The Bare Facts
Norman Grubb, born in London in 1895 into the home of an Anglican clergyman, became a Christian at the age of 18. After English Public School, he fought for the British Army in World War I as a lieutenant. During the war he was wounded and while recuperating “in hospital” he came across some literature from the “Heart of Africa Mission.” The mission had been founded by the famous English athlete and Cricketer C. T. Studd. From reading their literature, Norman began to feel a call to the mission field in Africa.
After the war was over, Norman attended Cambridge University, and while there was instrumental in the founding of a collegiate fellowship which was the beginnings of the worldwide “InterVarsity Fellowship.” Before completing his final term at Cambridge, he answered the call to missions and with his new wife, Pauline Studd (C. T.’s daughter), he left for the Belgian Congo in 1920.
Norman and Pauline spent several years in the Congo, working with Studd and evangelizing among the Africans. It was there he first began to see what was later to become the “one note” of his life, the liberating truth of “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth within me, and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” (Gal 2:20). He also completed a translation of the New Testament from the original Greek into Bangala, the predominant language of the Congo.
Studd died in 1931 and had previously sent Norman and Pauline home to run the mission from the London headquarters. Strife, controversy, and need were rampant in the mission at the time of Studd’s departure. But under Norman’s leadership it grew, as the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade (WEC), from one mission field with 35 workers in 1931 to a worldwide mission in over 40 fields with thousands of workers, all run on the principles of faith, taught by Studd, that all needs were supplied by the Father with no appeals to man.
During his time as General Secretary of WEC, Norman began his writing career, which first started out as tracts for the mission and articles for the mission magazine. His first great literary “success” was the biography of C. T. Studd, published in 1933, which over the almost 70 years since its publication, has deeply influenced and moved an innumerable number of people in their Christian walk, and is still in print today.
Another famous biography from his pen was Rees Howells, Intercessor, the faith story of the Welshman, Rees Howells, who founded the Bible College of Wales, whose dynamic faith and intercessory exploits Norman relates in his book. Norman throughout his life gave credit to Rees Howells for teaching him the principles of faith that formed the basis for the growth of WEC as well as everything else in his life.
As noted above, the heartbeat of Norman’s life, however, became not missions, but getting out to the Church of Christ the message of who we are in Him. He had discovered for himself that we, by virtue of the new birth, through the Cross of Calvary, have become completely new creations in Christ, and that we are branches of which HE is the Vine, and that the totally liberating secret of the Christian Life is an inner awareness of He and I operating and living in union, i.e. He and I are one person (1 Cor 6:17 – “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.”) The germ form of what became the later theme of his many books on the subject we see in his writings and letters from as early as the mid-1930s. But Norman’s great life-theme really began to come to fruition in the blessed books that began to flow forth from his typewriter from the late 40’s onward, including The Law of Faith, The Liberating Secret, The Deep Things of God, God Unlimited, The Spontaneous You, Who Am I?, and finally Yes, I AM. And besides those major books he wrote innumerable articles and tracts on the same theme.
In 1965 Norman retired as International Secretary of WEC, and in his “retirement” began to travel, mostly around the United States where he and Pauline had lived since 1957, sharing in churches, conferences, groups, homes, or wherever would have him, Paul’s “mystery of the gospel, which is Christ in you.” He continued his travels and speaking engagements well into his 90’s, when his body finally wore down, and he went to be with the Lord in 1993 having completed nearly 98 years on this earth.
My Personal Experience with Norman Grubb
I Samuel 22:2 And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them.
I first met Norman in the spring in 1973, at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Rome, GA, a couple of months into my Christian walk, when I was filled with hope and fervency and excitement at my new birth. Being a former “hippie,” I had the requisite VW bus, but mine was a little different in that a former owner had cut out the top and turned it into a camper by building a construction that greatly resembled a doghouse on top of the van. In my great zeal for the Lord in those early days, my wife, Janis, came outside one day and found me atop the van painting in HUGE fire-engine red letters, “JESUS,” on the front and the back of the “doghouse.” And I wasn’t satisfied with just painting “Jesus” on the front and back either, but put Christian bumper stickers all over it, on the sides, up and down the front. People could see the “JESUS” van coming a mile away, and hitchhikers, who were plentiful then, would, often as not, quickly lower their thumbs as they saw us approach.
