Early this month I wrote a review of a new novel, “Andrew Murray Destined to Serve,” about the life of the famous South African writer and pastor. I described it as “a wonderfully written historical novel that transports you right to the heart of South Africa in the mid-nineteenth century…Highly recommended.”
Now the author, Canberra (Australia) resident Olea Nel, has kindly agreed to answer a few questions.
Please tell us a little about Andrew Murray.
Andrew Murray is known today as one of the great heroes of the faith, as well as an author, par excellence, of devotional works. In my opinion, few authors plumb the depth of topics such as prayer, holiness, humility, and the need to be filled with the Spirit, like he does. When you read his works, you know that you are encountering an author who has walked the high road of holiness before you.
When I was growing up in Cape Town, Andrew Murray was still a household name. But unfortunately, the younger generation today, especially those living in South Africa, no longer know much about him. So I decided to turn this situation around as best I could.
Why should twenty-first century Christians be reading Andrew Murray?
Unfortunately, the preaching we encounter today tends to be either light-on, or just the conveyance of knowledge without the accompaniment of the Holy Spirit to breathe life into the Word.
Andrew Murray warns us about both types of preaching. He stresses that sermons need to be based on the Word as well as point to Jesus. In addition, they need to teach us how to imitate and submit to Christ so that we may grow in holiness until we are filled with the Spirit.
What stands out in Andrew Murray’s writings for me is the how of the spiritual journey:
- The how of abiding in Christ, and where we fail
- The how of prayer
- The how of growing in humility and mortifying self
- The how of waiting upon God in silent adoration
- The how of reading Scripture so that the Holy Spirit accompanies our reading and is there to convict and encourage
- The how of being filled and led by the Spirit
Which are his most useful books, and which are your own favourites?
For new Christians, I’d recommend The New Life. After the revival that swept through the Cape in the early 1860s, Murray realized that many new Christians wanted to increase their biblical knowledge. So he wrote this simple theological work to supply that need.
In addition to the above work, I’d also recommend The True Vine for young believers. It is much simpler than Abide in Christ, an earlier work on which it is based.
For Christians on the way, I’d recommend The Two Covenants, Waiting on God, and any of Murray’s works on prayer.
As for my favorites, there are four that immediately spring to mind. They are: Absolute Surrender, Humility, With Wings as Eagles, and his pocket book The Secret of Adoration.
Please tell us about the spiritual revival in South Africa in the 1860s, and the role Andrew Murray played to promote it?
The 1860s revival was one of the great spiritual awakenings of the nineteenth century. Between May 1860 and December 1861, the Holy Spirit swept through most of the towns in the Cape Colony, as well as a few beyond its borders. And what was so amazing about this visitation was that the ensuing revival was a distinct departure from the norm.
During most revivals, God’s people (church goers) are awakened first. But in Worcester, where Andrew Murray had just begun to serve as their pastor, revival broke out amongst Colored farm workers who were receiving religious instructions from a young niece of the farmer.
About six months into the revival, Murray decided to go on an extensive preaching tour that helped to deepen the faith of those who had just given their lives to the Lord. As a result, his name became closely associated with this great awakening.
If you would like to know more about this revival, I invite you to read my book: South Africa’s Forgotten Revival (2010) which is available as a free download from my website – http://www.onandrewmurray.com.
Why did you decide to tell Murray’s story in fictional form?
One of the main reasons was that several non-fiction works already existed. Another was that their authors hardly touched on his spiritual journey and the struggles he experienced as a young pastor. Yet another reason was that I wanted to reach a new readership who preferred novels.
In addition to the above, his family and friends spoke of a definite ‘before’ and ‘after’ period in his spiritual pilgrimage that I was keen to explore. And to my mind, there was no better way to describe that journey than through the eyes of Andrew Murray himself. And that could only be done via a novel.
What can we expect from your next novels in the series?
While my first novel Andrew Murray Destined to Serve only covers Murray’s first year in ministry, the sequel, which will be titled Andrew Murray Destined to Preach, will cover the years 1850 to 1856.
During this period, he begins to mature as a leader, and finds himself having to negotiate with the British on behalf of the Boers. At the same time, he begins to struggle with feelings of pride and self-aggrandisement that he knows is detrimental to his spiritual growth.
It will take a proverbial slap in the face plus two emotionally searing events to bring him down to earth and get him back on track.
The third novel, which will be titled Andrew Murray Destined to Lead, will cover the heady days of revival and its aftermath. But not long after, we will witness how Murray is plunged into an emotionally-draining period, when all he can do is wait upon the Lord and hold on tight in faith. The lessons learnt during this period will ultimately lead to the spiritual turning point in his life.
Sorry I have to be so vague, but if it were not so, I’d be telling, wouldn’t I?
Olea, I enjoyed the first novel, and shall certainly be looking forward to the next. Thank you.
* “Andrew Murray Destined to Serve” is available at Amazon.