The Faith Life Has Its Tight Times
In the first section his autobiography, Once Caught, No Escape, Norman Grubb described the lessons of faith he learnedwith dramatic resultsby trusting God alone to meet the needs of his mission. In this excerpt, Norman shares a few of his early experiences as he trusted God alone for the basic needs of his householdwith equally dramatic, and sometimes humorousresults.
The mention of all these faith developments might give the idea that all is sunny in the faith life, and the land always flowing with milk and honey. But by no means so. It would probably be a shock and surprise if we had a list of all the hundreds of times the pockets of all of us were absolutely empty.And why not? Paul’s standard was that Christ should be magnified in him whether by life or by death; and he knew how to be abased as well as to abound.
One of my favourite Scriptures which I have used among us dozens of times, was when Paul warned the Corinthian church about the danger of thinking themselves to be well off because they were full and rich, "and reigned as kings without us"; but God’s standard for apostleship (and I reckon the called of God are the apostles) is "appointed to death . . . spectacles to the world . . . fools . . . weak . . . despised; hungry, thirsty, naked, buffeted, with no certain dwelling place: labouring with our own hands, reviled, persecuted, defamed, and as the filth of the world and offscouring of all things" (1 Cor. 4:9-13).That has always kept us from thinking that we approached within a hundred miles of apostolic and Scriptural standards of the missionary calling; and that if we have appeared a little more extreme than some, we are miles from the extremes of our forerunners. So personal financial shortage is a very little thing. Paul’s standard again suits us: "having food and raiment, let us therewith be content".
We are not saying that God calls others to go this way, and we are thankful, as Paul was, for those who have this world’s goods and the comforts of life, and who so freely use them for God. Paul did not tell the rich to give away their riches; but, while warning them of special dangers and snares in wealth, told them to "do good, be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate." And where would all of us be who have this special calling of serving Christ, if there were not the Gaius’s whom John thanks for his well-known "charity to the brethren and to strangers"? So I thank God for those who have this world’s goods, and whose ministry in the Gospel is at least partly by the distribution of them.
We had our tight times specially in our earlier days, when we were just starting to live as a household by faith.We were then about ten in the house.We also had with us C.T.’s mother’s old personal maid, from the days when the Studd family lived in Hyde Park Gardens off Park Lane.Now retired, the old lady had her home with us, though out of kindness she insisted on cooking for the household. Miss Musset by name, called "Muss" by all of us, she professed to laugh at our weird ideas of living on the promises of God, though she liked the young candidates, especially the boys, whom she called "the Hallelujah Boys". She lived in the basement where we had our dining-room and kitchen, but would not eat with us.The time came when there was not a thing in the house: no money, not even bread or milk or butter, or the inevitable Englishman’s tea. So we decided that at mealtimes, instead of going down to the dining-room, we would meet in the living-room, and have our meals by feeding on the Lord! But it never once happened, all through a week of having nothing.
Every day, three times a day, the bell rang just when we would be getting ready to meet upstairs, and down in the dining-room we would find bread, cheese, tea, milk and sugar.We never knew where they came from, and could only surmise from our cynical friend, Muss! On the eighth day there was a ring at the door-bell as we were eating; a man was outside and inquired if this was the Grubbs’ house. He had a load of a ton of potatoes from a farmer who had recently heard of us and sent these along. It was certainly Hallelujah boys who carried those sacks in! Other provision came soon also and things returned to normal. But we always said anyhow God had given us extra, because the prayer is for daily bread, but we had cheese on top.
That same farmer,Warren Andrew, became a dear personal friend; he and his brother Will (both now with the Lord) and their sisters, especially Eleanor, have been a family whose love and friendship and constant visits to their home have been outstanding in our lives. Warren sent us sacks of lentils through those early years. Often they were our main diet, and sometimes we used to laugh and compare ourselves to the Israelites when it said the quails were so abundant they came out of their nostrils!
Once I was leaving home for a few days of meetings.We were just our own family of five at that time, and maybe one or two others. Before I left I asked Pauline what food or money she had. She said no food and 4s. (50¢) in cash. So we prayed and I left her, like any good husband, humanly to starvation, while I went to plenty! I hadn’t left the house more than an hour or two, when a van drove up from a very highbrow West End store, Barkers. It contained a large hamper, not of luxury foods but of the basics: a joint of meat, packets of cheese, butter and so forth, and at the bottom a box of chocolates for "The Grublets." We had no idea where it came from.
After my return, we visited by invitation two friends in an apartment in Kensington, not far from Barkers. Our hosts were the two I have just mentioned,Will and Eleanor Andrew, brother and sister. At that time, we had only met them twice before.While we were there,Will took Pauline aside and asked her if she received a hamper of food on a certain day.Then he explained that as he was having his quiet time that morning, a voice had distinctly said to him, "Go to Barkers and order ample provision for a number of ordinary meals, and send it to the Grubbs.
