Article by: Sarah Koontz, Founder of Living by Design Ministries
Welcome to week 3 of the #Write31Days Challenge!
I have titled my series “31 Uplifting Quote Graphics” and plan to release a beautiful image & inspirational quote every day throughout the month of October.
So far this month, we have studied the lives of the sixteenth-century reformer, Martin Luther, and American hymn writer and poetess, Fanny Crosby.
- Week 1: Martin Luther on Marriage: 7 Quotes in 7 Days
- Week 2: Fanny Crosby on Faith: 7 Quotes in 7 Days
This week, we are turning our attention to the man (and women) behind “My Utmost for His Highest,” Oswald Chambers and his wife “Biddy”.
The pictures for this week’s series were taking in the Badlands of South Dakota, just a short drive from where I live.
Rather than overwhelming my blog with a new article each day, I plan on picking a person and a topic to explore in a single weekly article.
If you would like to comment on a particular section, simply scroll all the way down to the bottom of the post to add your thoughts to the conversation!
Come back each day this week for a freshly curated quote and story about the legacy of Oswald and Gertrude “Biddy” Chambers.31 days of interesting people, inspirational quotes, and beautiful photography. #write31days
I want to thank Dr. Warren Wiersbe for his book entitled, “50 People Every Christian Should Know,” which was the inspiration for this series. (Amazon Affiliate Link)
I have already uploaded each day’s quote graphic to Twitter, Facebook, & Pinterest so all you have to do is click the links below the graphic to share with your friends & followers.
Thursday, October 15 2015
“OSWALD IN HIS PRESENCE”
These are the words sent in a cable to inform Oswald Chamber’s parents of his untimely death at the age of 42.
Europe was in the midst of World War 1, and nearly every home in the country had been touched by loss and grief.
At the time of his death, Oswald Chambers was serving as a YMCA chaplain ministering to troops in Cairo, Egypt.
He died of complications following surgery for a ruptured appendix.
On December 5, 1917 Oswald’s eldest brother, Arthur, spoke at his memorial service in Westminster.
His words beautifully summed up life and ministry of Oswald Chambers:
Oswald was a man with an energetic, inspiring personality.
Once started in any direction, he quickly outpaced his teachers.
He was full of the Holy Ghost and that was the secret of his happy service.
He was absolutely free from worry, living what he liked to call a ‘restlessly restful life.’
He was a good man with no value for mere money or personal advantage.
He would give away to all who asked. He was full of faith.
His one aim was to be ‘broken bread and poured out wine’ for the Master”
Oswald left behind a his wife of 7 years and four-year-old daughter whom he had affectionately his “flower of God.”
“I cannot take it in. Dead e-re his prime. Of all the men I have known, none have influenced me more. I loved him as my own soul.” ~Rev David Lambert
One would think this was the end of the story, but this, dear friends, is just the beginning.
Oswald’s widow, Gertrude “Biddy” Chambers, dedicated the rest of her life to sharing his words with the world.
Because of her tireless work, more than 30 books were published in Oswald Chamber’s name after his death.
Friday, October 16 2015
“The Apostle of the Haphazard”
Oswald Chambers was born in Scotland on July 24, 1874, the youngest son of a Baptist minister.
He dedicated his life to the Lord as a teenager and his passion for art and music led him to enroll in London’s Royal Academy of Art in 1892.
Four years later, Oswald felt a call to the ministry and immediately entered the Dunoon Training College in Scotland.
After serving for 9 years as a teacher of philosophy and psychology, he left school in 1905 and embraced the life of a travelling minister.
During the next decade of his life, he did God’s work in Britain, the United States, Japan and Egypt.
On May 25, 1910, Oswald was married to Gertrude Hobbs after a long courtship that spanned many continents.
Oswald enjoyed giving nicknames to his inner circle, and shortly came up for a name suitable for his wife.
His sister suggested Beloved Disciple, or B.D. for short and that quickly became Biddy.
