Saturday, May 07, 2005

book review: Rees Howells : Intercessor

I have just finished reading a mess-up-your-life kind of book: Rees Howells : Intercessor. This biography of Rees Howells was written by Howells’ friend and colleague, Norman Grubb (in cooperation with Howells' widow, son and secretary, and having at his disposal Mr. Howells' letters and the transcribed talks where he told many of the stories in the book). If you haven’t ever read it, you should. Well, maybe not. If you’re happy with the way you are, don’t. Because it might stir things up.

Born in South Wales October 10, 1879, Rees was always a good boy. As a youngster he loved to be in church "under the influence of God." When he was 22, he left Wales for America with the ambition to see the world and make money.

When he got to America, he got a job with his cousin Evan Lewis and continued living the religious life he had lived in Wales. Thus when his cousin asked him one day if he was ‘born again,’ he was miffed. "My life is as good as yours," he said.

However over the next weeks, his cousin kept at him. After a time of seeking, an illness and hearing the testimony of a converted Jew, he saw himself for the sinner he was, and personally accepted Jesus into his life.

Shortly after he returned to Wales in 1904, the Welsh revival broke out. He became involved in it and worked at discipling new converts. However, he and his friends sensed spiritual needs in their own lives. And so in the summer of 1906 they spent their summer holiday at the Llandrindod Wells convention (a Welsh equivalent to the English Keswick Conference) where Howells made a pivotal decision.

From the first meeting, Howells was deeply moved. The realization dawned on him that the Holy Spirit was a person, and not an ‘influence.’ In his words:

He said to me, "As the Savior had a body, so I dwell in the cleansed temple of the believer. I am a Person. I am God, and I am come to ask you to give your body to Me that I may work through it. I need a body for my temple but it must belong to Me without reserve for two persons with different wills can never live in the same body. Will you give me yours? But if I come in, I come as God, and you must go out. I shall not mix Myself with your self."

This precipitated a five-day struggle in Mr. Howells. From the first, he realized it was an unconditional surrender, of which he said:

"I had received a sentence of death, as really as a prisoner in the dock. I had lived in my body for twenty-six years, and could I easily give it up....I wept for days. I lost seven pounds....Nothing is more real to me than the process I went through for that whole week. The Holy Spirit went on dealing with me, exposing the root of my nature which was self, and you can only get out of a thing what is in its root. Sin was canceled, and it wasn’t sin He was dealing with; it was self..."

Some of the things he came to a point of surrender over:

1. His love of money: "The Lord told him that He would take out of his nature all taste for money and any ambition for the ownership of money."

2. His choice in making a home: "I saw I could never give my life to another person, to live to that one alone.

3. His ambition:"Supposing he had a mission in a town and another mission opened in the same place; if there was jealousy between the two, and it was better for the town only to have one, then it would be his which would have to go."

4. His right to a good reputation: "As he was thinking of men of the Bible who were full of the Holy Ghost, and particularly John the Baptist, the Lord said to him, "Then I may live through you the kind of life I lived through them."

Finally on Friday of that week he came through.

The book continues with stories of how God worked through this man teaching him faith and intercession as he prayed for the sick, prayed for the salvation of friends and acquaintances, gave up raising his own son to work as a missionary, traveled without any money in his pocket, bought estates, established a Bible school, and prayed for international events, especially during the World War II. And all the while God also continued to deal with his self-life.


Does this ring familiar to you? I wonder if it isn’t on exactly this issue – the surrender of the self-life to the Holy Spirit – that we who have come to Jesus are most radically sifted. It determines whether we grow or remain stunted, are useful to God or are set aside from getting His assignments because of our own agendas, will someday see our life’s efforts last or burn up.

"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2:20 NKJV

"Therefore I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – which is your spiritual worship." Romans 12:1 NIV

"Jesus takes us over for His enterprises, His building schemes entirely and no soul has any right to claim where he shall be put." Oswald Chambers


Franciscus said...

Dear Violet,
3 years is a long time to wait for a comment; but I wish to say that when I first read the book 30 years ago I also found it deeply disturbing. While periodically rereading the book, I felt disturbed each time. In a sense it has never left me alone. In 30 years I have gone through quite a stripping process; but it is nonetheless a desire in my heart to be just so close to the will and heart of God. Perhaps the time is now.

violet said...

