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Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. — Colossians 3:2,3
We all have our favorites. When it comes to Bible teaching, you’ll find that all of the noted theologians and scholars have someone whom they have studied and enjoy referring to in their own writings and preaching. Chuck Colson referred to C.S. Lewis, Chuck Swindoll often quotes Ray Stedman, Ravi Zacharias will read from G.K. Chesterton, my pastor regularly cites John MacArthur . . . .and the list goes on. But if I personally were to pick a favorite, it would be Oswald Chambers.
The biography of Chambers is available in a book entitled Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God (The Story of the Author of ‘My Utmost for His Highest’). And that is a mention of what he is most famous for—the 365-day devotional compiled by his wife from his teachings called My Utmost for His Highest. The part of Chambers life that I particularly enjoy reading about is his time as a YMCA chaplain during World War I—stationed at Zeitoun, Egypt. His wife, Biddy, and daughter, Kathleen, were with him as he ministered to the many thousands of soldiers who were camped out in the desert—some sent daily out to battle. Biddy had been a stenographer before she married Oswald, and theirs’ was a beautiful marriage of Christian love and humble service. She listened to his daily sermons and wrote them down in shorthand . . . which later helped her to earn a living by publishing his works after his death in Cairo in 1917, the result of an appendectomy. Because of his inspired teaching and her persistent note-taking, the world has enjoyed the benefit of lessons learned in their ministry together during strenuous days.
I am currently working on a project, studying Chambers Complete Works, looking for nuggets of truth to pass along to a young couple we know who is about to get married. This couple is looking for advice on how to live the married life while in missionary service. I thought that in the life of Oswald and Biddy Chambers I might find that needed advice, as they worked side-by-side for years both in a seminary setting and in a war-time setting. In his biography by David McCasland, I found this paragraph describing some of what their life was like together during World War I in Egypt:
“Oswald and Biddy’s few private moments together came most often after the men had returned to camp, and the two of them took a short walk into the desert under the stunning night sky. Often Oswald would lift the sleeping Kathleen gently from her cot and carry her along. If she slept, he and Biddy could talk alone for a few moments and unburden their hearts to each other and to God. They encouraged each other by walking individually with God and finding His grace sufficient to meet their needs. Together, their lives intertwined into a cord of shared ministry that was stronger than either could have woven alone. Each day brought a never-ending stream of people whose emotional and spiritual needs were usually far greater than their need for food. Yet a cup of tea and one of Biddy’s homemade cakes served on a tablecloth outside the bungalow was often the key that unlocked a cynical heart and opened long-stopped ears to hear the gospel during Oswald’s teaching.” (p. 240-241)
How this couple worked together in service to our troops, and our Lord, is inspirational to me. But there is more, because in the writings of My Utmost for His Highest we can find other truth for living the Christian life during difficult times:
“Worrying always results in sin. We tend to think that a little anxiety and worry are simply an indication of how wise we really are, yet it is actually a much better indication of just how wicked we are. Fretting rises from our determination to have our own way. . . . All our fretting and worrying is caused by planning without God.” (July 4th)
“Refusing to be disillusioned is the cause of much of the suffering of human life. . . . There is only one Being who can completely satisfy to the absolute depth of the hurting human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.” (July 30th)
“Stop having a measuring stick for other people. There is always at least one more fact, which we know nothing about, in every person’s situation.” (June 17th)
When you read through Chambers’ devotional writings, you get a strong sense of a person (actually a couple) totally abandoned to God, in every way. And in working on my project, which is turning into a wedding present of sorts, I clearly see a series of “Warnings, Cautions, and Notes” for life in general, not just married life as a missionary couple.
In the military, equipment comes with a tech manual which includes instructions on its proper use. In the manual are warnings—operating procedures which could result in personal injury or loss of life if not carefully followed; cautions—operating procedures which could result in equipment damage if not carefully followed; and notes—operating procedures which are essential to emphasize. When teaching the Bible, my husband and I sometimes refer to the “warnings, cautions, and notes” which are included in our “tech manual” for living. Scripture is filled with instruction for proper use of our bodies, our minds, our tongues, our actions—so that we will not injure ourselves or others—and also with essential guidance on how to live our lives to the glory of God.
Looking again at some of Chambers’ writings, we can see how he was giving his soldiers (and generations of his readers since) “warnings, cautions, and notes”:
Warning, Caution, or Note? “The Christianity of Jesus Christ refuses to be careworn. Our Lord is indicating that we have to be carefully careless about everything saving our relationship to Him. Fuss is always a sign of fever. A great many people mistake perspiration in service for inspiration in devotion. The characteristic of a man who has come to God is that you cannot get him to take anyone seriously but God.” (The Place of Help, p. 1041 of Complete Works)
Warning, Caution, or Note? “It is instilled in us to think that we have to do exceptional things for God; we have not. We have to be exceptional in ordinary things, to be holy in mean streets, among mean people, surrounded by sordid sinners. That is not learned in five minutes.” (So Send I You, p. 1306 of Complete Works)
Warning, Caution, or Note? “The true test of a person’s spiritual life and character is not what he does in the extraordinary moments of life, but what he does during the ordinary times when there is nothing tremendous or exciting happening. A person’s worth is revealed in his attitude toward the ordinary things of life when he is not under the spotlight.” (My Utmost for His Highest, October 12th)
Warning, Caution, or Note? “A private relationship of worshiping God is the greatest essential element of spiritual fitness. . . . If you have not been worshiping in everyday occasions, when you get involved in God’s work, you will not only be useless yourself but also a hindrance to those around you.” (My Utmost for His Highest, September 10th)
If you ever get the chance to read My Utmost for His Highest on a daily basis, you will be blessed. May it complement your Bible reading and help you to gain new heights in understanding, knowing, and loving Jesus Christ. And like our newly-weds, may you take his “warnings, cautions, and notes” to heart in your daily living as you are abandoned to God.
Chambers, Oswald, The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers (Grand Rapids: Discovery House Publishers, 2000).
Chambers, Oswald, My Utmost for His Highest, edited by James Reimann, (Grand Rapids: Discovery House Publishers, 1992).
McCasland, David, Oswald Chambers: Abandoned To God, (Grand Rapids: Discovery House Publishers, 1993).
Questions to Share:
From the book of Proverbs, which of these verses appears to you to be a warning? A caution? A note? How can you apply them to your marriage?
Proverbs 27:1—Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.
Proverbs 16:5—The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.
Proverbs 28:14—Blessed is the man who always fears the LORD, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble.