A few years ago, I wrote an extended piece on the life of George Muller.  I have used this piece in various settings, so many of you may have already seen it, but I wanted to post it again this week to expose it to a broader audience.  In my life, I have never been so moved by the life of a historical figure as I was by George Muller.  I will post another chapter of this paper each day this week.  Let me know what you think!  NOTE:  If you are looking for a great biography about Muller, A.T. Pierson’s “George Muller of Bristol” is outstanding, and a key source in the preparation of this paper.

Day Three:  Faith in God Alone

When faced with great needs, as George Muller was, how a man responds to their need reveals much about where their strength is found, and who they are trusting in.  In the case of George Muller, his walk through needs proved not to be a test of his faith, but a testimony to it.  Throughout his life and the many needs he faced as detailed above, Muller never doubted that God would be His great provider, and that faithful response, led him to pray on many occasions.

Frequently, when confronted with great financial needs at the Ashley Down Orphanage, Muller’s responses gave great testimony to His faith in God.  On one occasion, a visitor to the orphanage after observing the obvious large financial demands of their work, asked which bank handled their finances.  Muller responded, “Our funds are deposited in a bank which cannot break,” even though at that time, they had no money on hand for the next days expenses![1] His faith in God caused him to see provision even in scarcity.  A.T. Pierson writes, “In November, 1839, when the needs were again great and the supplies very small, he (George Muller) was kept in peace: ‘I was not,’ he says, ‘looking at the little in hand, but at the fullness of God.’”[2] It was faith that gave Muller the eyes to see God at work, even before his provision began because the issue was not what the provision would be, but who the provision would come from.  Muller wrote in his journal in 1874, “I commit the whole work to Him, and He will provide me with what I need, in future also, though I know not whence the means are to come.”[3] This faith led George Muller to pray and ask God for needs that were far greater than he could provide for.  Again, Muller wrote, “When I was asking the petition, I was fully aware what I was doing, that I was asking for something which I had no natural prospect of obtaining from the brethren whom I know, but which was not too much for the Lord to grant.”[4]

So, we see that it is faith in God that allowed George Muller to respond to the many needs he faced with believing prayer, but where did that faith come from?  Upon investigation of his life, it appears that Muller’s faith in God was a gift from God wrought in the study of His Word and the testimony of past experience.  This faith was then put into practice by trusting in God alone, and not other means, for their provision.

The first foundation for Muller’s faith in God was found in the testimony of God’s Word, the Bible.  Early on in his life, George Muller became a fervent student of the Scriptures, and found in them the very spiritual bread of life, and the confidence for believing prayer.[5] Muller believed that the entire Bible, both Old and New Testaments, was given to mankind so that we might know the character of God, discern His promises to us, then count on them to be fulfilled in our lives.  Muller believed that it was inconceivable for God to fail on making good on any of His promises to us, therefore they could be counted on and fully worthy of our faith.[6] Muller believed that a sovereign and holy God owed nothing to mankind and was not obligated to that creation in any way . . . except when God made a promise, thus voluntarily obligating Himself to do certain things for mankind.[7] Indeed, Muller often quoted Micah 7:20 which says, “You will be true to Jacob, and show mercy to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our fathers in days long ago.”  When God gave His oath, Muller counted on it in believing prayer.

For that reason, Muller devoted himself to the study of God’s Word.  As he studied that Word, he did so in a spirit and attitude of prayer.  Taking a cue from George Whitefield, Muller read the Word of God on his knees, as he felt that was the most appropriate posture to receive such precious promises from God.[8] After reading the promises of God found in His Word, Muller would then use those words to become the very vocabulary of his prayer life.  For instance in January 1838, after reading in Psalm 65 “O Thou that hearest prayer,” Muller turned to God and prayed, as recorded in his journal, “I believe He has heard me.  I believe He will make it manifest in His own good time that He has heard me;  and I have recorded these my petitions this fourteenth day of January, 1838, that when God has answered them He may get, through this glory to His name.”[9] On another occasion, Muller read in Psalm 68:5 that God was “a father to the fatherless.”  That coupled with the promise of Psalm 9:10, “They that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee,” led Muller to write in his journal, “By the help of God, this shall be my argument before Him, respecting the orphans, in the hour of need.  He is their Father, and therefore has pledged Himself, as it were, to provide for them; and I have only to remind Him of the need of these poor children in order to have it supplied.”[10]

Muller also believed that God would only answer prayer in instances where the people were living in line with His revealed Word.  That led Muller to change his course of action on more than one occasion in order to bring it in line with God’s Word, so that His prayer would be effective before a holy God.[11] On one occasion, after fervent study of the Word, Muller became convinced that the Scriptures clearly taught against the practice of infant baptism.  Muller immediately was baptized himself as a believer so that his prayers would not be hindered by his unwillingness to obey God’s revealed truth.[12] On another occasion, Muller founded the Scriptural Knowledge Institute (SKI) instead of working with other missions agencies because of the perceived unbiblical practices of these other groups.  Both the faulty theologies concerning evangelism taught by these other groups and their handling of money and debt led Muller to found his own organization.[13] To Muller, if God were to answer the prayers of people not living in line with His Word, it would jeopardize the integrity of God before an unbelieving world by showing Him to be a rewarded of those who do not fully trust Him.[14] Through the study of Scripture, Muller found the seeds and substance of faith.

