Confidence in God – The Life and Ministry of George Muller of Bristol.
Like many Christians I was somewhat familiar with the ministry of George Muller to the orphans of Bristol, England. I knew of his commitment to living by faith and had heard illustrations from his life from time to time as I sat under good preaching. For instance, more than once I had heard of the time Muller prayed for breakfast provision with the orphans seated at empty tables. During the prayer, a bread wagon broke down near the orphanage and rather than let the bread be spoiled, the merchant donated the bread which was put to immediate use – breakfast! To my shame, this story along with his reputation for piety and prayer were about all I really knew of George Muller. This summer I finally read my copy of the classic biography on his life written by his son-in-law, A. T. Pierson entitled George Muller of Bristol: His Life of Prayer and Faith and gained a new appreciation for Muller’s passionate faith and simple complete trust in God. In his own words, “There was a day when I died, utterly died; died to George Muller . . . died to the world . . . and since then I have studied to show myself approved unto God.” This sentence more than any other expresses the confidence in God that was the secret to Muller’s amazing ministry. Pierson noted that Muller’s life was, “living proof that a life of faith is possible; that God may be known, communed with, found, and may become a conscious companion in the daily life. . . that the days of divine intervention and deliverance are past only to those with whom the days of faith and obedience are past – in a word, that believing prayer still works the wonders which our fathers told of in the days of old.”
George was born on September 27, 1805 in what was then called Prussia. He was raised in a wealthy family who had little or no time for God. He was the favorite son of his father who spoiled him and excused or overlooked all manner of evil behavior in young George. Pierson notes, “Before he was ten years old he was a habitual thief and an expert at cheating; even government funds entrusted to his father, were not safe from his hands.” He continued down this wayward path to the point that he spent the evening of his mother’s death in drunken carousing through the city streets. However, God had other plans for this wayward worlding and in his 21st year, George Muller came to know the saving power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Somehow he found himself at a worship service where a simple servant of God knelt in prayer to ask God’s blessing on the meeting. It was the first time George had ever seen any kneel to pray and it made a profound impact. He recorded these thoughts in his journal – “I am much more learned than this illiterate man, but I could not pray as well as he.” This would not be true for long; in the years ahead, he would excel in the discipline of prayer and it would become the cornerstone of all his life-work!
Two years later, in 1827 Muller applied to the London Missionary Society to serve as a missionary to the Jews and traveled to London to prepare. He remained in preparation for the better part of eighteen months. In 1829 he wrote to the Society and declared his intentions to serve only on the condition that he serve without salary and that he labor only where and when the Lord should direct. This was unacceptable to the Society and so his missionary endeavor was cut short before it officially began. In 1830, Muller became the pastor of a small church at Teignmouth. He insisted in taking no salary trusting only on Jehovah-Jireh for his daily provision. It was here that Muller set down as a firm life principle that he would never receive a fixed salary for any service rendered to God’s people. At the end of his life he would summarize this decision in these words: “I have joyfully dedicated my whole life to the object of exemplifying how much may be accomplished by prayer and faith.”
Accordingly, Muller kept meticulous daily records of all that God did for him and the orphanages. In 1865 after 31 years of serving over 10,000 orphans and meeting their daily needs, he recorded that he had been able during the entire time to remain true to the original principles upon which the work had been established. He had never gone into debt, he had never made others aware of his needs or those of the orphanages, and he had never accepted help or resources from unbelievers. When asked what would happen to all of his work and the orphan houses after his death he replied, “My business is, with all my might, to serve my own generation by the will of God: in so doing I shall best serve the next generation, should the Lord tarry.” Pierson noted, “This man of God had staked everything upon one great experiment – he had set himself to prove that the prayer which resorts to God only will bring help in every crisis, even when the crisis is unknown to His people whom He uses as the means of relief and help.”
For over sixty years he saw God provide for five large orphan houses and for the daily needs of over 10,000 orphans. During that time he personally gave over 110,000 British pounds to Sunday schools and day schools where over 150,000 children were instructed. He gave an additional 90,000 pounds for the purchase and circulation of over 2 million Bibles and 3 million books and tracts. Besides all this, he gave over 260,000 pounds to missionaries in foreign fields. When you add all the money that was given to him for the orphanages to this amount, he gave away almost 1.5 million pounds to the Lord’s work! No wonder A. T. Pierson said, “such a life and such a work are the result of one habit more than all else, -- daily and frequent communion with God.” May the Lord raise up in our day, men of like faith and prayer.