Two Men of God
The most outstanding examples of intercession–and ones which greatly influenced me–are the lives of C.T. Studd and Rees Howells.
C.T. Studd left for the heart of Africa in 1913, leaving behind his wife, apparently a permanent invalid with an enlarged heart, who was spending half her days in bed. He had to go, he said, and it was the only time he went against the wishes even of his own wife; and when a friend carne to tell him that it was not even Christian to leave her in that condition, he wrote on a postcard what became the motto of the Crusade: “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”
He went. He found his “black gold” in the Ituri Forest of the Congo. But before reaching there, he wrote back to tell his wife of how he had nearly died on safari of a severe attack of fever. He had one young man with him, Alfred Buxton, and when thinking that he would not be alive by the next morning, he called Alfred into his tent to tell him so. But as Alfred left the tent, “C.T.” remembered the promise in James that those who call, when they’re ill, for the elders of the church and are anointed in the name of the Lord, will be healed. So he called Alfred back–Alfred being twenty years old–and said to him, “Alfred, I hereby appoint you an elder of the church of Jesus Christ!” Then he said to him, “Get some oil. All we have is in the kerosene lamp–but the scripture isn’t particular–so get some and anoint me.” He did so and the fever was gone by the next day. So he then in his letter to his wife said, “Scilla, don’t trust those earthly doctors. Trust Doctor Jesus and get off your bed.” This she did, and began to go through England and the U.S.A. with a fiery challenge to young men and women, of whom I was one, to go and join her husband in getting the gospel to those tribes. So involved were these two at the two ends of the young mission that in the last sixteen years of their lives they saw each other only for one short visit of two weeks! That was a long-drawn-out “death.” I know what it cost her–in a way, much more than him–as she was my mother-in-law. She remained “at home” while he was immersed in all the absorbing and dangerous activities of his pioneer life. But note: You don’t choose your own “death” in your intercession; God puts it on you as you proceed. “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
But the price was fully paid, the intercession gained, both in the heart of Africa and in the worldwide extensions of the Crusade. The full story, which has had tens of thousands of fascinated readers and has resulted in many being called into full-time service for the Lord, has been written in his biography, which is now available in a number of languages.* Once again, this illustrates the three principles of intercession–Commission, Cost, and Completion.
The life story of Rees Howells must be read, as it is by many thousands these days, to catch the continual stream of instances of how the Holy Spirit first got His total possession of that young life, and then began to give him early practice in specific intercessions. There was the derelict of a man living in the boiler room of the tin mine; the tramps; the unemployed villagers; the sick people; and the succession of deliverances having to do with buying the four large properties for the Bible College and School. Each has a fascinating story of “deaths” which led into the gaining of them. Finally he lost his reputation–and perhaps never regained it. For he had a word from the Lord, together with his co-intercessors at the College, just before the start of World War II, that for the next thirty years the world would be kept open for the gospel and a thousand more missionaries would go out from the College. He called it the Thirty Years Vision.
Then came Hitler and Mussolini and the outbreak of the war, with the threat that these two men would take over the world and close it to all missionary witness. Rees Howells first countered that by publishing a book called God Challenges the Dictators, which openly declared that God would destroy these men who were clamping down on the spread of the gospel. Rees Howells would have been one of the first men to be liquidated if Hitler had conquered Britain!He then went further. He announced, by the word of the Lord, the day the war would be ended. There had been that first year of so-called war when nothing happened, and we joked about it as “The Phony War”–the French just sitting cozily behind their Maginot line. It was at the end of that year that he called for the celebration of victory to be on Whitsunday of 1941. Some of the national newspapers took up the “prophecy.” But that was the very week when the real war broke out, not ended, with the shock of Hitler’s Panzer invasion of Holland, Belgium and France–and threatening Britain. If ever there was a false prophet! His reputation was lost forever. But he held to his Whitsunday celebration. He had gained the victory and the destruction of the dictators by faith, and there he stood.
It actually took four years before the victory was a visible fact. Surely a crazy and mistaken faith. lt may have looked like that then, but not now. We couldn’t then see that Hitler had built up such an enormous armament that unless it was wholly destroyed, even if there should be a so-called peace, the free world would have lived faced with a constant threat. In those four years that threat disappeared forever, with the entry of the U.S.A. into the war, and the final destruction of the Nazi and Japanese power.
During those years Rees Howells and his co-intercessors at the College stood on their faith ground. They confronted the challenge of Rommel on the verge of the capture of Alexandria, which would have opened the door for an invasion of the Holy Land, and they got through to the victory of faith which declared that he would never capture Alexandria–and they made that word of faith known. No one had then heard or thought of Montgomery and the way in which he turned Rommel and his army back in flight.
It was the same when the German army had invaded Russia and reached Stalingrad. If they had taken that city, they could have crossed the Caucasus and invaded the Holy Land by that route. The College stood their ground in faith that the Nazis would never take that city. The battle raged for weeks, and the surrender of the German army there was the beginning of the end of the German invasion of Russia.
Then, with the war ended, there came the real gain of this intercession, far beyond anticipation–as Paul puts it, “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” With all opposition ended, and the dictators destroyed just as Rees Howells by the word of faith had said they would be, a tremendous upsurge of the gospel throughout the world began. We who are involved in missions know there has been nothing like it in world history. There have been hundreds of new missionary recruits, at more than double the rate before the war, and all kinds of new missionary agencies. But far more important, the freedom of the world from colonial governments has meant many nations finding their identity. Their churches and believers, the fruit of a century and more of missionary labors, have begun to rise up. They have claimed their inheritance as autonomous churches of Jesus Christ with His Word and Spirit and have begun to take their place of leadership both in the spread of the gospel among their own people and in sending their own missionaries to other lands. There is a wholly new “bursting at the seams” of the church of Christ in whole continents like Africa and South America, and in many countries such as Indonesia, Korea, and elsewhere in the Far East.
So we see that the gaining of the intercession for which God called Rees Howells and those with him to lay their lives on the altar, accompanied by “the first fruits going to the altar” (Lev. 2:1-3) in that loss of reputation, has in God’s perfect timetable produced this unbelievable world harvest, beyond what any of us fifty years ago would have dreamed of; and this could not have been produced without the time it took for the destruction of the Nazi menace and the freedom of the years that have followed. It was an intercession gloriously gained, but only seen by those whose eyes are opened to the law of intercession: the corn-of-wheat principle–through death to life. This is what Rees Howells used to make so plain in his teaching on the lives of the Bible intercessors–from Noah, Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Jonah, Daniel, right through to the Savior Himself, and on to Paul and up to our day. Samuel, Rees Howells’ son, has cooperated with Doris Ruscoe in preparing a further book on some of those teachings. Intercession: Readings from Rees Howells, published in the U.S.A. by Christian Literature Crusade and distributed in Britain by Lutterworth Press.
* C. T Studd, Cricketer and Pioneer, published by Lutterworth Press in Britain and distributed by the Christian Literature Crusade in the U.S.A.
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 32 No 4
- Faith Illustrations–The Original Christmas
- Two Men of God
- Three Exciting New Projects
- The Holy and Hidden Mystery
- Tell it Like it Is
- Q & A
- From Who Am I?
- Bible Bedrock
- From The Intercession of Rees Howells
- A Letter from Norman
- Except by Faith
- The Editor’s Note
- The War and After
- The Intercessor: Behind the Scenes