Several weeks ago I was delighted to submit to Christian Focus Publications the completed manuscript of my newest biography, Andrew Murray of South Africa. In the coming months running up to the book’s publication I’d like to share some of the many valuable lessons to be learned through Murray’s remarkable life. I begin with the tremendous model he was of combining a high degree of both action and contemplation in his Christian life and service.
Andrew Murray (1828-1917) was a man of tireless action. He served for fifty-seven years as an active minister of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa, pastoring four separate congregations, including his final pastorate of three and a half decades. Murray was chosen by his ministerial colleagues to serve six terms (totaling some twenty-five years) as Moderator of Cape Colony’s Dutch Reformed Synod. He traveled and ministered more extensively throughout all of South Africa than any other minister of any denomination in S.A. in his day.
Murray played a key role in the founding of several educational institutions. He personally carried out a number of major evangelistic tours of different parts of the country, pointing large numbers of people to salvation in Christ. He took the lead in establishing and promoting the work of various foreign missionary societies to carry the Gospel to unreached people groups outside the bounds of the Colony. Murray sponsored and was featured at numerous conferences aimed at calling believers to a higher plain of Christian living and service. He actively supported a number of student ministry organizations as well as home mission works that ministered to military personnel, the poor and moral outcasts. He also carried out prominent preaching ministries in Europe and America.
While being a man of seemingly-constant action, Murray was also a contemplative individual. His mind constantly probed new avenues and depths of biblical, spiritual truth. His thinking and teaching were thoroughly devotional in nature. He lived with a profound awareness of the presence of God and a preoccupation with matters spiritual. He was deeply devoted to prayer. He had an appreciation for the writings of certain Christian mystics and has sometimes been classified as being a sane, sanctified mystic himself.
Through his prolific writing ministry, which saw nearly 240 works (including over seventy books) published, Murray shared his fervent spiritual perspectives on numerous subjects. His writings reveal the breadth and the depth of his spiritual reflections. Both his preaching and writing ministries clearly set forth the great importance he placed on active, consecrated service on the one hand and the cultivation of deep personal piety and devotional practices on the other hand.
Many Christians tend to incline more toward one or the other – active service or reflective contemplation – in their Christian lives. Andrew Murray’s example (to say nothing of such biblical models as King David and the Apostle Paul) reminds us that both service and contemplation are vitally important in our living for the Lord. We ought to actively cultivate and seek to maintain a healthy balance between both emphases. As we do, by God’s grace we’ll be well-equipped and useful servants of Christ.
Copyright 2015 by Vance E. Christie