Heroes of the Christian Faith: Oswald J. Smith

by Samuel Chiang

(Editor’s note: This is the 7th post in a series on Heroes of the Christian Faith.)

heroes of the Christian faith, Oswald J. Smith, evangelism, Samuel ChiangI can still remember the cold evening in January 1986 when I had played in the orchestra and Billy Graham preached at the funeral of Oswald J. Smith at The Peoples’ Church in Toronto. Tears streamed down my face as I played my violin. The founder of the church was with our Lord. Smith was one who had modeled and challenged my faith development.

Billy Graham had paid tribute and stated, “I’ve lost a dear friend, the man who had more impact on my life than any other—a great preacher, a great songwriter, a man who stands equal with Moody and Torrey. As a Missionary Statesman he stands alone. There was no equal.”

Many biographical books have challenged me in my walk of faith over the years. However, Smith impacted me like no other.

Oswald J. Smith was used by God to His delight. Over the course of Smith’s ministry, he wrote 35 books which were translated into 128 languages. He also wrote 1,200 hymns and poems of which over 100 were set to music. I loved the way Paul B. Smith, who became senior pastor of the church, recounted from the pulpit how his father wrote the words of a hymn and it just so happened that as he sent it to A.H. Ackley that Ackley would have the music for it, and Homer Rodeheaver, a soloist from the middle of the last century, would debut it in large conferences or evangelistic meetings.

But for me, it was the ‘faith promise offering’ that captured my imagination and what has become my life-long practice. Smiths, both the father and son, advocated for a ‘faith promise offering’ for missions conferences. It is a promise to God by faith for giving to global missions. In fact, it was made clear that you may not have funds today, but you are trusting and depending on God for the funds (thereby exercising faith) so that you can fulfill the giving to missions. The promise is one that is solely between you and God.

When I first heard it, this sounded like a great deal to me. After all, I was a teenager who was sitting in the orchestra pit playing the violin and lacked all resources except for a weekly allowance.

So, year after year as I was in The Peoples’ Church, I exercised my faith in the ‘faith promise offering’ to God during the springtime missions conference. I used to make a promise, write it down, and prayed diligently that God would provide the means that the funds would come in so that I could give. I recall one year even as I prayed there just did not seem to be a way that God was going to provide. Then, come near Christmas time, someone asked me to help him sell specialty rice by phone. At that moment, I knew that God was going to use this opportunity for me to exercise my faith to fulfill the promise made to Him.

Selling specialty rice over the phone was something that I had never done. I did not know the product, did not have telephone skills as a teenager, and did not know how to close the deal. But I tried. After the selling campaign was over, not only did I close sales, but I had more income than what I had promised to God in the faith promise offering.

I was thrilled that God had provided the opportunity, and that I was able to give all of it to world missions. Not only did God provide, but He provided more than what was promised. You cannot out give God. He is no one’s debtor.

Aside from the thousands upon thousands of lives committed to Jesus Christ during evangelistic or missionary conferences, Smith’s writings provided provoking and pity quotes:

  • We all want to do the will of God, and we know that there is nothing nearer to His heart than the evangelization of the world. 
  • If God is going to use us for His honor and glory, if His power is going to rest upon us, if He is going to bless our soul-winning ministry, then our lives must be places absolutely at His disposal. 
  • There can be no prevailing in prayer without travailing in prayer. 
  • Those who have been used of God had to pay a terrific price. 
  • Oh, to realize that souls, precious, never dying souls, are perishing all around us, going out into the blackness of darkness and despair, eternally lost, and yet to feel no anguish, shed no tears, know no travail! How little we know of the compassion of Jesus! 
  • We talk of the second coming, half the world has never heard of the first. 
  • The supreme task of the church is the evangelization of the world. No one has the right to hear the gospel twice until everyone has had an opportunity to hear it at least once. 
  • I am perfectly confident that the man who does not spend hours alone with God will never know the anointing of the Holy Spirit. The world must be left outside until God alone fills the vision…God has promised to answer prayer. It is not that He is unwilling, for the fact is, He is more willing to give than we are to receive. But the trouble is, we are not ready… 
  • Oh, how few find time for prayer! There is time for everything else, time to sleep and time to eat, time to read the newspaper and the novel, time to visit friends, time for everything else under the sun, but-no time for prayer, the most important of all things, the one great essential!
  • You must go or send a substitute. 
  • The Lord did not tell us to build beautiful churches, but to evangelize the world. 
  • I am perfectly confident that the man who does not spend hours alone with God will never know the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

Growth in faith is done through exercising faith, praying faith-stretching prayers, and by words and music that accompany the soul.  One of Oswald J. Smith’s hymns that is etched indelibly on my heart is the “Song of the Soul Set Free.”

I am grateful to my hero of the Christian faith, Oswald J. Smith, and The Peoples’ Church, for teaching me how to exercise my faith, even today.

Samuel-ChiangSamuel Chiang is president and CEO of The Seed Company. Born in Taiwan, he grew up and worked in Canada and formerly served as COO of TWR. He has authored book chapters in diverse genres including innovation, orality, and persecution.