In a day when it is often hard to find living examples of faith close to home, men and women that we can interact with personally, I have found that the biographies of these lights of God’s Kingdom can often provide the encouragement that I very much need. I have been blessed to read quite a number of excellent books on the lives of men and women who have followed God in exceptional ways. Among them is the book Rees Howells – Intercessor authored by Norman Grubb.
I believe that such books will be of great value in coming days as Christians turn away from the television and other forms of entertainment and begin looking for that which edifies. We will truly need to be feeding upon those things that build up the spirit of man that we might have the strength to overcome in the midst of difficult days.
In the book Rees Howells – Intercessor there is a testimony of a young Jewish man who lived in Pittsburgh in the early 1900s. The man’s name was Maurice Reuben, and it was while listening to this man give his testimony that Rees Howells saw his great need of the Savior, and came to understand the cross that all disciples must bear.
This testimony is important as it reveals that there are distinctions among the walk of various Christians. Some have come to confess Christ has Savior, but they have not counted the cost of taking Him as Lord of their lives. Many profess belief in Christ for the forgiveness of sins, but they have not themselves forsaken all and taken up the cross to follow Him. Oftentimes it is those who profess Christ as Savior, but who do not accept the cost of discipleship, who become the greatest persecutors of those who have accepted the cost. This truth is brought out in the following testimony as recorded in the book Rees Howelss – Intercessor.
Meeting the Risen LORD
Rees had not been long in his new home when he heard that a converted Jew, Maurice Reuben from Pittsburgh, had come to the city for a series of meetings. The first night that he went to hear him, Reuben told the story of his conversion and how the Holy Spirit had revealed Calvary to him. “I had heard preaching on Calvary scores of times before and believed it,” said Rees, “but I had never seen Calvary before that night…”
Maurice Reuben told how he belonged to a wealthy family and had the best the world could give him, and how he lived to make money. He was a manager of Solomon and Reuben, one of the largest stores in Pittsburgh. But the life of one of his buyers used to put him under deep conviction, until one day he said to him, “You must have been born happy.” “Yes,” replied the buyer, “in my second birth. I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ and was born of God. In my first birth I was no happier than you!”
Reuben was so moved by the testimony that he bought a New Testament, and there he was impressed with the fact that all those who followed Jesus were Jews: John the Baptist pointing Him out as the Lamb of God; Peter, James and John, the chief disciples… Then he came to the story of the rich young ruler. It was a dramatic moment – a rich Jew of the twentieth century and under conviction, reading of the Savior’s dealings with a rich Jew of the first century! The way that Reuben saw it was that if Jesus had told that young man to sell all to inherit eternal life, how could he, Reuben, inherit the same gift, unless on the same condition? It was his supreme test. It was his supreme test. If he became a disciple, he knew that he stood to lose all. But it was too late to go back; he had seen it, and he must follow. As Reuben said those words, Rees echoed them in his own heart; it was too late also for him to go back.
Reuben faced it fairly and squarely and counted the cost. His wife might leave him, his brother might put him out of the business, and not a single Jew follow him, but he had made up his mind; if he lost everything, he meant to do it.
Then one day on the way to the store, Reuben heard a voice repeating to him the words of John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” The truth flashed upon him – he accepted Christ and entered into life at that moment. He then told his brother and others. According to his father’s will he was to forfeit every penny of he changed his religion, but his brother offered to give him 70,000 pounds – his share of the business – if he would cross the U.S.A. and retire in Montana. But Reuben replied, “I have had the light in Pittsburgh, and I am going to witness in Pittsburgh.”
Late that Saturday night detectives came and took him to the police station. On Monday two doctors visited his cell and asked him about the voice he had heard. “Do they question my sanity?” he thought.