My first experience of Norman Grubb was his great excitement and verbal “praising the Lord” at seeing my hippie “JESUS” van, parked outside the staid, dignified, traditional St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. Like many people testify of their first experience with Norman, I don’t remember what he said that night, but I do remember his vibrancy and excitement and passion, more than in most people I knew, and he was 78 years old at the time.
I didn’t see him for another seven years. By the time I met him the second time, in the fall of 1980, my new-Christian fervency and zeal of seven years before had been replaced by fear, torment, confusion and darkness. For reasons that are the material for another story, I was coming to Norman to try to make some sense out of my life and to recover the “joy of my salvation.”
That meeting changed everything. It set the tone of my life and gave me the theme of the rest of my life, because the Spirit broke through to me, having conditioned me through the experiences of the previous seven years, to HEAR for the first time, words that had only been words to me before, that HE lives in ME, and that the “government shall be upon his shoulder” (Is 9:6), and that HE is living my life. “YOU ARE HE,” he said over and over. Big, mighty words, hard for the flesh to swallow, but which nevertheless penetrated into the depths of my inner spirit and made me cry “Abba, Father.”
I went to Norman for help from him to solve my problems, but he wouldn’t even touch them, didn’t even SEE them, but just told me WHO I AM, despite them! And the “WHO” is the operative part of that, because I didn’t hear a “message,” didn’t latch onto a “teaching” or a “doctrine,” but saw the “WHO” of WHO I AM. HE, Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, through the Holy Spirit, I saw, IS my very Life! Norman didn’t fuss with me about my frustrations and fears and problems and the terrible darkness that had overtaken me — he just “turned on the Light” – and darkness fled!
1 John 4:19 says, “We love him, because he first loved us.” Norman Grubb, according to the eyes of the flesh, was not a perfect man. Like everybody else, he had problems, he had, according to the eyes of the flesh, “shortcomings,” “failings,” and “blind spots” as some people call them. But Paul says “we henceforth see no man after the flesh,” and Norman’s seeing me, in the midst of my darkness and problems, as WHO I REALLY AM, and his faith-speaking of that truth, awakened the same Reality in ME! Seeing Christ in Norman, in his frail weak earthen-vessel frame, made it possible in my own mind to see Christ in MYSELF!
“And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed” (Mat 8:2,3).
That is exactly what Norman did. I came to him a leper, thinking like a leper, with only leprosy on my mind, but he didn’t see the leprosy – he just put forth his hand and said, “Be thou clean,” and lo, the leprosy was cleansed!
People who were tired, who were hungry, who had no hope, who were desperate, who couldn’t find their way, who everyone else had rejected, who were misfits, who were outcasts, who were forlorn, who were despairing, who hated themselves, who felt guilty and condemned and strangled by darkness — these were the ones Norman touched. And the ones who heard and felt light and life and truth, and most important of all, Love.
My favorite “Norman stories”
Everybody who spent any time with Norman has favorite stories about him. These two are mine, which both occurred on his last visit to Rome, GA, in the spring of 1982. Norman, when he came to Rome, always stayed at the house of his friends Ed and Lillian Bosworth. We were having a wonderful lunch with Lillian, when she asked in her fine southern accent, “Naw-ah-mun, have you ever been to the Holy Land?” Norman didn’t even look up from his plate, but just smiled and said in his proper British, “My dear, I AM the Holy Land!”