The nickname itself reveals much about this wonderful woman, but there are a few more important facts you simply must know.
Biddy “was brilliant at shorthand.”
Her speed was reported to be 250 words per minute, which is faster than most people speak.
Throughout their 7 years of marriage, Biddy faithfully took shorthand notes of all of Oswald’s lectures.
Biddy also loved animals and children, spent a great deal of time reading, and enjoyed playing the piano.
A year after their wedding, Oswald and Biddy started a Bible Training College at Clapham.
Their daughter, Kathleen Marian, was born at the college on May 24, 1913.
Whenever he spoke, Chambers admonished his listeners to live aggressively for God.
It is said that “Cambers came and went in a seemingly erratic fashion; yet there was a definite plan in his life, and he was greatly used of God.”
Oswald had a marvelous sense of humor and always incorporated this into his messages.
“Ah I see,” said one of his students, ” your jokes and lightheartedness plough the and, and then you put in the seed.”
“A good book is like a seed: It produces fruit that has in it seed for more fruit. It is not a picture on the wall; it is a window that invites us to wider horizons.” ~ Dr. Warren Wiersbe
If you have ever read “My Utmost for His Highest,” the language can be somewhat daunting and the message is multi-layered, I pray that knowing the man (and woman) behind this timeless book will help you persevere in trying to read and understand its wisdom.
Saturday, October 17 2015
“Letters on Love and Faith”
I simply must take us back for a moment to explore Oswald and Biddy’s courtship and engagement.
After being acquaintances for 2 1/2 years, Gertrude Hobbs and Oswald Chambers developed a close kinship on a cross Atlantic boat trip in May of 1908.
Gertrude was headed to America to visit a friend and search for a secretarial position, and her mother had asked Oswald to look after her on the voyage.
They enjoyed daily walks and evening dinners with one another each day throughout the 10 day crossing.
Although they parted ways once they were on dry land, they wrote to one another often.
Unfortunately only snippets of Oswald’s letters remain.
Here are just a few of my favorite!
On July 3, Oswald wrote Biddy (his special nickname for her):
” It is a great refreshment to think of you for I have had such a drenching with the sad and sordid sorrows of so many blighted lives, but glory be to our God how blessedly He saves and delivers and heals.”
An August 19 letter reveals that His feelings for her are growing stronger:
“All in His good time we have the love, thank God, and the discipline of our characters alone or blended it is all in His hands.”
On October 18, Oswald wrote Biddy’s Mother:
Dear Mrs. Hobbs
Do you object to my corresponding with your youngest daughter, Gertrude? I love her, and naturally would like to write her and see her occasionally as my missions allow….
Yours heartily, Oswald Chambers
After receiving a response from Mrs. Hobbs, he penned these words to Biddy:
“I have nothing to offer you but my love and steady lavish service for him. I can hear you say; Foxes have holes…but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”
Oswald and Biddy were engaged on November 13, 1910 but wouldn’t be married for another eighteen months.
They saw very little of each other throughout the engagement, so the correspondence continued, culminating with these words sent just one month before their wedding:
“The Lord has been slowly rebuking me for wanting to shelter you. And He is bringing me to understand that this union is His and that He will look after you and me. All we have to do is obey and work and love.”
I wish that we could read Biddy’s replies to Oswald’s letters, but they have all been lost.
However, it is quite obvious to me that she loved him dearly.
She would not have dedicated her entire life to documenting and sharing his teachings with the world had she not.
To love and be loved in return is one of life’s greatest treasures.
Sunday, October 18 2015
“My Utmost for His Highest”
I find it fascinating to think that one of the most popular religious books ever written may have never been published if Oswald Chambers had survived his illness.
The beautiful thing about the ministry of Oswald Chambers was that he shared it with his wife, both in life and in death.
They were partners in all things, Oswald speaking the truth and Biddy faithfully recording his words.
