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Oswald Chambers: A Living Epistle

By Mark Earley
President, Prison Fellowship -- Many of us have read and re-read the best-selling devotional book of the 20th century, Oswald Chamber’s classic, My Utmost for His Highest. But it might surprise you to realize that Chambers never sat down to write this devotional classic.

Instead, after his death at age 43, his wife transcribed a series of Chambers’ talks given to young people. Some of those talks were from his time serving as a military chaplain in World War I in Egypt. Others came from a few years prior, when Chambers taught at the Bible Training College he founded in Clapham, London.

Even though the book wasn’t written in the traditional way, it has inspired countless Christians to a closer walk with Christ and to the habit of early morning devotions.

Fittingly, Chambers thought it so important to begin each day by opening ourselves to God, he warned, “Unless in the first waking moment of the day you learn to fling the door wide back and let God in, you will work on a wrong level all day.”

But, he continued, if you “swing the door wide open and pray to your Father in secret, [then] every public thing will be stamped with the presence of God.”
Chambers emphasized again and again that public service to God is empty and meaningless without private devotion. In this month’s edition of Ken Boa’s ongoing Great Books Audio CD Series—a terrific series I highly encourage you to order—Boa turns his attention to this classic devotional and brings light to this important theme.
Boa draws our attention to what Chambers called “the greatest competitor to devotion to Jesus”—and that is our “service for Him.”

That might seem paradoxical, but Chambers pointed out how many of us worship our Christian service rather than the One whom we serve. The biggest danger for many of us, Chambers posited, isn’t worldliness or sin. He said, “The trap we fall into is extravagantly desiring spiritual success.”

And yet the true measure of spiritual success is always hidden from us in this life. Chambers compared the spiritual impact of a life to that of a flowing river. He observed, “A river touches places of which its source knows nothing.” And he encouraged Christians not to focus so much on where that river will eventually flow, but instead to focus on staying close to the source of our spiritual life.

Ironically, this man whose posthumous devotional has touched untold numbers of lives said that “God rarely allows a soul to see how great a blessing he is.”

Chambers believed that as we focus on abiding in Christ, being identified with Him, and conforming our wills to His, we become a living sacrament of his grace. Identifying and building on these key themes from Chambers, Ken Boa explains that we, the messengers of the Gospel, should become the message ourselves. We must become, as Chambers said, “living epistles”—letters of love from God to His children.

Chambers was such a living epistle, and we would do well to imitate him as he imitated Christ—giving our utmost for His highest. 

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From BreakPoint, © Prison Fellowship Ministries. "BreakPoint with Chuck Colson" is a radio ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission of Prison Fellowship, P.O. Box 17500, Washington, DC, 20041-0500." Heard on more than 1000 radio stations nationwide.

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