The massive amount of ministry Andrew Murray carried out all through his long ministerial career was truly impressive. Equally or perhaps even more impressive was the steady, sanctified spirit with which he carried out his many ministry demands, despite the considerable pressures he bore in doing so.
In 1864, at the age of 36, Murray became one of three co-pastors of Cape Town’s Dutch Reformed Church, with its constituency of 5,000 people. He served in that capacity for nearly seven years. Every Sunday Murray preached (usually more than once) at one of the two large churches in that metropolitan parish, normally to thousands of people, including many of the city’s leading citizens. He held two weeknight services for fishermen and other poor individuals, and frequently spoke at one of the weekly services held at Cape Town’s three Dutch Reformed schools. Murray faithfully carried out pastoral visitation in the poorer districts of town. He also promoted ministry to young men by helping establish and serving as first president of a Cape Town chapter of the Young Men’s Christian Association.
In addition, during those years Murray was Moderator of his denomination in Cape Colony. At that time stringent battles were being waged to resist the encroachment of theological liberalism. More than once Murray needed to be the primary representative of his denomination in court cases that came out of that period of marked controversy.
Besides their own eight children, Andrew and Emma Murray had other young people living in their home during those years. Those youths resided with the Murrays while pursuing their education in Cape Town. One of the young people, Frederick Kolbe, later bore this glowing testimony of his experience as part of the Murrays’ household:
“I hope that Mr. and Mrs. Murray knew by instinct how I loved them, but I never could tell them. … That was the time I saw Andrew Murray at the closest possible quarters. I may have been shy, but I certainly was observant. He was a very highly strung man. His preaching was so enthusiastic, his gesticulation so unrestrained, that he was wearing himself out, and the doctor ordered him to sit while preaching. So he had a special stool made for [the] great pulpit in order to obey the doctor without letting everybody know.
“Now, such an output of nervous energy (and he was a frequent preacher) might well mean some reaction at home – some irritation with his wife, some unevenness towards his children, some caprice towards the stranger within his gates. But no, I never saw him thrown off balance. His harmony with Mrs. Murray was perhaps easy; she was such a gracious, wifely, motherly person, that not to be in harmony with her would itself be self-condemnation. But he never did condemn himself. He was solid gold all through.”
Kolbe’s testimony of Murray’s pleasantness even in the privacy of his own home is all the more impressive given the enormous ministerial pressures and problems Murray faced throughout those years. “Why how is it you never get angry?” Murray was once asked. “It takes too much trouble to recover your good temper,” was his sage reply.
May God help each of us to grow in the ability not only to bear up under significant pressures and problems in life, but to do so with an even, pleasant Christlike spirit. We can do that as the Holy Spirit increasingly conforms us to the image of Christ.
For much more on Andrew Murray’s remarkable ministry career and his commendable Christian spirit see my newly-released biography, Andrew Murray: Christ’s Anointed Minister to South Africa.
Copyright 2015 by Vance E. Christie