Shortly after her husband’s death, Biddy wrote to her mother about a friend who was deeply impacted by reading one of Oswald’s sermons:
“It confirms me so much in the assurance I have that I am to go on getting everything I can printed. It will be like casting bread upon the waters and we will know someday all it has meant in people’s lives.”
In order to support herself and her young daughter, she chose to run a boarding house in England, but she tirelessly worked on compiling her late husband’s teachings.
She spent the rest of her life producing more than 30 books in Oswald’s name, the most important of which is My Utmost for His Highest.
My Utmost for His Highest is a daily devotional that was first published in 1927.
Millions of copies have been sold.
It has been translated into at least 19 languages.
It has never once been out of print.
Biddy chose the title for the book from a statement Chambers’ made often in his sermons:
“Shut out every consideration and keep yourself before God for this one thing only- My Utmost for His Highest”.
Biddy gave us a glimpse into her heart when she wrote these beautiful words to her sister:
“Living with Oswald and seeing his faith in God and knowing that ‘by his faithfulness he is speaking to us still’ is the secret of life these days, and I feel as if it will be overwhelming to one day see what God has wrought, and one will only be sorry not to have trusted more utterly. So just go on praying and believing and we will surely find that God is doing His wondrous things all the time.”
It has been tempting for me to wonder, as I have studied these two amazing people: why did God choose to take Oswald at such a young age?
But I am comforted by Biddy’s words above.
Who are we to question what God did in Oswald and Biddy’s lives when they both trusted Him so completely?
Monday, October 19 2015
“Oswald the Teacher”
Oswald was a gifted teacher, always searching for new and exciting ways to capture his audience.
From 1911-1915 he and Biddy ran the Bible Training College in London.
It is my personal opinion that some of his most powerful teachings were recorded during this short season of ministry.
“All of you have intelligence,” Oswald told each class at the first meeting. “You have a marvelous, God-given capacity to reason and think. All of you have intelligence and you must use it for God.”
Oswald poured God’s truth into the lives of his students, in fact most of the material Biddy published in “My Utmost for His Highest” came from the daily devotionals they held with the students.
He took them step by step through the Bible and taught them how to apply its truth to every aspect of their lives.
Oswald believed that regular and deep Bible study was a key element of successful Christian living and ministry.
The study principles he taught were simple and effective:
Always have a dictionary and a concordance by you.
Never intend to look up a word, do it now.
A quarter of an hour a day on any subject will make you the master of that subject.
Consistency is the key.
The thing that sticks out to me the most from Oswald’s teachings during this season of his life is his incessant persistence on the importance of personal fellowship with Christ.
The great enemy to the Lord Jesus Christ in the present day is the conception of practical work that has not come from the New Testament, but from the systems of the world in which endless energy and activities are insisted upon, but no private life with God.
It is not its practical activities that are the strength of this Bible Training College, it’s whole strength lies in the fact that here you are put into soak before God.
You have no idea of where God is going to engineer your circumstances, no knowledge what strain is going to be put on your either at home or abroad, and if you waste your time in overactive energies instead of getting onto soak on the great fundamental truths of God’s Redemption, you will snap when the strain comes; but if this time of soaking before God is being spent in getting rooted and grounded in God on the unpractical line, you will remain true to Him no matter what happens.
~ Oswald Chambers
How those words ring true to my heart, even to this day!
**I am indebted to David McCasland’s Biography entitled “Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God” for these beautiful quotes.**
Tuesday, October 20 2015
“Oswald’s Final Days”
Oswald Cambers felt the call of God to join the troops as a military chaplain during WWI.
He spent the final two years of his life ministering to troops in Zeitoun, Egypt.
And, of course, as soon as there were adequate funds, Biddy and Kathleen followed him!
Oswald and Biddy worked under the umbrella of the Y.M.C.A. to minister to the body, mind and spirit of the soldiers.
They had one overarching goal: to bring the men to a personal faith in Jesus Christ.
Upon his arrival in Egypt, Oswald penned these words in his personal journal:
“This [area] is absolutely desert in the very heart of the troops and a glorious opportunity for men. It is all immensely unlike anything I have been used to, and I am watching with interest the new things God will do and engineer.”