Franciscus, this is the beauty of the internet. Our words sit here to read and perhaps resonate with others long after we have put them up. Thanks so much for your comment - three years or however many later! May God grant you the desires of your heart in the matter of getting close to Him.

Robyn said...

Yes...disturbing and a mess-up-your-life-kind of book describes it perfectly and I am only 3/4 of the way through. I am in the middle of fearing the stripping process that is going to come of this because...I oh, so want it and so want to be as close to God's will for me as it is possible to get........the affect of having the Holy Spirit work through you in such a way would really affect and bring salvation to family and those around you...

The thing that really stood out to me is that it all takes time...God's perfect time....none of this bang you are hit by the Holy Spirit, bang, and if you are not speaking in tongues or something then you are not saved or not baptised in the Holy Spirit (though God can do what ever He likes) In Howell's everything change seemed to happen thoroughly and completely over time....praise God for His patience.


violet said...

Well said, Robyn! Many life stories bear out that "it all takes time...God's perfect time." Maybe it's good we don't know how much time, or we'd get discouraged.

Anonymous said...

This book jumped at me from the shelf and totally messed up my life 13 years ago this month.

The stripping took about a year. To say it was thorough and painful would be an understatement. Down to bone it all went.

Then God rebuilt everything from scratch. Literally. And He broke even the bones, but not until some years later (because He is merciful).

And today, my relationship with the Lord is more real than I would have ever thought. But the holy and the self cannot live in the same body. There is only one body, and it belongs to the Lord who bought it with His own blood.

If the Holy Spirit is anything, then it's 2 things:
1. Deliberate.
2. Thorough.

He means what He says, and says what He means. And He has come to speak of the Savior and to make us food for the world in need of Him. Will we allow Him to?

violet said...

"Deliberate and thorough" Well said Anonymous! I just reread the post I wrote in 2005 - and I'm thinking it may not hurt for me to reread the book again too. Thanks for your insightful comments.

Flowerchild said...

Hi, great book review. This was one of the best books I had ever read. I'm planning on reading it again. We have so much to learn from this man's relationship with God.

Peter Black said...

A great review of that significant book of a remarkable life and ministry. Thank you.
I first read it 32 years ago, and have reread is since.
It is the kind of book to revisit and allow the breath of the Holy Spirit to clear away the dust and cobwebs that so easily and naturally adhere to the corners of our lives -- even in the midst of our service to Christ.
I suggest the "taproot dealings" and deep work of God in Howells' life and experience in some respects illustrate the teachings of Oswald Chambers (author, "My Utmost for His Highest"), with whose writings Rees Howells at some point may have become familiar.

violet said...

Thanks, Peter, and for pointing out that Howells may have read Chambers -- who is also one of my favourites.

bren said...

I read this book in the late 80's... and knew before getting to the part of the book expressing such, that the Spirit of God was going to ask Reece to surrender the care of his son. I laid the book down for a season, because I knew I was not at that place yet, and knew someday I such a request would be made of me ... I came to understand the greatest act of worship was to trust the Lord completely, not only with our life, but the life of those in your care, and those you care for deeply.

The Holy Spirit continued to work on me... until I was brought to a place of being about to absolutely surrender even my children (it was easier to surrender my life). A book with the same title by Andrew Murray was also used to bring me to such a state of being.

When I read how the Spirit of the Lord needed Reece Howells to identify with those who would have to give up their children for Ministry sake, and how his son ministered with him in later years, also being able to identify with the children, I came to understand, we do not need to understand, but obey and trust... for HIS plan for us is indeed good and not evil.

Sure enough... in 1989, I was able to surrender and walk out that which HE required of me and those I love... but HE was gracious enough to do so with promises of restoration... and more.

I am now living in the time of fulfillment of those promises and am grateful I was empowered to give my all so the resurrected Spirit of Christ could rise up from within and live on through me with the measure of Faith I am top receive.

Have walked out much through this gift of Faith and Love... and write about it as led. I rejoice that in the doing, I have entered into God's Rest.

If I may be so bold as to offer: in hopes HE will be glorified in the reading...

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