It is hard to realize that throughout these three years of intense conflict and many triumphs in the Spirit, Rees Howells was working daily at one of the hardest jobs a man can do — down the mine, cutting coal. His was no sheltered, monastic life, but a walk in the Spirit, right in the world, though never of it. During the “spell” down the mine — a period of ten to fifteen minutes when the men got accustomed to the darkness — if he was there, not an obscene word would pass their lips. The impression he made on many of those young fellows down the pit can best be gauged from an incident about ten years later, when he returned to Brynamman from the African mission field. At a crowded meeting in his home church, the front row was filled with those same men, many of whom seldom came near a place of worship. One young miner, Mr. Tommy Howells, who had recently been converted, was so touched by the practical reality he saw in that life “full of faith and the Holy Ghost” that in that meeting their hearts became knit together as Jonathan’s to David’s, and for all the years that followed, “Tommy” became his devoted co-worker and prayer-partner.
But now there came a further call, which was to loosen him yet more from his old moorings. He was out on his favorite Black Mountain, where the silent spaces were so often the gate of heaven to him, and the Lord spoke to him. “For seven hours a day you are earning two shillings an hour,” He said, “but you need not work for an earthly master any longer. Would you like to come out and give these seven hours a day to work for Me?”
Rees Howells was standing on a small wooden bridge across a little stream, and the Lord asked him, “Will you give your word to Me that you won’t look to another person to keep you? If so, put up your hand and repeat, ‘I shall not take from a thread to a shoe-latchet from any person, unless the Lord tells me.'”
Just as Abraham made that stand when he refused the spoils of war that were justly his, lest men should say his prosperity came from natural sources, so God was asking His servant to take this same stand for the rest of his life; and on that bridge he raised his hand and made the solemn vow, adding, “I do believe You are able to keep me better than that Mining Company.” It was no mean stand of faith, because Mr. Howells had long since ceased that active ministry in the mission and among fellow Christians, which might have led people to give to him; and the moment he made this vow, the Lord drove home the reality of it to him by saying, “Remember this: you must never take a meal at home without paying for it, or your brothers could say they were keeping you.” It was not that the family would have minded helping him, but the Lord was impressing” on him that the real life of faith meant receiving all that he needed from God, and being enabled to pay his way, while using all his hours for God; and not being dependent upon any man, most of all his family.
Once again his obedience to God had to be proved at the price of wounding his mother. She had been so pleased that he was no longer living as a Nazarite and doing other “strange” things; surely now he would live a normal life. So when he told her of God’s new word to him, she couldn’t take it at first. It was a real conflict, and lasted some days. “What will your father say?” she asked. “If you pay, you will be like a lodger and not a son.” But it was a vow to God, and as he said, God would change before he could break it. “If you will allow me to pay for my food, I will remain at home,” he told her, “if not, I must leave this afternoon.” He actually had to go out and try to arrange for lodgings, before his mother agreed that he should pay her monthly.
The Lord then gave him a month’s holiday, which he could spend in worshipping the Beloved of his heart. Each day was spent on the mountain where he never saw the face of man. They were not days of intercession or carrying burdens; but of living fellowship, lost in the presence of God. He often spoke of that month as one of the most precious of his life.
He started the month with one penny, and the Lord did not add anything to it; so as he climbed the mountain the first few days, the devil kept saying each morning, “You haven’t had an answer to prayer yet.” Then one morning, when he was passing through the iron gate, where he left houses and fields behind, the Lord said, “The moment you shut this gate behind you, don’t allow the devil to speak to you again. You will not need a penny until the day you pay your mother.” “So I gave the enemy one hit,” Rees said, “and told him that I wasn’t going to pray a single prayer for money until the end of the month. I never doubted that the people I was working for would pay me on Saturdays, so why should I doubt God? I didn’t pray a single prayer again, but lived to worship my heavenly Bridegroom.”
On the last day of the month, about midday, the Lord told him to descend the mountain and go home; and as soon as he arrived, his father came in for lunch. The final test on his new call to a life of faith had come. “The manager says he has kept your job open, and you can take it again if you want to,” his father said to him. “What a foolish man, why did he do that?” Rees exclaimed. “But if you don’t mean to earn a living again,” continued his father, “who is going to keep you?” “Don’t you agree that if I am working for God, He can keep me as that last earthly master kept me?” asked Rees. “But can you name one other person who lives this life?” his father asked. “George Miiller,” Rees answered. “But he is dead. Must you call the dead back to help you?” was the quick reply. “Well,” Rees answered, “don’t you believe the words of the Saviour, ‘Take neither purse nor scrip… the laborer is worthy of his hire’?” That quotation seemed to convince his father, who merely added, “I was only bringing you that message.”
While he was speaking, the postman arrived with a letter for Rees. It was from Mr. Gosset, offering him a position in the London City Mission, and saying that he would have a salary of ú100 a year. He added the words, “Those who preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel,” and underlined them. Rees could see his father’s countenance changing. He was plainly thinking, “How fortunate he is; everything turns out in his favor… You see. that?” he said to Rees. “Those who preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel!” “Certainly,” Rees answered, “and those who preach faith should live by faith!” The victory was won, his father broke out laughing, and within half an hour the Lord had sent the deliverance he needed. It was a good beginning to forty .years of praying and abundantly proving the Lord’s prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.”