Oswald’s ministry in Egypt during the war was multi-faceted and entirely unique.
He held nightly classes on Biblical Psychology for the troops, traveled often to hospitals to minister to the injured and give evangelistic presentations throughout the region.
Many men came to faith during the war and Oswald felt a strong need to educate these new believers.
“Instruction is certainly the crying need among these men, and not the habitual evangelistic cry for Gospel meetings. There are so many saved souls waiting instruction, and they take it with great zest.” – Oswald Chambers
The regimented military life didn’t suit Oswald’s flare for adventure, so whenever time or finances would allow he swept his wife and child off to Cairo for a fancy dinner or shopping excursion.
Biddy worked tirelessly also: organizing teas, preparing meals, comforting the grieving, and practicing hospitality towards anyone who was in need.
Kathleen had many pets to keep her occupied, gifted to her by soldiers who adored her family: rabbis, kittens, and even a small donkey.
And, of course, Biddy continued to faithfully record every word that her husband spoke in shorthand.
Knowing the many sacrifices his wife made for the sake of the ministry, Oswald never withheld his praise from her.
Just months before his unexpected death, Oswald penned these words to Biddy’s mother:
“As for Biddy I love her and am her husband but I do not believe it is possible to exaggerate what she has been in the way of a Sacrament out here – God conveying His presence through the common elements of an ordinary life. Never I think did any man have such a unique privilege as I have had in being associated with such a woman.”
As Oswald lay on his deathbed, he spoke these powerful words:
“Greater works than these shall He do, because I go unto my Father.” – Oswald Chambers
It’s almost as though Oswald knew of the extraordinary task God would empower his wife to complete in his name.
Wednesday, October 21 2015
“Biddy’s Life Work”
It is astounding for me to comprehend the fact that Oswald Chambers was not well-known during his lifetime.
Were it not for his wife’s careful note-taking, the words of Oswald Chambers would have likely died with him.
We owe a huge debt of gratitude to this remarkable woman who gave us all an opportunity to learn from the wisdom of Oswald Chambers.
The popularity of “My Utmost for His Highest” created a deep and lasting interest in Oswald’s teachings.
Biddy gave herself completely to “the work of the books” as she referred to it, taking breaks only to care for the needs of her daughter and boarders.
She refused to keep the money from book sales for herself, instead she chose to re-invest in publishing more copies.
Biddy faithfully compiled, edited, and published the books on her own for years.
Yet her greatest joy came from the practicing hospitality and re-connecting with the people she and Oswald had ministered to through the training college and war effort.
Finally, in the early 1930’s, Biddy invited a group of friends to join her with the growing responsibilities of the book work.
This committee did for Biddy what she would have never done for herself, they voted to pay her house rent, taxes and a a small salary in return for her tireless efforts.
Biddy often gave away large quantities of Oswald’s books, and when the committee questioned the wisdom of this, she gently reminded them of their mission.
Their mission was not to sell books, but to help people.
If you and I had been there to witness Biddy’s life, we would have likely determined that her day-to-day ministry was far from profound.
But when you add up all of her days, the combined impact was a legacy that will continue to impact the world for generations to come.
Like Oswald, her life was first and foremost centered on people; everything else was secondary.
Mrs. Oswald Chambers passed away in 1966 in the midst of her preparation of the thirty-second book in her husband’s name.
Her grown daughter, Kathleen, completed the book.
What a legacy this family has left for us, a shining example of what it means to serve God with every moment of your life.
Their story has changed me, inspired me, and uplifted me.
I pray it has done the same for you.
I want to take this opportunity to invite you to join me as we shift gears for our final 7 day post for the #Write31Days Challenge.
Tomorrow, I will be beginning a series entitled “7 Days of Uplifting Last Words”
It is my prayer that this compilation will challenge each and every one of us to think long and hard about what we believe about God and the consider the eternal ramifications of these beliefs.