What is My Utmost for His Highest?
My Utmost for His Highest is a daily devotional. It was published in England in 1927 and in America in 1935. It has since been translated into dozens of languages, and has been continually in print. No one knows exactly how many copies of Utmost have been sold, but the number is in the tens of millions.
What is a daily devotional?
A daily devotional is a book with a reading for each day of the year. My Utmost for His Highest has 366 dated entries (including one for February 29th), and the idea is to read one page at a time, cycling through the book over the course of a year, and beginning again each January 1st. Utmost‘s daily readings begin with a Bible verse, and are followed by around two hundred and fifty words of interpretation, inspiration, and advice (you can read one on its Web site).
Daily devotionals are popular among Evangelical Christians, who often read them alongside the Bible during the daily “Quiet Time,” a moment in the day given over to private reading and prayer. The Quiet Time has been a staple of American Evangelicalism since its birth in the eighteenth century.
Who wrote My Utmost for His Highest?
This is a simple question without a simple answer. The name on the cover has always been that of Oswald Chambers, a Scottish preacher who was born in 1874 and died in 1917. You can read more about him here .
The trouble with declaring Oswald Chambers the one and only author of Utmost is that he died a full decade before the book appeared; in fact he died before all but three of his more than fifty books were published.
The books are all the result of an immense labor by his widow, Biddy Chambers (née Gertrude Hobbs), a trained stenographer who took shorthand notes of Oswald’s sermons and lectures before he died, and who used them as the base upon which to build a publishing empire. Biddy died in 1966; the Oswald Chambers Publications Association, the nonprofit group she founded to oversee the publication of Oswald’s books, still operates today.
What’s the main message of Utmost?
There isn’t a single theme to the book. Biddy assembled it from hundreds of Oswald’s sermons and lectures, cutting and pasting as she saw fit. However, if you had to boil down Oswald’s philosophy of Christianity—what he saw as its main purpose or message—it would be: realizing Christ in every aspect of one’s life. It is definitely not a book for the weak of heart.
The questions of who exactly Oswald thought Christ was and how exactly he thought the Christian was to realize Him are explored in depth in Utmost. The book touches on topics as wide-ranging as God’s language (Oswald believed that God spoke to His children through nature and circumstance); the necessity of “thinking” (rather than simply believing); obedience; becoming like a child; dealing with drudgery; art and imagination; and launching out into the wilds on faith.
How did Utmost become entwined with conservative American politics?
The book found its way into the hands of some up-and-coming conservative Evangelical leaders in the nineteen-thirties and forties. These included Billy Graham; Henrietta Mears, the “Mother of Sunday School”; Richard C. Halverson (who would go on to found the National Prayer Breakfast and serve as chaplain of the Senate); and Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ. (Bob Smith and Bill Wilson, the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, also used My Utmost for His Highest as the source for the opening reading at the group’s earliest meetings).
All of these people promoted the book in various ways, with great success. By the nineteen-eighties, My Utmost for His Highest had become a favorite of Jerry Falwell. In the two-thousands, George W. Bush name-dropped it in his campaigns for the presidency.