Oswald Chambers sometimes startled audiences with his vigorous thinking and his vivid expression. Even those who disagreed with what he said found his teachings difficult to dismiss and all but impossible to ignore. Often his humor drove home a sensitive point: “Have we ever got into the way of letting God work, or are we so amazingly important that we really wonder in our nerves and ways what the Almighty does before we are up in the morning!”
Oswald Chambers was not famous during his lifetime. At the time of his death in 1917 at the age of forty-three, only three books bearing his name had been published. Among a relatively small circle of Christians in Britain and the U.S., Chambers was much appreciated as a teacher of rare insight and expression, but he was not widely known.
Chambers was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1874, the youngest son of a Baptist minister. He spent his boyhood years in Perth; then his family moved to London when Oswald was fifteen. Shortly after the move to London, Oswald made his public profession of faith in Christ and became a member of Rye Lane Baptist Church. This marked a period of rapid spiritual growth, along with an intense struggle to find God’s will and way for his life.
A gifted artist and musician, Chambers trained at London’s Royal Academy of Art, sensing God’s direction to be an ambassador for Christ in the world of art and aesthetics. While studying at the University of Edinburgh (1895-96), he decided, after an agonizing internal battle, to study for the ministry. He left the university and entered Dunoon College, near Glasgow, where he remained as a student, then a tutor for nine years.
In 1906 he traveled to the United States, spending six months teaching at God’s Bible School in Cincinnati, Ohio. From there, he went to Japan, visiting the Tokyo Bible School, founded by Mr. and Mrs. Charles Cowman. This journey around the world in 1906-1907 marked his transition from Dunoon College to fulltime work with the Pentecostal League of Prayer.
During the last decade of his life, Chambers served as:
• traveling speaker and representative of the League of Prayer, 1907-10
• principal and main teacher of the Bible Training College, London, 1911-15
• YMCA chaplain to British Commonwealth soldiers in Egypt, 1915-17
He died in Cairo on November 15, 1917, of complications following an emergency appendectomy. The complete story of his life is told in Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God (1993).
Taken from The Quotable Oswald Chambers, edited by David McCasland. Used by permission.