The Real Thing

by | May 29, 2000 | God's Hands, Humility, Leadership

I was about seven years old when an unusual man of God spoke at the midweek service of the small church my parents were attending. His name was Howard Goss, and I will never forget the impression he left on my young heart. He was a huge man with a bald head and hands the size of baseball gloves. I never paid much attention to Bible preachers back then, but this man captured my interest. This large, gentle minister radiated something I had never felt before.

Howard Goss didn’t rant and rave to make his point. Nor did he use any emotional gimmicks as he delivered the Word of God. He simply explained the truths of Scripture in an easy conversational tone. But he also conveyed an unusual sense of the blessing of God, a fact I grew to appreciate much later in life.

I had been in the ministry for about six years when I visited the city of Manila in the Philippines to speak at a large church celebrating its anniversary. As I browsed in the pastor’s study before the service, I noticed a book written by Howard Goss many years earlier. He had died since I had last seen him, but I still vividly remembered the impression he made on me.

The pastor noticed the book I was leafing through and abruptly exclaimed, “You know, his son goes to church here.”

“What, here in Manila?” I asked.

“Yeah, he lived away from God for many years, went through a divorce, and ended up in the Philippines. He’s married to a Filipino woman, and their two boys go to church with him all the time.”

There was plenty of time before the service began, so I asked if I could meet him. Within minutes a tall, hulking, middle-aged man walked in-the exact double of his late father, complete with the large, balding head and huge hands. I was stunned by the uncanny resemblance. As we sat and talked, I explained my interest in knowing more about his dad. He told me about his father’s conversion, long years of preaching ministry, and beautiful marriage. Then he opened up to me even more:

“Even though I drifted away from God, I never could get away from my parents’ prayers,” he told me. “The farther I strayed, the more they interceded for me. Dad was always seeking God. I would so often see him on his knees in his study. His heart was so sincere before the Lord that I couldn’t take being around him when I was living so terribly. One night he and Mom prayed a long time for me and waited up until I got home from my carousing.

“‘Son, you’re coming back to the Lord!’ They said. ‘God assured us in prayer tonight that it’s just a matter of time. Hallelujah!’ And they were right, as usual. I ran for a long time, but the Lord just got me into a corner and that was it. I surrendered my life back to him years ago, and my two boys are now fine young men of God. I just wish my dad had seen with his own eyes the answer to his prayers. “You know, Pastor, my dad really walked with God. He was so unusual compared to most of the ministers I saw while growing up. He was quite famous in his circle of churches, and everybody wanted him to speak, especially at those huge summer-camp meetings. He was a good writer and became an elder statesman to a multitude of younger preachers and congregations. But all the acclaim and popularity, all the invitations and compliments, never affected him except to make him more humble before God.

“I’ll never forget one big camp meeting up in Canada when I was a kid. Every famous preacher was invited, and the crowds were tremendous. Our family arrived a day early, and the leaders were making out the schedule for the speakers. Meetings were held all day long-morning, afternoon, and night-and the visiting preachers all wanted to speak during the night rallies when the crowds were largest. The preachers actually jockeyed around, hoping to get the biggest meetings for their preaching assignments.

“Suddenly one of the leaders asked where my father was. He was in the prime of his ministry and was highly respected by everyone.

They wanted to consult with him, but no one seemed to know where he was. They finally heard that he was last seen in the kitchen and dining hall area, so I went with them to find him.

“They could scarcely believe their eyes when they got to the kitchen. There was my dad on his hands and knees scrubbing the floor with some of the other workers!

“‘Brother Goss,’ they said, ‘what are you doing here? We’re making out the preaching schedule and wanted to know your preference.’

“‘Oh, brothers,’ my dad replied, ‘you’ve got so many good preachers here that you don’t need to worry about me. But I found out that they’re short of help here in the kitchen so I thought I’d lend a hand.”‘

Tears welled up in our eyes as the son reminisced about his father, whose godly heart had left such a deep impression on so many.

“My dad was sure different, Pastor;” he said. “He was the real thing. His heart was so humble before the Lord that he had a special power in prayer and in preaching. The Lord was really with my dad.”

Cymbala, Jim. The Life God Blesses. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2001, p. 82-86.


The Real Thing