Who was Oswald Chambers?

Oswald Chambers (1874—1917) was a Scottish evangelist and teacher during the early 1900s whose talks were made famous when they were published posthumously in a devotional called My Utmost for His Highest.

Born to a Baptist preacher in Aberdeen, Scotland on July 24, 1874, Oswald Chambers was raised in a Christian home. Following his father's calling to serve the church, Oswald lived in many places throughout the United Kingdom during his childhood. While living in London, at the age of 15, Oswald got to hear Charles Spurgeon preach and after that sermon, he accepted Christ into his heart. He ministered to the poor in his teen years and was noted for his spirituality. However, since he was a gifted artist and musician, Oswald sought to glorify God through the arts while studying at the National Art Training School in London and later at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. At age 23, he felt called into fulltime ministry, so he abandoned his study of the arts to attend Dunoon College, a small theological training school where he eventually became a teacher and administrator.

In 1901, he began preaching throughout England, Ireland, and Scotland. In 1906, he joined Juji Nakada and Charles Cowman on a teaching trip that took them to the United States and Japan. While in the U.S., Chambers spent one semester teaching in Cincinnati at God's Bible School, a holiness institution. In 1908, on a boat back to the U.S., Oswald Chambers met Gertrude Hobbs, whom he called "Beloved Disciple" or "B.D." and the nickname, Biddy, stuck. In 1910, the two were married and they welcomed their only child, a daughter, in 1913.

In 1911, Biddy and Oswald founded the Bible Training College in London with the help of the Pentecostal League of Prayer. While supportive of the idea of speaking in tongues (glossolalia), Chambers was critical of those who would use it as a test of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Over the following four years, Biddy and Oswald welcomed students of every age, education, and class, giving to everyone who asked. They accommodated 106 resident students over those four years; by July 1915, forty of the students had become missionaries.

Because of WWI, the Chamberses suspended the school in 1915. Oswald became a chaplain for the YMCA, serving Australian and New Zealand troops stationed in Cairo, Egypt. Both the YMCA and the military had intended the center to simply provide soldiers with an alternative to the local brothels, but Chambers started Bible classes there rather than putting on concerts and movies. Much to his superiors' surprise, hundreds of soldiers packed the center listening to Chambers' messages. He offered free tea and cakes rather than having the soldiers pay for the snacks like at other YMCA centers, but it wasn't the free food that drew the men. Oswald Chambers had a personal appeal, a gift for speaking, and genuine care for the men.

Unfortunately, on October 17, 1917, Oswald came down with appendicitis. He refused treatment stating that the medical facilities were needed for treating wounded soldiers, but he finally agreed to surgery on October 29. Tragically, after the surgery, he suffered a pulmonary hemorrhage on November 15 and died at the age of 43.

His wife, Biddy, had been trained in shorthand and had taken meticulous notes during Oswald's teaching both at the Bible Training College in London and the YMCA in Cairo. After his death, she transcribed those notes and published them as articles and books. The most successful of the 30 books she published is My Utmost for His Highest. It is a collection of 365 daily devotionals of about 500 words each published in England in 1927 and published in the U.S. in 1934. Since then, it has never been out of print, has sold more than 13 million copies, has been translated into 39 languages, and now has a website, email, mobile app, and social media postings. Oswald Chambers' spiritual insights still guide people today into a more intimate relationship with God.

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