Chambers was not known among his peers for his religious devotion, which he had received from devout Scottish Baptist parents. He was better known, rather, for his outgoing personality and his knowledge and love of poetry, art, and music. He was gifted not only with a keen aesthetic sensitivity and outgoing temperament, but also with a rigorous mind. After completing his studies he became a tutor at Dunoon College in Scotland in 1898, where he taught logic, moral philosophy, and psychology for several years.

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