by John C. Miller
REUBENS BEST SERMON - 1983
Just 30 years old, and with a lovely young bride named Hannah,and an 8 month old baby boy, Ruben was the picture of health and strength. Both were graduates from our Bible school and members of our local Church. His greatest ambition since childhood was to be a preacher and to be used of God. His father, a preacher, helped fuel these ambitions, which were not fulfilled in spite of having finished Bible School and served in many areas of ministry - sharing with the children in the Sunday School, young peoples meetings, song leading in the services, etc. Something was lacking! There wasnt that evident backing of the Holy Spirit and His anointing upon his ministry, fact that I many times pointed out to him. He felt greatly frustrated and found so many obstacles before him. There was such a lack of fruit and results in his ministry in spite of seeking in every way to prepare his life and working so hard at trying to be what he felt God had called him to be.
Having only held odd jobs, hoping soon to go into full time ministry, he quickly realized he had to care for the growing financial burden of raising a family. God graciously provided a excellent job in the local state-owned power company - in a time when jobs were nigh to impossible to procure. There he began to prosper greatly as God gave him grace in the eyes of his bosses.
One day he came to talk to me. "Pastor, I just realized I have been wrong all this time in trying to go into the ministry. After all, I have a wife and baby to care for and I dont have a house of my own or even a parcel of land! I cant rent forever. I have been wasting my life going to Bible School,seeking God and wearing myself out trying to become a preacher. I think I will enroll in a computer course the company is offering me so I will be able to advance in my job to better positions." (Here in Argentina, computers are new, and the few that understand them get to be V.I.Ps) "Then," he continued, "I will just be satisfied to go to church and become one more nominal Christian in the bunch."
"It wont work!" I answered, "God knows our thoughts before we think them; you cant get away with reverse psychology!". With wide open eyes, he stammered "what?" so I explained to him that God was present when Abram offered Issac, so He knew about our trying to imitate Abrams giving up of Isaacs, in the hope that if we did, He would then give it to us. "This is just the same deep self-ambitions of ministry, expressed covertly!", I told him. His frustration, anger and bitterness reached the breaking point a few weeks later, as one night he threw himself across his bed and began to weep and agonize and pour out his heart before God. For hours he remained there weeping before The Lord as God spoke to him and brought a fresh revelation of Himself to his heart. Later, he shared with his wife, Hannah, and said, "Pastor John was right, I realize now,for the first time, that it isnt the highest calling to be a pastor; rather, the highest calling is to know Christ. I only want to know Him!"
There was awakened in Reubens heart that night a deep cry to God that He reveal the Cross and the Crucified. He knew that if only he could have a revelation of that Cross, he would never be the same again. Little did he imagine of how God was going to answer that prayer that His Spirit had planted within his heart, and that in a matter of a few days, he would be passing through the valley of the shadow of death and ushered into the very Presence of the God whom now, he so greatly desired to know. That Cross was to become so real in his two weeks of battling for his life and the terrible pain and sufferings that he was to bear.
Because of an extremely rare illness,which generally only attacks and kills children, Reuben became very ill...with a raging fever, weakness and eventual paralysis. As the illness progressed, his lungs were affected and he was put on a respirator. On two occasions, cardiac arrests brought him to the brink of death, but doctors brought him back. Finally, another cardiac arrest, and he could not be brought back.
All His life he had been on "borrowed time" as are we all! These 30 years, God waited to cure him of his greatest sickness - AMBITION - the most ancient of sins, the one that brought down Lucifer, the one that has destroyed so many precious Christians. But God, not willing that this one should enter eternity blemished, caused this illness to stay till His work was done! When, oh when! Children of God, will we learn that our only calling is unto Him "THAT I MAY KNOW HIM!" (Phil.3:8-10). All the rest - preaching, soul-winning and ministering - must be just the natural fruit coming from such blessed communion.
During the last days of his consciousness, while in such terrible pain and weakness, Jesus revealed Himself to Reuben and spoke to him many times. He was able to share with me of the precious cross,the suffering of our Saviour and His matchless love and beauty!. Though most of it would seem too sacred to repeat, after that experience, his face and life were transformed. He was too weak to speak and could barely write a few words and mouth some words, yet all who entered his room received the message, "Jesus IS Lord!, He really IS! And He lives IN me!" All he could or even wanted to communicate about, was Jesus. He was so totally captivated by the beauty and glory of Jesus that all else had lost its importance - everything else was secondary now.
Oh, what mystery of His matchless ways!...Now, when he finally had something to say, when with authority he could preach to the multitudes of the glories of his Lord and Christ, God took away his most coveted possession.....his voice - and with it went all his earthly ambitions. On his last day, just a few hours before losing consciousness, I asked him, "Reuben, did Jesus come to you again?" "Yes", he scribbled on a blank sheet, which we still keep - for it was a message written from the very Throneroom of our Saviour and Lord. What did He say? His answer was one which we know will remain stamped upon our hearts forever: "SEEK ONLY GOLD. THERE IS FIRE, BUT ONLY THE GOLD WILL REMAIN." (read 1 Cor.3:12-15)
Children who at one time or another sat under his teaching in Sunday School, young people touched by his life in youth meetings and young couples who had been classmates and friends in the Bible School and church and others who had worked with him on the job were all crowded into the church for his farewell service. Many, hearing the message, with broken hearts reconsecrated their lives to the Lord. Others, perhaps for the first time, considered the Saviour and their need of Him as they were reminded of the fragility and shortness of life and how important it is to prepare to meet God.
Reubens message will not be soon forgotten and we trust that it will be deeply engraved upon the hearts of many of His own in this place and the Word will give forth fruit for many years to come so that this precious "corn of wheat" which has been planted in these days will continue to give its increase.
Little did Reuben know, that his greatest sermon was yet to be preached; in exchange for a life of sermons God would give him the "sermon of his LIFE" - for... "he being dead, yet speaketh" (Heb.11:4). You are hearing it now, hundreds have heard it already. In a few months, he has preached to more people than in years of preaching here. Share his message with others, will you?
As to his widow and now fatherless child, is He not the "Father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows"? (Ps.68:5). Could we doubt that even when in his frustration he said, "I will get me a good job to provide for my family" God provided this particularly hard-to-get job with all its Government-backed benefits? For it not only covered all medical and funeral expences, but provided his family with free medical care for life, a small life insurance payment, and - now it seems - also a monthly pension for life! Soon, perhaps, I will share of Reubens wife Hannah, her testimony and precious experiences as she "returned to Him that which He had given her".
I have humbly shared, in Reubens stead, and for the Glory of Christ
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