Editor's note:

Each time I read Thomas Kelly’s classic work, A Testament of Devotion, I get the feeling that Kelly’s fingers are resting on my wrist, taking my pulse. He describes perfectly the condition in which I too often find myself: “We feel honestly the pull of many obligations and try to fulfill them all. And we are unhappy, uneasy, strained, oppressed, and fearful we shall be shallow.” Especially in busy seasons, I need the direction that Kelly provides to live and work out of what he calls “the divine Center.”

“Life from the Center is a heaven-directed life,” Kelly counsels. Yes, please. That’s the kind of life I want to live.

—Richella Parham

Excerpt from A Testament of Devotion

Let me talk very intimately and very earnestly with you about Him who is dearer than life. Do you really want to live your lives, every moment of your lives, in His Presence? Do you long for Him, crave Him? Do you love His Presence? Does every drop of blood in your body love Him? Does every breath you draw breathe a prayer, a praise to Him? Do you sing and dance within yourselves, as you glory in His love? Have you set yourselves to be His, and only His, walking every moment in holy obedience? I know I’m talking like an old-time evangelist. But I can’t help that, nor dare I restrain myself and get prim and conventional. We have too long been prim and restrained. 

The fires of the love of God, of our love toward God, and of His love toward us, are very hot. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and soul and mind and strength.” Do we really do it? Is love steadfastly directed toward God, in our minds, all day long? Do we intersperse our work with gentle prayers and praises to Him? Do we live in the steady peace of God, a peace down at the very depths of our souls, where all strain is gone and God is already victor over the world, already victor over our weaknesses? This life, this abiding, enduring peace that never fails, this serene power and unhurried conquest, inward conquest over ourselves, outward conquest over the world, is meant to be ours. It is a life that is freed from strain and anxiety and hurry, for something of the Cosmic Patience of God becomes ours. Are our lives unshakable, because we are clear down on bed rock, rooted and grounded in the love of God? This is the first and the great commandment. 

Do you want to live in such an amazing divine Presence that life is transformed and transfigured and transmuted into peace and power and glory and miracle? If you do, then you can. But if you say you haven’t the time to go down into the recreating silences, I can only say to you, “Then you don’t really want to, you don’t yet love God above all else in the world, with all your heart and soul and mind and strength.” For except for spells of sickness in the family and when the children are small, when terrific pressure comes upon us, we find time for what we really want to do… .

Much of our acceptance of multitudes of obligations is due to our inability to say No. We calculated that that task had to be done, and we saw no one ready to undertake it. We calculated the need, and then calculated our time, and decided maybe we could squeeze it in somewhere. But the decision was a heady decision, not made within the sanctuary of the soul. When we say Yes or No to calls for service on the basis of heady decisions, we have to give reasons, to ourselves and to others. But when we say Yes or No to calls on the basis of inner guidance and whispered promptings of encouragement from the Center of our life, or on the basis of a lack of any inward “rising” of that Life to encourage us in the call, we have no reason to give, except one—the will of God as we discern it. Then we have begun to live in guidance. And I find He never guides us into an intolerable scramble of panting feverishness. The Cosmic Patience becomes, in part, our patience, for after all God is at work in the world. It is not we alone who are at work in the world, frantically finishing a work to be offered to God. 

Life from the Center is a life of unhurried peace and power. It is simple. It is serene. It is amazing. It is triumphant. It is radiant. It takes no time, but it occupies all our time. And it makes our life programs new and overcoming. We need not get frantic. He is at the helm. And when our little day is done we lie down quietly in peace, for all is well.

Excerpted from Thomas Kelly’s A Testament of Devotion, pp. 95-96; 99-100. HarperCollins 1996.

Originally published January 1941.