Around 1960, I acquired a copy of My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. Friends told me it was a challenging devotional book. As a young man of 17, wanting very much to live for Christ, I began to read the daily selections, underlining many sentences. Still, many mornings I closed the book with no understanding of what Chambers had written. I couldn’t seem to get into it.

In 1985, while I was preparing for a short-term missionary venture to Africa, My Utmost came alive. Perhaps it was my age (42 at the time) or the circumstances (uprooting our three children, none of whom was happy about moving to Kenya). Maybe it was the afternoon a month before our departure for Africa when my wife and I were stunned by the news that she was pregnant. Suddenly life felt out of control, and Oswald Chambers seemed to be reading my mail.

I felt that, many times, a sentence in My Utmost was written just for me: “Beware of harking back to what you were once when God wants you to be something you have never been” (June 8). “There is no condition of life in which we cannot abide in Jesus” (June 12). “God gives us the vision, then He takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of the vision, and it is in the valley that so many of us faint and give way” (July 6).

My Utmost became for me what it has been for countless other Christians: a major source of encouragement and guidance for living life in the Spirit.

My appreciation for Chambers’s writing birthed in me a curiosity about the man himself. From where did his wisdom and insight spring? What circumstances molded such a man? The preface to My Utmost contained only cryptic references to a Bible College in London, YMCA huts in Egypt, ...

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