Another day during that visit Norman came to have lunch with Janis and I at our house. We had a tremendous time with him and when it came time for him to go and rest up for the meeting that night, I helped him out to the car. (He was 86 at the time and needed help with stairs.) After I got him into the car, I realized I’d left something inside so I went back in to get it. As I was starting to walk out the door, I glanced out the picture window and saw Norman sitting in the car. I noticed he was looking at something, and that he had an incredible peaceful look on his face. So I followed his gaze, and realized he was looking at our cat who was contentedly napping in the warm spring sun. At that moment the “peace” of God struck me, and I realized in some small measure the “REST” of God, as I saw Norman doing nothing but looking at a cat. It may not seem to some to be of any importance, just looking at a cat. But for me, the reality of Eternal BE-ING shone through in that moment, God everywhere, the ALL in the all.
He who has ears, let him hear.
Some time after my writing this, Lillian Bosworth, mentioned above, happened to read it and told me another story from that same visit.
Norman was always given the same downstairs bedroom when he came. Lillian walked by his bedroom early that morning and heard him inside saying, “O praise you, Jesus, thank you Jesus.” She smiled and walked on to start breakfast. When Norman came into the kitchen a little while later Lillian said, “Naw-ah-mun, it sounded like you were having a wonderful prayer time with the Lord.
“No, no, my dear,” he replied. “I was just trying to put on my socks.”
Thinking about those days with Norman in the 1970s and 80s, lots of memories, lots, flood my mind.
About Norman – one thing that proved to me his validity like no other, was that he brought no one to himself. He was not idolized. Sure, people who loved him wanted to hear him, be with him, and ask him questions.
Why? Was he a great preacher, speaker, orator? Hardly! Not as men judge, anyway. Was he infallible? Of course not!
The truth is, from my perspective, which is shared by many others I have known for many years, he radiated not “himself,” but Christ. There was only grace and no condemnation coming from him, no criticism of others. He blessed those who cursed him. He saw as Christ many who tried to malign him and destroy his reputation. He never once responded to anyone “defensively,” even those who virulently disagreed with him.
The other hallmark that is perhaps the most important in all this, is where Norman pointed us in our Christian “work.” Everything he taught from A-Z was to bring the intercessory Spirit of Christ alive and working in us, that we might not just participate in the benefits and joys of our salvation, but that our lives would be the same as Jesus from then on, “spending and being spent” for others.
I never met a man who loved Jesus more. Or who was more sold out to Christ and the gospel. He knew the meaning personally of Paul’s word, “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.” (2 Cor 12:15) He gave it all. I was a witness and saw it with my own eyes.
For what reward? He didn’t own a house. Whatever he used was provided in the moment by the Lord and he lived on whatever the Lord sent from the early 1920s til the day he died. He had no Learjet, no television network, no “entourage” to escort him to and from important functions. No, one was likely to pick Norman up at the train or bus station, alone carrying his own suitcase and portable typewriter. Anybody could walk up to him and talk to him. Nobody was lower and nobody was higher in Norman’s eyes.
He was the funniest looking of human beings in his old age. He wore hand-me-down clothes donated to the missionaries all his life. He had heart failure, wore a hearing aid that sometimes when the battery was low, it would make beeping sounds that everyone could hear but Norman. He was, in a way, the most normal of human beings, but in another way, he was not normal, because he lived obviously in a “rest” that was unfamiliar to us when we first met him. We knew he had “something,” but instead of the object of our adoration being outward toward Norman, he turned it inward into Christ in each of us. He wasn’t there to make us believe in Christ in Norman. He came to us so we would believe Christ in us. He wanted “me,” to be “me,” the Real Me, the life hidden in Christ in God, that had been waiting for me from the Eternal, to be mine when I found the Pearl of Great Price, hidden within my very self.
And I DID find it – or rather Him! There He was, even as He promised in the scriptures, the Vine of which I am a branch, the Light inward that made me the Light of my world, even as He promised.
I need no other validity. As one born blind whose eyes were opened, I can have no other testimony than this:
Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner.
He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.
Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes?
He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples?
Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples.
We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is.
The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes.
Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.
Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind.
If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.
They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.
Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?
He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?
And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.
And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him. (John 9:24-38)