I remember once when I was visiting my friend Rees Howells, I was to go on in two days to some meetings in a town about 200 miles away. I had only a sixpence in my pocket, but I felt sure God would send some money for the fare, probably by a letter. No letter came, but I knew I should stick to my appointment, and the money for the ticket would come somehow. On the way to the station with Mr. Howells, we stopped at the post office and there was one letterfor him. We arrived at the station, and he remained at the back with my bag while I went to the booking office. I had by then a shilling or two more, and what I intended to do was to ask how far that amount would take me. But being accustomed just to ask for a ticket to a place, I mentioned the place and asked for the ticket. Immediately I saw I was caught, and here the man was clipping the ticket. As he did so, and was handing it to me through the window, a hand reached over my shoulder and a voice said, "Here, pay the ticket with this," and there was a pound note. It was Mr. Howells. I said nothing, but wrote and told him later. He then told me that he also had nothing, but there was a pound in that letter. He thought he would slip that pound into my hand when we shook hands as the train left; but instead the Lord’s word came plain to him, "Go up to the booking office and put down that pound for the ticket." That was as narrow a squeak as I have had.
Pauline and I have not had a hard time. In fact, in recent years I have often told the Lord we have far too good a time, and He had better tighten it up on us.The tighter days were our years in England, because, though it has much changed now in this respect, English Christians were more accustomed to give to a mission than to individuals; so personal gifts were rare. My first experience of receiving a personal gift when on a deputation tour was in the earlier days when we still had an English committee, and I was on furlough. I was sent for a six months’ tour of Canada in 1929. 1 was just then learning and kind of experimenting in the personal life of faith, and I asked the Committee for permission to take no travel funds and to trust the Lord to supply en route, sending home for the work any gifts, and looking to the Lord directly for travel expenses. They did not like it too well, and felt the mission would be let down if I was caught somewhere penniless; so they insisted on my taking anyhow £5.The crisis moment came for me in Winnipeg, when I had money I could send home for the work, but none for my fare on to Regina that night. I was tempted to use the money. But to cut off the temptation, I took the money down to the post office, got a money order and posted it.
As I put the letter in the mail-box, a car drove up and in it was the treasurer of the church where I had been speaking, and he said he was wanting to see me to give me a generous cheque for the mission and another for my travel needs$85: a fortune at a moment like that, especially as I had never before in my life received a gift like that.
The tour finished with all supplied, and as I boarded the ship to return from Montreal, a friend put a £5-note in my hand (or its equivalent). So I was able to return to the Committee the £5 they had made me take!
Of course, there is no doubt that those of us who do travelling and speaking are in a more advantageous position than those behind the scenes at the various Headquarters; and we do receive more. Often those at the home-bases, and indeed very often those on the fields, are scraping the bottom of the barrel. At our various Headquarters the family eats communally, though any are free to take their meals separately if they wish to, and usually couples with families do for breakfast. There is a kitchen purse, and we have always made it an aim of faith among ourselves that we should each put 10s. or $2 (or whatever is today’s equivalent) in the purse each week. We have always made it clear to the candidates for the fields that if they are to prove the Lord on the fields, it is good they should prove Him at least in this small way weekly at home. But there has never been any further pressure or publicity, so no one is embarrassed or exposed if they do not contribute, because no one knows.
Once a week we share at the morning meeting how God is providing for the household, with both thanksgiving and faith. We can only say it is marvelous. Through all these years in all these twenty-one main or regional headquarters, scattered through the home-base countries, not to speak of the training centres, the children’s homes, the youth work, the C.L.C. headquarters, the Soon and Bientôt headquarters, the printing presses, Radio Worldwide, God has daily fed and clothed all their occupants without using mission funds, and provided for their children and their education often to college level. This is a thirty-eightyear miracle.
There are ways and means by which God provides. I am not sure of details in present-day Britain, but in the generous and prosperous U.S.A. there are supermarkets who load wrapped bread, cakes and so forth on us if we send a truck downwhich we do. There are vegetables which can be bought for very little, fresh but unsold at the weekend. There are generous givers who send turkeys at Thanksgiving and Christmas. And as for clothes, there is a room set apart for all that come in, men’s, women’s and children’s, and often lovely things (though also some not so lovely), so that home-basers or missionaries on furlough can restock. Few of us have bought new clothes for a long time. Sometimes when someone has died, a load of beautiful things comes from a kind relative. So all I can say is that, though in earlier days in Britain and doubtless also today, and elsewhere also, there were and are the tight times and food shortages, it very seldom looks like that at the daily meal tables.
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 20 No 2
- No Independent Self
- The Real Problem: Satans Lie
- Tape Talk
- Editors Note
- Sin Ruled My Life
- Reminiscences of Rees Howells The Village Years, Continued
- For the Shame of Christ
- A Look at a Book
- BIBLE STUDY:The Letterto the Romans
- Yes, I Am
- The Faith Life Has Its Tight Times
- Letters from Norman