However, when it came to growing that faith, Muller was not left with merely records of things God had done thousands of years before.  Muller’s faith was grown throughout his life through the consistent provision of God in his life in answer to believing prayer.  While Muller was in school, he felt he would better be able to trust in God if he were not being financially supported by his father.  So, after telling his father that he would no longer accept any money, Muller’s faith was bolstered by God’s immediate provision of a part-time job to help pay the bills.[15] Later on, while Muller was pastoring a church at Teignmouth, God provided for all his material needs, even when the church stopped supporting him financially through a salary.[16] After founding the Scriptural Knowledge Institute and embarking on the care of orphans in Bristol, Muller’s faith was again strengthened, as God provided for their ministry in abundance in the early days of their ministry.  In each of his first three years there, the giving increased each time as ministry expanded to more and more children.[17] As Pierson writes, “As faith was exercised, it was energized” in the life of George Muller.[18] Therefore, throughout Muller’s early life and ministry, God was growing His faith through providing for him as he trusted in God’s promises.

One of the things that made most clear Muller’s faith in God, was his unwillingness to trust in anyone or anything else.  Over the course of his seventy years of ministry, Muller made known a need that he had only once. . . and that was when he mentioned in an annual report that they needed more orphans![19] Amazingly, Muller and SKI collected the equivalent of nearly ten million American dollars over 50 years without ever asking any human for anything.[20] All requests were made to an audience of one, the almighty God who hears prayers.

Indeed, Muller routinely published annual reports that recorded all that had happened with SKI and the orphanages, but these reports were famous for the conspicuous absence of needs.[21] This was done purposefully, so that they would trust only in God, and not in individuals who might be persuaded to give by worldly means.  On one occasion, Muller even delayed the publication of the annual report for several months while their finances were especially low so that no one would think that the release of the report had anything to do with the giving that Muller was sure that God alone would provide.[22] Muller’s faith in God alone to provide is one of the strongest testimonies his life has given to all Christians who have followed him.

On occasion, people would ask Muller what the specific needs were for the orphanage.  On every occasion, George Muller would refuse to divulge the needs, telling the individuals to instead pray to God and have Him lead on if and what they might give.[23] On one occasion, after a German man asked what their needs were, Muller wrote this letter in response, “Whilst I thank you for your love, and whilst I agree with you that, in general, there is a difference between asking for money and answering when asked, nevertheless, in our case, I feel not at liberty to speak about the state of our funds, as the primary object of the work in my hands is to lead those who are weak in faith to see that there is reality in dealing with God alone.”[24]

Some might think this to be a “crazy” practice, but to the man of faith, this made absolute sense.  Muller wrote in his journal, “In truly knowing the Lord, in really relying upon Him and upon Him alone, there is no need of giving hints directly or indirectly, whereby individuals may be induced further to help.”[25] Again, Muller wrote, “Earthly friends may be removed by death, and thus we may lose their help, but He lives forever, He cannot die.  In this latter point of view, I have especially, during the past 40 years, in connection with this Institution, seen the blessedness of trusting in the Living God alone.  Not one nor two, nor even five nor ten, but many more, who once helped me much with their means, have been removed by death;  but have the operations of the Institution been stopped on that account?  No.  And how came this?  Because I trusted in God, and in God alone.”[26] May the testimony of this faith impact us as we pray to this same God.

[1] Pierson, 158.

[2] Ibid, 164.

[3] Ibid, 267.

[4] Muller Answers to Prayer, 12.

[5] Pierson, 58.

[6] Ibid, 169.

[7] Ibid, 151.

[8] Ibid, 138-139.

[9] Pierson, 142.

[10] Ibid, 143.

[11] Muller Release the Power of Prayer, 101.

[12] Pierson, 66-67.

[13] Pierson, 108.

[14] Ibid, 171.

[15] Ibid, 39.

[16] Ibid, 64.

[17] Ibid, 104-105.

[18] Pierson, 83.

[19] Ibid, 225.

[20] Ibid, 302.

[21] Ibid, 162.

[22] Muller Answers to Prayer, 22.

[23] Pierson, 160.

[24] Ibid, 167.

[25] Muller Answers to Prayer, 68.

[26] Ibid, 103.

One thought on “Reflecting on a Giant of the Faith: George Muller (part 3)

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