Two hours later warders came from the asylum and took him to a room where there were twenty-nine mentally deranged people. The bitterness of his position overcame him. He had victory in the lock-up, but this seemed more than he could bear. He fell on his knees by his bed and poured out his heart to the Lord. He did not know how long he was there, but he seemed to lose himself, and a vision of Calvary appeared to him. He witnessed every stage of the crucifixion. He forgot his own sufferings in the sufferings of the Savior, and as he gazed upon the cross, the Master said to him, “And must I bear the cross alone, and all the world go free?” From a broken heart Reuben answered, “No. There’s a cross for everyone, and there’s a cross for me.”
From that hour he was a new man. Instead of complaining at being in the asylum, he began to pray for the other twenty-nine, and to the Savior he said, “Let me suffer for You. Whatever You allow me to go through, I will never complain again.”
Two weeks later, Reuben’s brother came to see him, and reproached him for his folly in getting himself into such a place. “Why don’t you be wise” he said. “Get out of here and go to Montana.” “Does that offer still stand? Then it is not a medical condition, but something else that is keeping me here!” said Reuben with all the keenness of his logical mind.
Some Christian friends he was in touch with caused inquiries to be set on foot. In six weeks his release was procured. It became a court case, and the test was on “the voice.”
The judge called the doctor and asked why this man had been certified as insane. “Because he heard a voice,” said the doctor. “Didn’t the apostle Paul hear a voice?” countered the judge, who was a Christian man. “This is a disgrace to the American flag,” and he told Reuben to prosecute anyone who had anything to do with it.
“I shall never prosecute anyone,” answered Reuben, “but I will do one thing – I will pray for them.” He crossed the court and offered his hand to his brother, but he turned his back on him. He went to his wife, but she did the same. But what a victory he had in his own soul!
Maurice rented a small room in Chicago, where he lived alone with the Lord and won many converts, though for two years he hardly had a square meal. A year later his wife came to hear him in a camp meeting and was converted, and for the first time he saw his little boy who had been born after his wife had left him. She was willing to make her home with him again, if only he would earn a living as other Christians did. His heart went out to his little boy, and this test was even greater than the first. Her request seemed so reasonable, but he knew that the Lord had called him from the world into this life of faith. He pleaded with the Lord, but the only reply he received was “Back to Egypt!”
It was enough, and once more Reuben embraced the cross. He went to see his wife and child off; it was a costly experience; but as the train steamed out of the station it seemed that God poured the joy of heaven into his soul. He literally danced on the platform. He did not see his wife again for another three years. Then, in another camp meeting, she too had a revelation of the cross. As a result of this she testified that, whereas before as a believer she had not been willing to share the sacrificial life of her husband, if it would be for God’s glory she would now be willing to beg her bread from door to door. They were reunited and she became a wonderful co-worker in his ministry.
One thing that had hindered Rees Howells from coming through before was that while people said they were born again, he could not see that their lives were better than his. How then could he be convinced that they had something he had not? But he sometimes said to the Lord, “If I ever see a person who is living the sermon on the mount, I will give in.” Before Reuben came to the end of the story, the Lord said to Rees, “Is this your man?”
What followed in that little Methodist chapel Rees Howells tells in his own words: “As Maurice Reuben brought those sacred scenes before us, I too saw the cross. It seemed as if I spent ages at the Savior’s feet, and I wept and wept. I felt as if He had just died for me. I lost myself. I had been living in the fear of death, and I saw Him taking that death for me. My parents loved me very much and, up to that time, to me there were no people like them, but they never suffered death for me. He did it. His love for me, as compared with theirs, was as high as the heavens above the earth, and He won my love – every bit of it…”
People of God, there are multitudes today who are professing their belief in Christ as the Savior of mankind. There are few who are following in His footsteps, taking up the cross that has been appointed for them. According to Christ’s words, such confessors are not disciples, for to be a disciple one must be led of the Spirit in all things as Christ was. To be a disciple one must accept the suffering appointed to all those who are members of Christ’s body.
“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
The cost for Maurice Reuben was very real. He found out in the early 1900s that there is still a cost to following Christ. There is a cost today as well. Will you accept the cost? Must Christ alone suffer while all the world goes free?
Do you have faith to suffer?
May you be blessed with peace and understanding in these days.